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.
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.