Posted by: erienkoma | July 17, 2010

Encouraging EFL Students to Speaking

English in Indonesia, just like the majority of countries in Asia, is treated as a subject for study rather than as a living language to be spoken in daily conversation. Therefore, the EFL classroom context is very different from a natural native speakers learning environment. The lack of a surrounding community of English speakers outside the classroom increases the challenge for EFL teachers. The teachers claimed that the opportunity for communication in authentic situations and settings is a major factor for second-language acquisition by the EFL students. Another important determinant of language learning achievement is motivation. Consequently, EFL students are reluctant or afraid to speak English in the classroom or outside of the classroom. There are many teaching techniques to encourage EFL students to speaking English in the classroom or outside classroom. Among of them are the Cognitive technique and the Affective technique. The followings are the examples of the cognitive techniques:
Reduce the Level of Task Difficulty. If students do not know enough, they will not be able to perform the task well, and this is one of the causes of students’ unwillingness to speak. The following techniques are practical in dealing with the problem: (a) Give Students More Time to do Tasks. This can be done by giving students more preparation time. Alternatively, allow them to perform oral tasks without time pressure by giving them enough time to plan for and perform a task at the same time. (b) Bring the Tasks Within Students’ Experience. According to research, teachers can create recalling and sharing-experience opportunities for students to make use of their background knowledge and experience in doing the tasks. Key oral skills and strategies should be pre-taught in preparing students for communicative tasks. Also, it is advisable that teachers grade the difficulty level of oral tasks to suit their students’ communicative ability. (c) Allow Students to Collaboratively Solve Communicative Tasks. When organizing pair work and group work, make sure that every student’s participation is necessary for the task to be completed. It is best if each participant has “unique, essential information” or distinctive role to play. (d) Attend to Individual Students’ Needs and Ability. In a class of heterogeneous communicative ability, the teacher should not expect every student to perform at the same level. Likewise, different kinds of tasks can be devised to suite different levels. Alternatively, task demands can be adjusted according to individual levels of oral competence. It is thought that once a student has a learning problem, it is best to allow the student to try to solve the problem on their own in the first place. When the problem is too challenging for the student to solve, support can be provided. The above list is made with the amount of support increasing from the first to the last solution.

Furthermore, the followings are the examples of the affective technique: The Promote Positive Attitudes among Students. Students who hold positive attitudes towards language learning are less likely to suffer from language learning anxiety and more likely to participate actively in learning tasks. The techniques suggested below can help the teacher build up positive attitudes among students so that they can feel free to speak in the language class: (a) Change Students’ Negative Beliefs and Attitudes Towards Mistakes. Teachers can discuss with students the value of language use even if it is not fluent and accurate. Meaning-focused oral activities can also be used frequently with the goal clearly stated. When students are rewarded for successfully conveying a message, they will gradually change their perceptions about mistakes and language use. The teachers’ tolerance of mistakes also needs to be made clear because there is no point in trying to change students’ attitudes when the teacher still keeps them. (b) Boost Students’ Self-confidence. This can be done by creating various opportunities for classroom success in using spoken English. A sense of success and high self-perceived communication competence can be easily achieved by students if easy tasks with clear and simple goals are used in the first place. The level of difficulty can be increased over time as students’ ability develops. General goals should be broken down into smaller, short-term goals so that even when students do not achieve the final goals they still feel a sense of achievement for completing some of the sub-goals. Also, students should be rewarded once they achieve one or more goals. (c) Lower Students’ Anxiety in the Classroom. According to education experts, teachers can start with finding out what students are anxious about. Then teachers can help them ease some of their irrational fears and teach them strategies such as self-talks and doing relaxation exercises to deal with fears. With the principle of encouraging students to solve their own problems, the first two solutions should be prioritized because they provide assistance for them to change their own attitudes and affect in an appositive way while the third solution does not require as much effort from the students in solving the problem.
The cognitive technique and affective technique not only can solve the problem of EFL students who are reluctant or afraid to speak English in the classroom but also they can encourage EFL students to speak English outside the classroom. However, teachers need to adapt these techniques to suite their class situation, because the causes of students’ reluctance or afraid to speak are varied. Furthermore, many of these solutions should be implemented simultaneously so that they can supplement each other in tackling the problem from different angles, creating a better chance that the problem will successfully be solved.

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