This case study is based on Patricia, a Spanish national in her twenties who is in her last year studying an Economics degree course. She is also a student on the Elementary course at the British Language Centre. Patricia’s started learning English at the bi-lingual school she attended. She learnt English for 3 years but did not take any official examinations, but sees this as a possibility for the future. At school she learnt English because it was obligatory. The only other language she speaks is Spanish.
She started attending the British Language Centre (which she still attends) to help her find a job in an international company and to prepare her for her visit to Eastbourne, East Sussex (UK) in July. She will be staying with a house family for one month and hopes to improve her English and use all of the language she has been learning to date. Her reasons for learning English are a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic ones. The main reason she is motivated to learn English is because she believes it will help her find a good job and earn loads of money, she also reads a lot about English culture and customs and watches films in English with subtitles for her own enjoyment.
This can also be related to her learning styles. The results of her “multiple intelligences” questionnaire indicates that her learning style preferences are linguistic, spatial and interpersonal. Her conversations in English refer to things that she has read or heard, she enjoys solving mazes and other visual puzzles and considers herself to be a leader.
3 Problems and Possible solutions with Grammar
The student enjoys English grammar, and generally finds it much easier than Spanish grammar. An example of this is the verb formations. She normally uses the correct tense when speaking in English but sometimes uses the infinitive form instead of the progressive. “I read” instead of “I’m reading”. Spanish often use an infinitive where English would use a progressive; this can be attributed to language interference. To resolve this problem more tasks relating to real situations could be set along with reading and listening exercises that incorporate and contrast the infinitive and progressive forms.
When asked about the aspect of English she finds most difficult, she said ‘phrasal verbs’. Her problems include understanding the meaning of phrasal verbs, especially when the meaning can vary according to context, and choosing the correct particle to accompany the verb. For example “to break up” I broke up with my girlfriend last night, the main cause is likely to be comprehension issues as a result of conflict with meanings she already knows. Solutions to such problems would be dictionary analysis and sentencing restructuring exercises.
Another problem she has is with the structuring of sentences. A classic example of this would be using the adjective after the noun “shoes big” instead of “big shoes”. This can also be attributed to language interference. Solutions to this problem would include drills (oral and written); practice would include guided dialogues, language games, parallel writing, dictations etc.
3 Problems and Possible Solutions with Vocabulary
A common problem can be irregular plurals. (Refer to Appendix – example 1). In Spanish irregular plurals are not formed the same as in English. The common rule is that a “s” is added to the singular i.e. hombre = hombres. A solution to this problem is getting the student to record a list of all irregular verbs as they come up (recycling the vocabulary in future classes) and correct their mistakes in reading and writing exercises.
Another problem is that many words are used in different contexts but with a connection to their original meaning. (Refer to Appendix - example 2). This forms a problem for Spanish speakers as the word flood “inundar” is only used in 1 context. Solutions and practice can be given through activities where the student has to use the word in different...
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