Time and time again the questions I am asked by my students is: “How can I improve my English?” and “Why am I getting nowhere?” Given that most of these people are graduate students with plans of doing post-graduate study abroad, I am often tempted to think their questions are disingenuous – merely an attempt to make conversation. Surely someone who has already been through sixteen or more years of schooling really knows at heart what is needed to learn something as mundane as a language. Indeed, many of these inquirers do secretly know and are just expressing their frustration at being too lazy to meet the requirements, but then I remind myself that notions of what learning involves are often quite different here and that many students are in fact stumped as to why they are making such little progress despite trying so hard. Assuming that the ease with which people learn English varies widely (because let’s face it – some adults are poor at picking up new languages, while others excel at it), in my experience the general reason for Taiwanese students’ failures to improve their English skills is as follows.
一直以來,我不斷的被學生問道:“我該如何增進我的英文?” “為什麼我總是毫無進展?” 這些學生大多是想要出國深造,攻取碩士學位的學生,這不得不使我覺得這樣的問題太沒誠意,我幾乎無法回答,那些已在學校學了超過16年英文的人的內心深處一定知道要學好as mundane as Language的必備條件。沒錯,提出問題的人,心底是知道答案的,他們只是藉此釋放出自己懶於達到學好英文的必備條件的挫敗感,但我隨即提醒自己,台灣學生的學習之道是截然不同的,鑿於此,他們對於不論多努力,進步卻那麼有限,,真是躊躇困惑啊!我們就將它歸於學習英文的難易度,個別差異真是很大吧!(面對現實吧 — 有些人就是鈍於語言學習,而有些人則特別有能耐),而我的經驗告訴我,台灣學生無法增進英文實力的普遍性原因,應如下述:
Blame it on the rote nature of the education system here or whatever you want, but, basically, there is an entrenched passivity to most Taiwanese English learners. And this does not just mean that they are too shy to speak in class. What it really means is that they do not actively wade in and dig through the language, but instead wait for it to be handed to them in neat little packages, in formulas. In practical terms this amounts to the fact that most students do not learn from their mistakes, so bad habits become ingrained. Why? There may be many reasons, but the one that comes across most strongly from my students is that they really just do not care enough. Their motivation to learn English is mostly extrinsic – for advanced studies or work – so there is no real interest in the language itself. Without a genuine sense of curiosity in the mechanics, the nitty gritty, of a language, it is very difficult for adults to learn it properly. Until adult Taiwanese students stop thinking of learning English as an irritating stepping stone along their career path, the general standard of English will not improve.
To find examples of passive student behaviour, one doesn’t need to look far. Consistently, when students are corrected, on, say, the use of a preposition, during or after an English utterance they show no interest at all in why their choice of preposition was incorrect or in what kind of situation their choice would have been correct. Then, within a matter of minutes they invariably make the same mistake again. The only way for adults to learn English is to get in there and play with the language, make mistakes and learn through trial and error. But this means you have to be curious; you have to care about what you are doing. I can understand how students might be reticent to experiment in front of their peers, but the fact is that most of them do not even contemplate these errors in the safety of their homes. This is no more evident than in the way writing corrections are treated. I am very rarely approached by students and asked to explain the corrections I have made to their written work and, similarly, if symbols are used to indicate where errors are so that students can make their own corrections, the paper is almost never re-submitted. Does this mean that students are aware of their mistakes and have learnt from them? Definitely not, judging from the fact that the very same mistakes reappear in the next piece.
毫不費力的我就可以舉出一個學生消極的通病,當他們在介系詞用語方面被我錯誤更正後,完全沒有在English utterance期間或之後,表現出任何對於他們所選擇的錯誤介系詞答案的出錯原因、或其確切用法的求知興趣,然後,不到幾分鐘的時間,,同樣的錯誤便重演了。成人想學好英文就得去把玩它,不斷地從各種嘗試及錯誤中學習,賦予好奇心與認真對待自己的學習,我了解許多人在同學前總是惜字如金,不敢嘗試,但事實上他們在自己的家中也是啊!在英文寫作方面更是甭提了,極少有學生拿我為他們改過的文章來找我做任何解說,同樣的,如果我以符號註明其文章錯處,請自行更正,但從未有人重寫後交給我,這表示學生們都已完全明瞭了嗎?根據一再重複的錯誤中,我們知道答案是:當然不!
Perhaps a single example from our school best sums up the problem with adult Taiwanese learners of English. For about a year now, we have offered a free half hour one-on-one tutorial service for our students. The rules are simple: in addition to their regular (paid for) classes students can take an half hour tutorial with a teacher, provided, and here is the catch, they formulate on their own specific, discrete language inquires. In all this time, less than five students have availed themselves of this service and of these students half have not been able to come up with better questions than things like: “How can I make my speaking more fluent?” or “How can I pick up more of what is said when I listen to fast paced conversations?” Call it passivity, call it laziness, indifference or lack of imagination and subscribe it to the educational background or even the influence of L1 on L2, but this attitude, which makes students content to listen to conversations and read passages for only understanding of content and meaning rather than linguistic complexity, and speak and write with the goal of just getting across the message, is what stands between Taiwanese students and greater English language proficiency.
且把範圍縮小,以我們教學中心裡,台灣學生所實際發生的大問題來看吧,我們提供一對一個別之半小時外籍教師免費輔導的服務已一年多了,這是一個提出非常個人的,英文的疑惑點的好機會,然而,不到五個學生願意受惠於此,而這些少之又少的學生亦無法提出實際的問題,他們總是”我如何能口語流利?” “我如何能很快的了解一段進行很快的對話?” 歸罪於被動或懶散吧,Indifference or….on L2,以這樣的態度,造成學生在滿足於聽或閱讀英文時,僅求知道它表示什麼,以及在說或寫作時只求含混過去,而絕非投身於語言本身的複雜性,以上一切正是台灣學生和優秀的英文學習者之間的一大障礙。
By Daniel Sansoni