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Linguistics and Second Language Teaching

By leensulaiman91 Dec 28, 2012 1019 Words
There are a lot of well known studies nowadays that exultantly shows using English in the ESL classroom might be one of the best ways to provide constant and steady English environment for the students. However, despite of its plentiful supporting main ideas, this statement also has its own pros and cons whereby it implicitly ignored some of the other major important factors that could affect the availability of second language learners in acquiring the L2. I only partially agree with the statement that L1 should not be allowed in the ESL classroom due to a certain factors. Factors such as the schools’ locations, the learners’ cognitive and affective factors and the exposure towards the English-based multimedia play a very huge and crucial role in helping the second language learners to immerse themselves fully in the English language environment.

First and foremost, most of the researchers who did the research on ‘English-Only Classroom’ ideology prone to do the research only on a smaller group of subjects which majority of them comes from the same location and involved in the same level of discipline. In my humble opinion, this way, the result cannot be considered as good enough to prove that all Second Language Learners can practically be good in their English only by abandoning their mother tongue in an ESL classroom. This is just similarly extinguishing the idea of learners as social beings. With all due respects of the learners who are living in very rural places that are most likely never being exposed to English surrounding in their society at all, they might probably recognize English only as their 4th or even 5th language, let aside Malay language that might have been totally tangle with their own dialects or accents. For instance, according to The Borneo Post 2012, majority of students who are living and studying in the rural areas of Sabah such as Pitas and Kota Belut categorized English as one of the killer subjects. Besides, regarding to a research done by researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah last year, there are only about 40 to 50 percent of the students who passed the subject annually. Therefore, the teachers who are posted to teach rural areas should try to consider code-switching between their L1 and English in the ESL classroom in order to make the students feel more comfortable and motivated when learning that subject. However, I still agree if teachers who are teaching English at schools in the urban areas to use English at all times in the class due to the factor that most of the city-born students have already being exposed a lot to the English surrounding.

Secondly, according to the Universal Grammar (UG) theory, all learners are already inherited a universal set of principles and parameters that can make them no different from one another in terms of acquiring new languages. This proves that everybody has the capability to learn and acquire new languages. Nevertheless, not everyone can acquire second language easily due to their different internal cognitive and affective factors. In my opinion, by enforcing students who are lacking in their affective factors for example to abandon their L1 in the ESL classroom will only make the matter worse because they could probably have their own personal issues that hinder them from learning English. For an example, teachers who are teaching in the rural areas need to work extra really hard by giving alternate instructions using both L1 and English in the ESL classroom so that the students will not feel anxious to ask questions and have two ways conversation with the teachers. But still, it is compulsory for the teachers to continuously monitor the students’ improvement all the time by giving them an extra ‘homework’ such as writing a personal English journal that is going to be checked by the teacher weekly and many other creative ways that can be suggested in order to make them perceive that learning English is actually fun and excitable.

`The last reason for why I only partially agree towards English-Only Classroom approach is because of the fact that not all students in our country have the opportunity to listen and use English outside the classroom all the time. One of the contributing reasons to this is their lack of exposure to the development of multimedia technology that mainly operates in English. I am placing my main focus again on the students from rural parts of Sabah and Sarawak who might acknowledge English as a very foreign language to them since most of them do not even have the commodity and correspondence to listen and speak to in English even a little compared to the urbanised learners who are very exposed to the variety ways of learning English on the mass media. Besides, adding with a tinge of their own society aspects, using English in their daily routine might be unacceptable at all due to certain reasons such as their community’s stereotypes towards English as a colonizers’ language. Moreover, towards the development of technology that usually comes with expensive packages, not everyone in Malaysia are afford to enjoy this facility, let alone the internet coverage that is still unavailable in some rural places. Even though the government already provide 1Malaysia netbooks and computers for the poor, yet, it still cannot play its function well without the internet connectivity.

As a conclusion, in view of the somewhat negative factors of using only English in the ESL classroom on students’ learning from the rural places as I have described above, yet, I again would like to notify that English-Only Classroom approach still have its own pros and cons. I am very agree if this approach is applied amongst the students who are studying in the urban or suburban areas for they have whatever opportunity it takes to be proficient in English language. However, since my main focus is on the students who are living in the rural areas, we have to really consider of applying this English-Only Classroom approach on them due to all the reasons as I have stated above.

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