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Home BLOG Blog Spoken English - Musings
Spoken English - Musings PDF Print E-mail
Written by KS Rao   
Sunday, 04 April 2010 13:40

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Spoken English - Musings!

argaiv1970

I studied in a Telugu medium Government school up to my 11th class. But unknowingly I developed a flair for English, as much as with my mother tongue. Those days, we had a competitive spirit to excel others; be it in class marks, sports or any other activity of praiseworthy. I chose to speak in English along with couple of my friends including boys and girls.

This continued in my college and later university education, of course with tiny hurdles; like some heckled and others cajoled. But I enjoyed what I was doing.

While I was doing my degree, I got my English lecturer who was a fascinating personality. His speeches were both eloquent and bombastic. Many times, I never understood his words and failed to catch even. Many other students dropped the idea of following his lessons. But I took a different stand. I cultivated a habit of noting down the unknown words, or at least their sounds. I bought a Webster dictionary. Every day made it a practice to search meaning for those words. I never counted how many words I gathered and how many I mastered. Some words of my interest were frequently used by me next few days. In the process, I used to make mistakes; but who knew among my friends that there are mistakes in what I speak? But if anybody told me that I made mistake, I used to verify and corrected.

When I grew up and caught up my career my spoken English became a plus point for me. People around me praised for my vocabulary and also my eloquence of speech.

When I find people who are not so fluent or speak grammatically wrong English, I look at them pitiful.

I chose to be a salesman, where my communication skills fetched me laurels. After a successful career over two and half decades, I wanted to enter into teaching.

The educational institutes chose me as English language teacher due my relatively better command over spoken English. To my surprise, many other faculties in the English department remained to be poor deliverers of class room lessons to students. This made me more proud of my self.

When I started teaching Degree and PG students, I noticed that most of the students are poor in English Communications. This is something beyond my imagination. Was I like this when I was doing my degree or PG? No. Never. But then, why these are like this?

This prompted me to look around and study the situation. I interacted with different college students; colleges with both rural background and urban; colleges of Engineering and Management; students with convent education and government schools.

Age reduced to equal, when I compare me with them, I tried to understand the basic differences that existed. The analysis of the causes is not important but the fact is that there existed a big difference. It took years for me to understand them.

There were spoken English Institutes all around, in any city and in the place where I am now. I started going to institutes to find out what they are doing. I also tried to find out what these language learners do in order to get what they wanted to get.

Prominently there are two things. These language teachers start from grammar and conduct few practicing classes on situational English. The students in turn, totally depended on the so called spoken English trainers. They think that they can speak English fluently by paying the fee to the institute and by attending those thirty or forty classes. But the fact is that they search for one more institute after they complete in one institute.

Two questions haunted my mind perpetually.

1. Why these institutes failed to make students speak in English?

2. Why students are not able to learn to speak?

The subject became my research topic for next few days. My probe resulted in certain questions and certain answers. Now all I have to do is to coordinate and synchronize these facts to be my thesis, irrespective of the desired results.

Before making my thesis, I prefer to evaluate the current scenario.

IT Boom and

Communication Skills.

With the sprouting of IT Boom in India during 1st half of the decade in 2000, communication skills assumed lot of importance. Every IT company started harping on 'excellent communication skills' to the prospective employees. In fact, this phrase is also most misunderstood one during the same period. Also this could be one of the reasons that resulted in failure of spoken English movement.

Communication Skills, for me, always implied two things. One is the language expertise. The other is the skill in delivery or presentation of that communication. Most of the training institutes followed the 1st aspect, i.e., improving language expertise. Similarly, many IT companies insisted on the 2nd aspect that is in the skill of delivery.

Almost every spoken English Institute started it's sessions with grammar, basics of grammar, or the so called LSRW techniques etc. Similarly, the IT companies started talking about barriers of communications like the hidden part of communications, body language, emotional trance etc. They tried to tell the students who to care emotions while communicating in the corporate environment, the impact of body language, how to deal with emotions while communicating etc. But I rarely found an instance where these two aspects are beautifully blended together to form a totality of 'communication skills'.

Now the English Language Labs in the Engineering and Management colleges also contributed not much to improving the communication skills of the students. In this case, the Universities, JNTU or AU prescribed the syllabus for the Lab but did not insist on uniform software. Had it been done, there could have been scope for control and direction. Another point here is that most of the faculties were never trained by the concerned universities. Third important thing to ponder is how far this lab activity contributes to improve the spoken skills (speaking skills…?) of the students. The whole system comfortably ignored the basic objective of improved communication skills to the student to fit the IT industry requirement.

Are Language Labs a success or failure?

Did the communication trainers also fail or succeed? If you 'yes' boldly, how do we make students speak in English fluently?

Spoken English Dynamics.

I always asked one question to my self. Why the convent kinds learn to speak in English faster and better than those of grown up guys in colleges?

What is the difference between these two segments?

Can we bridge the gap?

First of all, my answers to the above questions, though not satisfactory, are like this.

Convent children spend the whole lot of their time in the school speaking English; whereas the college-guys do not do like that. In many colleges, neither the faculties do not speak in English nor do they insist the students to speak in English.

Secondly, many convents impose that the students should speak only in English (make it compulsory); where as in the colleges there is no such compulsion.

Third, the convent students never hesitate to speak wrong English because there are teachers all around to correct them every now and then. In case of college students both these things are absent. Neither do they speak, nor there faculties who will correct these guys.

Fourth important aspect is that many of these college students are afraid to speak. Fear of speaking in English is a serious disease that many of these students suffer from.

Recently, my little daughter presented me a set of books which also has a book by name 'The Power of Verbal Intelligence" by Tony Buzan.

It is worthwhile that every spoken English trainer should read (study)it.

I will reproduce some of the statements made by him in the book.

"There is a direct correlation between the size and strength of vocabulary and a person's success in lie."

"…as a baby you used all the right tools to develop your verbal intelligence. As your life progressed, you discarded them(for various reasons) and as result the development of your verbal intelligence has come to a grinding halt."

He finally argues that a baby human learns fast and better than an adult. The baby learns like that because…

"…all babies love to play, especially with words. They roll them around in their mouths, often purposefully, mispronounce to make them more interesting or funny, play with different variations and combinations words and parts of words, change the speed pitch and tone and volume of their voices, and are always curious of new words and their meanings and associations."

He also reiterates that baby's powerful tools to learn language are broadly two.

Making mistakes is a fun and play to them. So they speak and speak wrongs. It does matter to them if anybody laughs.

Secondly, there is insatiable curiosity to learn. They always love to ask why how and why not like this etc.

Therefore, he states, that making mistakes and experiencing the failure is the secret to their success to learn faster than the adults.

The whole of the book tells you how to develop and multiply your verbal intelligence through a serious of exercises all funny and enjoyable.

Now my dear friends, with the above write-up, I just want to share my ideas and experiences with teaching/training spoken English all around us.

 

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0 #2 2010-05-09 15:14
Hollo genius,

i want to add to what you said. No body can teach spoken english; because spoken english is something that is not given; rather it is taken. It doesn't matter how better the institute, the faculty may be, but it matters how better is the student to learn. that is how spoken english can be learnt.
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0 #1 2010-05-09 15:10
I have never seen an institute which said proudly that we taught english to these guys. there is a big difference in their ability to speak between when they came to us to when they left us. so all this teaching spoken english is a trash and no body can teach spoken english.
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