My fellow ESL teachers dearest,

Why is it difficult to teach essay writing to our students?

Is it possible that the approach we are using is no longer relevant for students in this era? The method used by our teachers many years ago might have worked well for us, but not that well for students at present.

Nowadays, most students have short attention span. They couldn't stand reading lengthy and complicated texts. They normally scan a text for specific information, without paying much attention to the language.

When they speak, they are more expressive. They like to use short sentences accompanied by non-verbal gestures. For them, the message being delivered is more important than the language used.

When it comes to writing, they find it difficult to express their ideas in long, winding and flowery sentences (notice that emoticons are very popular). Why? It is because their brains are not familiar to that. As a result, many of them refused to write for it is a hard and exhausting work.

So...how do we handle this situation? Try KISS! Keeping things simple will solve the problem. Think of a simple yet effective strategy (in my case, I created a template), and train the students to apply the strategy every time they write their essays. Practice makes perfect. Drill them until the students' brains became familiar with the process. InshaAllah, essay writing will then be pleasant and effortless.

Madam Fatimi Estar
English as 2nd Language Guru

Learn VS Study

WHY, after struggling for 11 years in school, many of us are still not able to communicate well in English?

Interested to know? Okay, I'll tell you why...

It is because, in school, we did not learn English, but instead we studied English. That's the problem.
Confused? Let me explain the difference between "learn" and "study".

When we learn something, we will be able to use it to perform a certain task. For example, if we learn to play badminton, we will learn its rules and skills. After some practice, we will be able to play badminton. The more we play the better we become.

On the other hand, when we study something, we will gain knowledge which is not necessarily usable. For instance, if we study history, we will gain knowledge regarding historical events, places, people and so on. However, it does not make us good at anything (accept writing answers for exams).

Now, let's get to my point. What we did in school was, we studied English grammar, poems, novels and so on, only for one reason which was to sit for exam. Of course, we gained knowledge of the grammar which was crucial in answering rational cloze (filling in the blanks). We also gained knowledge of the poems and the novels which allow us to write responses to the given questions. However, none of these actually helped us to become a good communicator in English.

To communicate well in a particular language, we need to:
1) understand the message that we receive
2) make sure that people understand our message

For example, if we talk to someone, we can understand what he/she is saying by identifying the sounds produced by him/her. It is easier if we are familiar with the sounds of the words used. Then, when it is our turn to speak, make sure that the sounds we make actually represent the words that we intend to say. This is how conversations take place.

Have you ever wondered how people learned Korean in a short time, only by watching K-Drama? I'll discuss this next time, and of course make relation to the learning of English as 2nd Language.

Madam Fatimi Estar
English as 2nd Language Learning Guru

Language Is Important

Nowadays, language skills are more important than mathematics skills. Why? If you want to do business, you need to speak and write to sell your products and services. If you go for job interviews, you will definitely need to speak and write. To be able to speak and write effectively, you must have a good command of the language (be it Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, etc). In case you are required to calculate something, just take out your smart phone and use the calculator! Get the message?
Madam Fatimi Estar
English as 2nd Language Learning Guru