Anxious learners may show a lack of interest in learning English in the classroom. They may sit in the back of the class to avoid eye contact with teachers. As the country aspires to attain developed nation status by 2020,
it is imperative that it has a generation of people who can communicate in English to enable it to compete on the international platform. The government has realised the importance of English in securing business deals.
It is taking steps to achieve this vision, such as recruiting native speakers from other countries to be master teachers in government schools.
Research reveals that students’ weakness in English can be attributed to attitude, geographical location and ethnicity. Many of my friends from local universities still can’t master the language.
Their inability to speak in public, lack of initiative to enhance their ability, and lack of confidence are some of the problems learners face.
Literature components have been added to the syllabus to make the subject enjoyable, and different activities have been promoted to encourage students to use English more often, for example, choral speaking, essay-writing and storytelling competitions.
Despite all these efforts, the standard of English among students has yet to improve. As an English language teacher of 11 years, I have discovered that some problems stem from different types of anxiety-connected behaviours when learning a second language, such as lack of participation, nervousness and less willing to communicate.
The contents of the English examination in secondary schools focus on writing, vocabulary, grammar, reading, comprehension and essay writing.
Listening, comprehension and speaking are excluded, and not much emphasis is given to these two skills. Students spend most of their time on grammar, writing and vocabulary skills rather than oral practice, such as speaking and pronunciation.
As such, they are not given much opportunity to practise speaking the language. The pressure of getting good grades for the written examination makes students lose interest.
Teachers should assure their students that making mistakes is a part of language learning. They can help by giving the topic for the lesson beforehand so that the students can prepare for the lesson.
Supervision is important as this will help teachers determine why students perform poorly. However, it is not easy for teachers to handle anxious learners, more so when it is a second language.
Ideally, the classroom environment should be stress-free so that the students are motivated to learn. Sumati Muniandy, SK Tasek Utara, Johor Baru, Johor NST Letters 29 July 2015