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04 Mei, 2011

What a difficult matter to teach English in the Village

By on 08.34

My interest in using storybooks for teaching English began when I was teaching middle-school students in Rajang.  My search for material which could provide a basis for conversation and writing in my classes led me to try some of the many all-English storybooks available.  this  experience has been so successful that it motivated them  to learn English.

The middle-school students had been exposed to a lot of English vocabulary.  Nevertheless, when I presented them with a page of English writing with no or very little new vocabulary,  I was surprised to find that they seemed to have great difficulty with it.  “Teacher, very difficult!” they would say to me.  I concluded that they were lacking in ability to process English.  
Their English training has focused mainly on the level of single words (vocabulary lists) and translation into their native language.  Reading selections in their elementary and middle-school texts are short and usually accompanied by native language support.  Perhaps this is why the students had not moved to the point where, upon encountering words memorized, they were able to instantly connect them to the mental concepts embodied.  Their processing probably was mainly occurring in their native language..

The ability to interconnect various mental constructs without reverting to native-language processing is essential not only to reading comprehension, but to conversation as well.  The project described in this paper with the elementary school children convinced me that early introduction of longer selections could be extremely beneficial in EFL training.  Rather than waiting until the later grades, extensive reading should be introduced as early as possible, in order to take advantage of the facility with which children under the age of 12 acquire language. 

The key to the success of such reading, however, is to keep the number of new words or idiomatic phrases per page down to a maximum of one or two.. This point can’t be over-emphasized.  The whole idea of such reading is to keep the reader engaged in the story.  It requires that the reader be able to get the meaning without stopping often, if at all, to find out the meanings of new words. If new items seriously impede understanding, students get discouraged; and it may turn into another grammar-translation exercise.