Whether you like it or not, the English language now dominates the world across business, politics and the internet. While local languages are important, English is fundamental. Therefore, schools need to prioritize its learning, both oral and written, among students. English is even more essential for high school students, who might want to attend universities abroad or enter a competitive job market.
1. For higher education and specialized training – Many international schools and colleges use English as their primary language of instruction. Additionally, the books used to teach in these institutions are written in English or easily translated to it.
2. Job opportunities and work environment – Multinational and international corporations prioritize workers who have good English communication skills. Official communication in the modern workplace is also done in English.
3. For general knowledge and research purposes – If you wish to look for any information or data online, you must know English. It is rare to find general information about a subject in another language.
4. Media and entertainment – All media and entertainment content on international channels are in English. Even global content is dubbed or subtitled in English.
5. International relations – English is used in politics, diplomacy, conferences and meetings to connect people from different parts of the world.
If students are going to an international school like GIIS Abu Dhabi, which admits students from over ten nationalities, they must be able to communicate in English. That is the campus’ primary language of instruction. However, English is not only for students who wish to study or work abroad. It is just as important in day-to-day interactions.
So, how can you help your students improve their skills? First, you should understand that the goal is to achieve fluency; the expertise and accuracy in grammar can come later. Below are some strategies you can employ:
Most times, students get away with talking to their peers and teachers in their native language. Instead of letting this continue, reply to them in English. If you make it a habit to speak English within the school compound, even during casual interactions, then students will pick up the culture and use it more often.
Conversation is the most basic and essential communication skill that students can learn. It is through dialogue that people share ideas, opinions, and thoughts. It is also a great way to learn active listening, which is an essential communication skill. That said, you have to start viewing every social interaction with and among your students as an opportunity to practice oral communication skills.
When you assign group work activities, ensure that students interact and communicate using English. Through conversations, students will also understand non-verbal cues, the importance of eye-contact, paraphrasing, response and summarising. Another way to encourage conversation is by having a question of the day, either at the beginning or end of a lesson. Keep the question open-ended so that they do not use one or two-word responses.
It is easy to think that young people only use technology to chat with texts full of symbols and emojis. However, there are plenty of tools that can help students improve their spoken English. Audiobooks and podcasts can be very useful in teaching pronunciation and improving listening comprehension. Students can also expand their vocabulary while listening to audiobooks. Some of the most popular apps for English learning are Voice Thread and Paper Telephone, and most of these apps are suitable for students from kindergarten to high school.
Reading exercises are an excellent way to help your students improve their English.
You can go a step further by recording your students as they read out loud for reflective purposes. Doing so also helps to improve their confidence in speaking the language. When students are reading, avoid correcting them when they don’t pause on a comma or full stop. You can do this later when they improve their pronunciation and understanding of simple vocabulary.
It’s not just books that can be read out loud. You can give your students presentation assignments and record them for future reference, too. You can allow students to view and listen to their recordings in small groups to avoid embarrassing moments that might kill their self-esteem and make them avoid English.
Almost all movies that young people like to watch are in English. Students can learn a lot about dialogue, tone, body language and conversation through films. Students can observe and imitate some verbal communication behaviours such as facial expressions, gestures, phrases and even sentence structures. Students will also appreciate the cultural, social, and behavioural differences in language. Not everyone speaks English with the same accent, but people can still communicate using the same language.
After watching a movie as a class, for example, you can ask students to take note of a word or phrase that they don’t understand so you can discuss it afterwards. Another fun way to help your students learn English is by learning a new word every day. You can call it ‘magical word’ or ‘word of the day’. Students can do this activity in groups or individually, and have them share it with the class. Encourage them to use their new word in a written sentence or in their conversations with friends. Such activities will help expand their vocabulary and build their knowledge in sentence structure and grammar.
It is clear that knowledge of the English language is necessary in the world of information technology. The ability to communicate well in English partially determines the social and academic success of students. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that students will automatically pick up the skill as they go along. Schools and educators from pre-primary onwards must make an intentional effort to help students communicate better in English, both oral and written.