I teach English in Korea. When I arrived four years ago, I can say for certain there were days when the students didn't want to participate in the lesson. I think this is natural- even for some adult students.
In regards to young learners, the spectrum is wide from one student to the next. John is outgoing but craves attention. He may give wrong answers to make his classmates laugh. Jane is shy. She may be terrified of what her peers think of her. The point is, there must be a fun and interesting activity that encompasses all students in a safe environment. By safe, we are talking about a lack of inhibitions and an eagerness to participate meaningfully.
Now, all my classes are taught from computer screens or projectors (3 x 3 meter screens) connected via computers. I use flash files with an abundance of visual imagery. Lesson pace is fast. There is a Q and A game at the end (the last 10-20 minutes) that reviews lesson content. The material engages the students as a group. There are many personalities (albeit developing ones) joined together in an activity that most of them like.
Some students really despise English (for any number of reasons) while others can't get enough of it. I believe this is universal. You can say the same thing about math. I would encourage teachers to find the medium- the material and a comfortable atmosphere where all students have the opportunity to participate. In some cases this is a gargantuan task.
Please see The Language Works profile if you want a link to the flash files I use. Good Luck to all teachers and especially those with difficult students.
With the students who despise English, is it just this subject or part of a wider dislike of the education system? ;-)
There are several reasons students may despise English. I can perhaps offer a few I've observed. One of the most unfortunate cases is when a student had had a teacher in the past whom he or she despised. I've seen this in both young learners and adults. Take a student with exaggerated expectations and a short attention span and combine with a teacher with no experience and a short temper, and you have a recipe for catastrophe.
Another reason could be undiagnosed dyslexia, which I suspect in many cases here in Korea:
"Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects reading and spelling. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties in processing word-sounds and by weaknesses in short-term verbal memory; its effects may be seen in spoken language as well as written language."
Dyslexic students may be able to "slide by" undiagnosed in some cases. It is estimated that 10% of the population suffers from it. Their first exposure to a second language must be a terrifying one.
More on dyslexia here:
Yet another reason may be a negative stereotype of the country from which the target language originates. Usually parents and sometimes a culture or subculture reinforce these stereotypes. Perhaps I don't need to give examples...
I imagine there are many more reasons, some having to do with education itself.
I hAve read that dyslexia is unknown in Japan, but also read that many dispute this, so it's interesting to see the problem recognised with a non-Roman script.
When it comes to Chinese and Japanese students, early learning experiences reduce the number of dyslexics in the population considerably. Presumably, since Japanese students must learn two phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) many potentially dyslexic students "learn past" the disorder in much the same way a western student being treated for dyslexia would.
Chinese students use ideograms which are not phonetic. This apparently reduces the frequency of the learning disorder to about 4 or 5%.
Korean students, on the other hand, use just one phonetic alphabet and have very little exposure to Chinese ideograms when the condition first manifests- when they first begin to read. Compound this fact with very little public awareness of dyslexia and you have probably 10% of the young student population in a very bad way indeed.
From Time Asia, September 1, 2003:
Japan's Uno, who in addition to his research currently teaches remedial learning techniques to 22 dyslexic kids, agrees. "Most children who visit me speak in a small voice and keep their heads down. The older children I see are punks: they come into my office and sit so low they're practically lying down in their chair." Dyslexia, in effect, has made them permanent outcasts. "They have been teased and told they are stupid. They have learned that no matter how hard they try in school, they will not be rewarded for their efforts."
Korea is a society with a strong Cunfucian background. Students that lag behind are certainly outcasts. Families tend to sweep embarrassments under the carpet and a student with poor grades is no small matter. I haven't done research nor have I seen any here in Korea on this topic; nevertheless, I am sure there is a wider problem than is currently recognized. I hope someone from the academic community here will rise to the occaision.
I have had students from European countries, but I have never had a student from Asia. Though I tooked a stodent who is Korean. I haven't started my classes yet and I'd like to know if they have difficulties in pronunciation. :?:
Yes, Korean students have some difficulty with pronunciation. Here are a few examples:
1) Their phonology does not allow for about half of the single consonants. Consonants are often combined with vowels:
dish becomes dishee: at the end of words "sh" is almost always followed by a long "e."
It's becomes Itsa: other consonants (here, "s") are followed by a short "a" or short "u" sound.
2) The "th" (as in thing) is not represented as aren't "r," "f" and "v."
Thing becomes ding or ting.
Lane becomes rain.
Very becomes berry.
Four becomes pour.
3) Diphthongs (two vowel sounds together-"gliding vowel") are more pronounced:
same=sa-im (with a long "a.")
"I think it's fish" can become...
"I dink it'sa fishee."
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes.
A four of fish and finger pies...
Penny rain isa in ma-ee eels anda in ma-ee eyesa
A pole oba pishee anda pingle pa-ees...
In fact, Beatles lyrics may be a good place to start...
The good news is that Korean students are very diligent. If they think your pronunciation is acceptable, they will work hard as you correct them.
The bad news is that they are usually experts when it comes to grammar. If you are weak in this area, you probably won't see them in the second lesson.
"Studies examining students' pronunciation after more than five years of exposure to the second language consistently find that the large majority of adults retain their accent when the second language is acquired after puberty, whereas children initiating second language acquisition before puberty have little or no foreign accent."
More on the subject here:
The Effect of Age on Acquisition of a Second Language for School
According to researchers, this has to do with brain "plasticity." This doesn't mean our brains slowly turn to a hard, dull plastic up to the point of senile dementia; on the contrary, it suggests that the human brain has the ability to change and develop (adapt) over time in relation to new information. The focus is on "neuronal circuits that respond to diverse stimuli and process information." In most cases, young learners have more plasticity:
"...in early second language acquisition (L2) beginning at between approximately age five or six, children often achieve native-like pronunciation and syntax within a relatively short period of a year or two. The ability of young children to achieve native-like proficiency in a foreign language in a rather short time is a reflection of a type of neural plasticity, and it appears to be related to the distinct characteristics of the young brain."
Neural Plasticity and the Issue of Mimicry Tasks in L2 Pronunciation Studies
If your student is a Korean native who acquired Russian as a child, she will most likely acquire English pronunciation in the same way a Russian adult would. On the other hand, if she hadn't been able to assimilate the Russian accent, perhaps then she will be coming to the lesson with pronunciation characteristic of a native Korean speaker.