Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Teacher, I no bring book!

I write this piece after reading the article “Learners need input and interaction” by Dr Tan Kok Eng (The Sunday Star,Nov.18). I strongly agree with Dr Tan that children need proper input in formal schooling. Her article makes me want to share the predicament faced by a friend of mine and he is facing it, still.

In his little town, most of the far-sighted parents enroll their kids in a one prestigious kindy. This kindy is being picked over a few others as its medium of instruction is English. However, sadly to say, the so-called experienced teachers there could hardly speak grammatically sound English, and the kids stuck with them for hours each day. Only God knows how much destruction have been done to the poor kids.

Dr Tan is absolutely right. Input and interaction are vital for young learners in the language learning process. Alas, in my friend’s case, the frequency and quality of comprehensible input are scarce. Thus, when the poor kids move on to formal education in school, almost all of them went to my friend (he’s an English teacher) with heaps of errors in their head. Since the errors were with the kids for a couple of years, they became fossilised.

Attempts to correct those fossilised errors are like trying to move a mountain. It’s tough! My friend did share some of the exchanges and responses that he had with his students.
“Teacher, I no bring book!”
“Do you got a pencil?”
“You no pencil? I borrow you my one.”
“I no take his book. It is my one.”
And, the list is endless.

Again, to reiterate Dr Tan, the kids have never achieve the target language but only reach a deviant form of the target language during the stints at the kindy. As their English teacher in the school, my diligent friend struggled hard to provide them with good models of spoken English. He avoided the use of his students’ mother tongue. He has never and would never resort to his students’ mother tongue to support teaching and learning.

After toiling in that little school for years, he begins to see the fruits of his labour. His students could comprehend him perfectly well. A handful could do it superbly well. They begin to sound more like Justin Bieber instead of Mr Phua, and of course with grammatically correct English!
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