Why do students hate learning English?

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It isn’t talked about a lot by teachers or school staff but students in general hate learning English. More so than science, math, art or any other subject. Very few students run, skip, jump to get to their English class.  Sure there are some exceptions, usually because of great teachers. But generally, students loath being forced to study English and are very demotivated.  We have to ask ourselves why? Why do students so dislike learning English?   If we can come up with the reasons, we might begin to address them and be more successful as language teachers.

This article about high school students in Japan  describes the strong aversion students have towards learning English. Over 58% have a strong dislike of learning English. Now you might say, “Oh, high school students hate everything!” or “This isn’t the case where I teach” but I think most of us can agree, it is true in most schools and countries around the world. The problem exists, it is huge. Especially huge in the face of the demand for strong English as a second language speakers in the job markets of most nations.

Let’s look at some of the reasons students dislike learning English and think of some possible ways to address them. We think EnglishCentral offers a lot of possible solutions to the problem, especially regarding study efficiency and student motivation.

1. Learning English is mandatory. It’s not my choice.

Yes, that’s true and not really much a teacher can do about this. But teachers can start providing students with choice – let them start controlling their own learning journey and driving the bus on that long road. If you ask students directly, despite English study being compulsory, the real problem isn’t they don’t want to learn English. Most students realize how important it is for their future. The real problem is providing choice and differentiating instruction. Teachers need to allow students more control and allow them to study how, what and even when they want. Within reason of course. Boring textbook content, same page for each and every student, won’t cut it anymore. Personalized learning experiences like those offered by EnglishCentral can help provide students choice.

2. I get so embarrassed trying to speak English in class. I feel ashamed.

So true. Most language classrooms have very differing levels of language learners. Those not at the top of the fluency ladder get very ashamed and stressed when trying to speak English in a classroom. This experience taints them for the rest of their English language learning life. We need to stop that and create a better, safer environment for all our students. At EnglishCentral, we hear so often of students who hate their English class because they have a long silent period and don’t like speaking in a group. But they excel in the safe environment of the EnglishCentral player and when they are ready, start enjoying speaking English in class. But key is “when they are ready”. Teachers need to be much more sensitive about language learner anxiety and also how students need much more time and input before they are ready to productively use the language.

3. It’s so boring! Grammar, worksheets, drills ….

Despite all the talk online and among innovative language teachers, the truth is that the grammar syllabus and approach still rules in this world. Millions of students each day start by repeating endless lines of correct grammar and continue by filling in reams of fill in the blanks worksheets. Language is taught as a subject not a skill like art, gym, typing or music. This must stop. We need to DO language in our classrooms and not know language. The testing regiment in most countries + the publishing industries reliance on grammar syllabuses is partly to blame. But we also need more adequate teacher training and more $$$ spent on professional development opportunities for teachers. EnglishCentral takes an inductive and “in use” approach to language learning, avoiding grammar and explicit instruction. Students learn language as it is spoken/used, in real situations. We trust in this way, students will figure out the rules and acquire language, not just learn it.

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4. Why learn English? I’ll never need it. I’ll never use it.

It’s sad that with today’s more wired world, we can’t bring more reality into our classrooms. Let learners see English used in an authentic fashion and how necessary it is to participate in the “global village”. Students don’t dislike English because they won’t ever need it, they dislike it because most classes/schools don’t teach English with authentic content so students can see how it is used in the real world and understand how relevant the language is to “life” and “making a living”. Our classes need to pipe in the real world of English and tear down the 4 walls of the classroom. Platforms like EnglishCentral, full of authentic content showing English used purposefully, do the trick. We all need to use authentic materials more in our classrooms and allow students to see “the big picture” and how relevant a skill it is in today’s world.

These are just 4 big reasons and possible solutions to the problem of students disliking English. I’m sure you have others and please comment and share them below. We all have much more to learn, so more of our students will love learning English and run to our classrooms!

Here, some Korean and Japanese students relating reasons they dislike English and why they feel they can’t speak English so well. They support well those mentioned above.

Comments

  1. robertodib says:

    The main reason one hate learning the English language is, according to my experience , THE GREAT EMPHASIS ON THEORY that is imposed on him/her The person that is studying a new language, NEEDS AND WANTS TO PRACTICE IT , not to be “perfect” in the accurate use of grammar . If this person is constantly corrected till the “perfection” in grammar, for sure will deslike or “hate” learning it. The better use of grammar should be enhanced during the practice of free conversation, step by step , naturally. I’ve been giving English Trianing this way , with success.

  2. (Mr) J.K.GANGAL says:

    My observations on the topic under discussion are as follows:
    1. Learning anything compulsorily without knowing its purpose often makes it boring to those who want to learn only those things which are going to benefit them in life. Here I would blame the teacher for it and not English who fails to impress upon his /her students how helpful the learning of English would be to them to survive honourably and creditably in the context of global culture.
    2. On the contrary my experience as a teacher with 56 years of teaching English is that students enjoy speaking English rather than feeling embarrassed while speaking English in the class ,especially when most of them have more or less the same proficiency level.
    3. If teaching English Grammar means giving and receiving the grammatical rules about different parts of speech it is certainly a boring approach to teaching-learning of English. However if it is taught through creating situations and interactive approach the same grammar learning becomes an interesting activity to both for the teacher and the students. So here also I would not like to blame the English language but to the approach which is being used in most of the schools and learning centres for English.
    4. There was a time when a person would remain confined after birth only to his or her birth place through out the life. But now there is so much of mobility that we have our breakfast in India ,lunch in Rome and dinner in London. Now, the whole world is a small place for most of us. Life is now completely globalized. So to think that a person would never need English would mean closing one’s eyes to the stern reality of life. As such, English being an international language would continue to attract people to its fold. Just think of countries like Russia, Japan, China, Germany where people had earlier never thought of learning the English language, other than their own languages, are now motivating their people to learn English to be part of the global culture and compete with other countries of the world. India is no exception to this thinking.J.K.GANGAL

  3. You think English is easy???
    Read to the end . . a new twist

    1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

    2) The farm was used to produce produce.

    3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

    4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

    5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

    6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

    7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present

    8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

    9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

    10) I did not object to the object.

    11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

    12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

    13) They were too close to the door to close it.

    14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

    15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

    16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

    17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

    18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

    19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

    20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

    Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

    You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

    There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP’

    It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

    We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

    And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

    We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP. To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty
    definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we
    say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP.

    One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so……..it is time to shut UP!

    Oh . . . one more thing:

    What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?

    U-P

  4. Thanks to Piroska for several laughs from the list of homonyms that she shared in a comment (March 25, 2015 at 3:37 pm [JST]). Throw *in* (not *up*) colloquialisms, homophones, innuendos, metaphors, nuances, and the like, and you’ll realize that she’s absolutely right to suggest that English is a bear of a language to understand.

    However, if you’ll bear with me, you may agree that one root of the problem that the writer from EnglishCentral brought up in this post (Why do students hate…, 22 March 2015) is the lack of **a clear distinction** between acquiring or *learning* languages for communicative purposes, and *studying* languages for academic testing or less apparent purposes such as socio-economic stratification.

    Young Japanese and Korean people in the video (Asian Boss, 17 February 2015) didn’t seem to have any problem making that distinction with respect to encounters with English “like studying Maths or Japanese” (c. 1:26), and “get[ting] conditioned to think of English as one of the subjects in school, not a necessary communication tool” (c. 2:50).

    Let’s hope more school administrators, educators, learners, parents, and students *learn* to make the same distinction between learning and studying languages than seem to do make it now.

  5. Paul Beaufait says:

    Please pardon the mark-down (asterisks for emphases) in my comment (March 26, 2015[,] at 1:59 am [above]) that didn’t seem to work on this blog, and also the misbelief that this blog would display times in my timezone (JST). It’s not two in the morning here; it’s a few minutes after 11:00 a.m (same day).

    There’s also another typing fault reflecting what you might consider a false-start in speech, incompletely repaired in my typewritten comment above. The first student I teach who points that out before anyone else does will get extra credit for next semester.

  6. I have often heard people saying that English is an easy language to learn. I have also heard that Chinese is the most difficult, and many speakers of languages are proud to say that their language is one of the hardest of all. But is this true? Are some languages harder than others?

    It depends on many things; Chinese, for example, has no tense, but it has a writing system that is very different from the systems used in English. One thing might be harder, but another is simpler.

    With English, I feel that it is an easy language to pick up at the start. Many students can start speaking it fairly quickly and progress rapidly through the early stages. this might be because it seems not to have the complexity and abundance of grammatical rules that many languages have.

    However, this is also one of its difficulties; having mastered the basics of English, many students then find it hard to reach the very high levels, because there are so many exceptions to everything and so many funny little rules.

    All in all, I’d say it is easy to begin with, but it gets a lot harder. if your goal is to reach fluency, then English is not an easy language. It has an enormous vocabulary, its spelling system is a mess and there are many tricky little rules.

  7. Would it be possible to know the name of the author of this article so I can quote from it and attribute it to him/ her? I would be grateful if anyone could let me know @ artbarrelorgan@yahoo.co.uk Thank you.

  8. Arthur Ford says:

    Thank you!

  9. Lucie Renoud-grappin says:

    I hated English during 7 years ( very difficult and dead boring ) then i loved it ( because of an awesome teacher ( we sung in class )) then i hated English because of the same teacher ( boring and uselless, and my friends were somme talkative box !!! ) Besides, i want to be an english teacher ! Do you believe it ?! ( I’m 13 and i’m french )

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