Problems faced by English-as-a-second language learners

Gayathri Krishnan

School of MPU & Languages

Learning a language is no easy task for many people. English as a second language comes with many challenges, especially in terms of pronunciation, context and cultural norm. All languages have their idiosyncrasies and learning English may be daunting to many learners for many reasons.

Schools that offer ESL classes tend to be in urban areas with high concentrations of minority and economically disadvantaged students. ESL learners therefore are positioned to be highly segregated from English-speaking students.  This lessens their opportunities to hear from and interact with good models of English and peers who are native speakers.

ESL learners are often faced with culture shock, which can impede their education and progress. Culture shock is anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. Many things can attribute to culture shock, including language barriers, social isolation, unfamiliar weather patterns, different foods, status change, and living conditions. Even a different type of education system can confuse learners and deter them from making beneficial education decisions.

Due to language barriers and the unfamiliarity of cultural norms such as bus schedules and pick-up locations or train and subway routes, an English-language learner can find it difficult to make time for education and language learning. Because of these challenges, many learners walk to their literacy programmes. Some juggle multiple jobs and are also taking care of families, so attending a class at a literacy programme could mean that learners must choose between making it to the class or eating dinner, helping their children with their homework, or other priorities.

When it comes to literacy instruction, there is a lot of interaction, conversation, and value involved. Sometimes, topics covered in instruction may focus on something culturally that ESL learners do not understand, know about, or even value. Engaging in conversation is the best practice for ESL learners to improve their skills and achieve their language and education goals, but if they feel socially isolated from the conversation, they will make little to no progress. Not only do they need English language proficiency training, but also cultural knowledge and education.

At SEGi College KL, we have a system of making the learning of English better and easier.

We Make It Visual

We don’t conduct lessons mindlessly because students have a difficult time processing spoken language. Thus all instructions, even basic directions for classroom procedures, are written on the board whenever possible. We make challenging  concepts diagrammed, supported with pictures. Modelling the steps of a process or showing students what a finished product should look like can go a long way towards helping students to understand. Also, we believe that  showing our students what to do makes it easier for them to learn.  This kind of non-linguistic representation improves comprehension for students and helps them grasp concepts better.

We Build Group Work

Students aren’t just empty containers into which we put things expecting them to regurgitate all they’ve learned. For this reason, there should be less teacher-led, whole-class instruction, and instead, we should have more small groups in which students can practise the language with their peers in a more personal and lower-risk setting.

At SEGi College, we believe that all learning should be fun in order to be effective. This is our philosophy and our commitment. Call us today to find out more.

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