View Full Version : our teaching system doesn´t work

08-May-2005, 00:04
Hello! I´m Rocio. I´m teaching English in Spain at a Secondary School. Spanish kids start learning English in Primary School, but, when they get to their last year in Compulsory Secondary School, this is, after at least six years having English lessons, they are unable to say two words together in English. They can perfectly explain what an auxiliary is or what an irregular verb is but they cannot use them. What´s the problem in the Spanish approach to teaching English? ;-)

08-May-2005, 00:20
¿Cómo estás?
I think the problem is that in a school you have to teach lots of kids and can't ffocus in one group of, for example 5,8 kids.

08-May-2005, 01:44
It happens in Asia's learning environment, too. ;-)

Some teachers focus on reading and writing abilities, so they explain grammar and analyze them most of the time. Then, kids are good at analyzing grammar and taking paper exams.

However, most of the kids are afraid to speak in English, because they seldom practice speaking in class and after class.

On the contrary, some teachers emphasize the importance of listening and speaking; therefore, they ask kids to answer one by one in class. Then, kids in this kind of environment are able to communicate with one another.

Yet, most of them lack of accurate grammatical skills when speaking because they lack of grammar training in class.

Except the aforementioned, som teachers focus on 4 areas-- listening, speaking, reading, and writing. So, their lesson plans divide into 4 parts.

Teachers speak whole English in class to train students' listening. Also, asking kids to answer in English in class.

When teaching grammar, teachers either use their mother tongue or speak in English to explain grammar. Then, after a while, they ask kids to write simple sentences to express their ideas.

In my opinion, I prefer the third method. I was once the victim of the first approach. My teachers in high schools focused on drill practices on grammar rules and only spoke in mother tongue in class, so I just knew how to read and write in English for paper exams, but I couldn't listen and speak in English. :-(

Later, when I went to college, my instructors all spoke in English, so I had a hard time to comprehend what they said in class, but in paper exams, I got high scores. So, I recorded instructors' lectures, and listened to them repeatedly day after day. The process was tough, but after a year, I acquired English comprehension ability. :-D

As for speaking ability, I tried to read articles loudly at home for many times to train my speaking ability. Also, I started to listen to English teaching CDs, and I played one track over and over until I undertood its meaning, and later I tried to do shadowing, mimic speakers' speaking at the same time. :-D

To sum up, teachers' teaching methods will influence students' learning effects; therefore, teachers should have thorough lesson plans for students.
Also, the best way to learn a language is to listen and speak in the beginning, but read and write later.

BTW, how do we learn our mother tongue? When we were babies, we just listened to what people talked to us, and then one day, we learnt how to talk. Did our parents tell us grammar rules? No.

But, English is a second language. In order to speed learning pace, teachers not only need to focus their teaching on conversation skills in class, but also ned to spend time emphasizing grammar rules, too. :-)

08-May-2005, 02:18
nice opinion
My high school english teacher just focuses on writting and grammar.
She doesn't speak in english at clasroom and she has to do it. My classmate can't do a sentence by themselves!!.
therefore, when the teacher brings book to make us read, my classmate reads all as they are reading in spanish.
If you want to learn a lenguage with a teacher, you must pay. YOu can't diippend in the school.
I go to an instute and I have to pay $70 (in dollars is about U$25) but I learn lots of thing, mmy teachers speak in english, we do listenigs with songs we like and next tuesday we're going to see a play in english!! I can't wait the tuesday!!

08-May-2005, 04:26
I teach English at a Language School in Tokyo as well as to 6th graders at an International School. While I do not claim to be an expert, my experience has shown me some common problems that keep occuring in the Asian system which is similar.

1. Students practice written English and not conversational English. They are almost never told that there is a difference.

2. Students rarely practice or listen to English conversation.

3. Students seldom practice reading out loud and classes are conducted in their Native Tongue

To give you an idea of how bad the teaching system can be over here, one of my adult students who was rated at about Level 4 (out of 10) listed her occupation as Public School English Teacher.

So how do you change it? well, for starters introduce more conversation and less grammar. Have them read more out loud. Speaking uses muscles and those muscles need to be trained. Arnold Scwarzeneggar has a horrible accent, but his English structure is perfect and he taught himself English by reading out loud everyday when he came to America. No teachers, no classes, just reading out loud, all the time again and again.

08-May-2005, 06:47
Rocio, how much English is used in the classroom? I see this fairly often- students who have learned a lot of gramar, and can whizz through exercises, get through tests, etc. I think one of the issues is that there is sso much pressure on students simply to get through tests and exams, which leads to an excessive concentration on those skills alone, and this can have a negative impact on simple things like conversational skills.

08-May-2005, 15:31
Yes, you are all right. Students, at least in Spain, work hard in order to pass their exams; the problem is that these exams usually focus on the reading, writing and, sometimes, listening skills, the speaking part normally left aside. In my opinion, the general Curriculum needs some changes. As for the number of students in each class, I´m afraid that´s something that cannot be changed, at least in state school (and fortunately we have come down to 25 from the previous 30 and even 40 pupils in a class!!) Thanks to you all. I´ll do my best to make my kids work in all areas. :up:

09-May-2005, 01:13
Are the students motivated? The majority of office jobs nowadays require a command of English, so they should see it as a life skill, not some arcane and distant subject, the way Latin was when I had a year of it at school. ;-)

09-May-2005, 01:28
My classmates don't like english and don't want to learn it. That's the problem here. everybody thinks that in the future English won't be the "universal language everybody must know" but Spanish will.
I'm 15 years old. I'm student

09-May-2005, 22:33
Students are not very motivated; it´s difficult in the type of school where I teach (low social and cultural level). I´ve even tried to make them write e-mails as we have 15 computers in each classroom. Anyway, I´ll keep on trying. I´ll try to introduce English as the vehicle for communication; that´s actually how I started (Hello, good morning, get your books, be quiet, ... and that sort of classroom language) but I almost gave up after one month. Well, thanks again for your advice.

10-May-2005, 03:08
Maybe your students need vocabullary. I suggest you to prepare a paper with the common verbs and common nouns and ask them to study it since they always study down pat.

10-May-2005, 16:02
It looks like it is the same situation I have found with some students that have had the required six years of English, but can't hold a conversation. The problem is the teaching style. What I encountered is students that had learned in a lecture style classroom. The teacher stands at the front and lectures in the students' first language, but they are talking about English. Then they silently complete their exercises, check their answers, and discuss if there is a discrepency (in their first language). All the while they are not really using English. They are learining the theory of English. It is kind of like taking a class in art history using books and slides without actually experiencing the art in person. For the students to really learn it has to be a communicative style classroom. In this style, most of the talking is done by the students in activities, games, and role plays, etc. (practice), with the teacher explaining the grammar point and task in a few minutes beforehand. The rest is practice and fun. All the activities should have some element of fun. When the students think about class it should be "wow, I wonder what we will be doing next!" Then they learn and don't even know it.

23-May-2005, 18:47
I'm a spanish aussie and I moved last year in July to Spain. I brought my two children and I was shocked to see that my son, who is in 6 class, knew more than his english teacher. The worst part of this is, sorry if I offend anyone, that a spaniard national teaches the english language. It's fine for the theory but the problem is that their pronunciation is totally wrong and it's being taught to these children.

The whole spanish system is entirely wrong in my opinion. To teach english they should have native english teachers, who have their Dip. Ed. in English as a Second Language. :up:


24-May-2005, 00:05
Generally speaking, the language curricula at any school are designed by professors of language. These people have advanced degrees in the literature associated with that language, not the language itself. Therefore, the curricula are designed to teach students the grammar (rules) of a language so that, with the help of a dictionary, they can read and respond to foreign language literature. The fact that over 90% of the speakers of a language know next to nothing about their literature or their grammar will never have any effect on the traditions of academia.

02-Jul-2005, 13:25
According to a recent survey (can't remember where I read it, sorry!) the poor oral performance in English of Spanish graduates is costing the Spanish economy somewhere in the region of €1billion.

All the above comments are spot on. Teachers spend 80% or more of their time speaking L1 in Spanish schools. How can a student possibly be expected to learn a foreign language? I had the same experience when I was learning French at school and was so angry when I visited France because after 5 years of lessons I couldn't hold a two minute conversation.

I may be wromg, but I heard the Spanish government has lifted the barriers to native speaker teachers obtaining employment at state schools. Anyone know if this is true? It would certainly help deal with some of the issues, however, if a student doesn't want to learn there isn't much even the best teacher can do.

My own experience of teaching in Spain was that students seem to have been trained in completing the task as quickly as possible rather than trying to learn from it. Entertainment had to be part of every lesson, too.

It was a frustrating year for me. One Intermediate group got through just 4 units of Headway in 9 months! My all time record low.

that said, the students who wanted to learn were a joy to teach. They learned too. I suppose the point is, if you want to learn you'll find a way.

Good luck with your lessons