独中英语教学的省思

许丽莲博士 陈维武博士

 

我们两人最近数年相继从国外返马,一个从事自由翻译及科技工作,另一个从事英语教育及培训工作,有机会走访多所独中及国中,与一些英语老师交流,也接触了不少来请教语言问题的学生,对马来西亚英语教学的状况有了更深的体会。我们都是独中生,都在从事与英语有关的工作,其中一人还曾在独中当过英语老师,一直以来对独中的英语教学特别关注。在与独中老师及学生的交流中,发现大家所反映的问题最显著的是英语师资不足,以及缺乏应用英语的环境,学生的语言能力不易提升。为了解决这两个问题,有些学校开始采纳沟通式教学法(CLT, Communicative Language Teaching),并以外包的形式,引进一些所谓的以沟通为主的配套课程,部分或全盘取代了传统的教学。具体的说,有系统的文法教学大量的减少了,而口语的练习则大量的增加了,这样的改变肯定有利有弊。我们想从教育的立场来讨论这个课题,希望能够起到抛砖引玉的作用,让大家一起来更深入的探讨及思考独中英语教学这个重要的问题。

 

一九七十年代,在第二语言及外语教学的领域中,教育学者开始提出沟通式教学法,原因是传统的语言教学法,用的是比较呆板的方式,注重的是让学生通过重复的文法练习掌握语言的法则,比较不注重语言的实际应用。特别是在缺乏实用环境的情况下,第二语言成了一种知识,而不是一种真正可以用来沟通的工具。此外,也有人认为,一般传统教学法对文法规则过度重视,扼杀了学生开口应用第二语言的意愿和勇气。简而言之,沟通式教学打破了传统教学法一般上枯燥乏味的上课氛围,以生活情境为中心,渗入文法的教学,代替系统的文法规则教学,并设立明确的短期教学目标,把教学的中心由老师主导的形式转换成由老师依学生的需要进行辅助的形式,藉此提高学生的学习意愿及兴趣,让所学的东西能在日常生活中应用。这毫无疑问是一个崇高的教育理念,值得所有语言教学者的注意。

 

但是一般上所谓的沟通式教学法其实只是一个总体方向及原则的勾画,具体的实施方案必须依环境(比如说实施地英语的盛行程度)、师资、学生的基础,及学生的进度而定,更必须有一定的灵活度。虽然沟通式教学法已经俨然成为一种时尚,却还在不断的演化中,而教育及学术界对这种教学法也还有许多争议,有人支持,有人批判,这里无法尽述。其中一个比较常见而且值得关注的问题是:是不是只要学生能开口应用第二语言,沟通的目的就达到了呢?比如说,有些马来西亚学生虽然能开口说英语,说的却是文意不通的英语。比如说:“So easy also don’t know how to do! (想要表达的可能是“It’s so easy! I am surprised that you don’t even know how to do it.)及“can already lah”(想要表达的可能是“that’s good enough”)。这种用法源于母语的影响,基本上是中文或马来文的逐字翻译。因为在马来西亚有很多人在非正式场合中使用类似的用法,在某种程度上或许能达到沟通的目的,问题是,如果在正式书写时或与外国人沟通时也这么用,真的还能达到沟通的目的吗?习惯了这种用法的学生还能分辨正式及非正式的用法吗?当然,这种现象不是沟通式教学法所独有的问题,归根究底来说,这是教学标准无法落实的问题,只要师资短缺及教学提升的问题无法解决,学生不能得到适时、适当的纠正,无论用什么教学法都会碰到同样的问题。一些语言教育工作者在探讨沟通式教学法时提出这个问题,原因是沟通式教学法一般上为了鼓励学生大胆应用所学的语言,有些时候会允许学生使用各种非正式的用法而不太加以纠正,以免扼杀了学生的意愿及兴致。他们担心的是,如果老师不适时纠正学生的错误,这种用法会在学生的脑海中强化生根,到头来可能会产生更大的问题。

 

我们认为,语言的教学,不能为了让学生能应用口语而牺牲良好的语言基础,两者的比重必须有适当的调配。因此,在实施沟通式教学法时,必须适时、适当的帮助学生提升总体语言能力,打好基础,不只是能说就好。这还有赖于老师的教学能力及水平。所以说,沟通式教学法的实施不是一件简单的事,必须有周详的考虑和策划,良好的师资培训规划,还必须有一个实验及调整的过程。

 

前面提到,有些独中为了解决英语教学的问题,或提高英语教学的程度,开始以外包的形式,实施了一些所谓的以沟通为主的配套课程。毋庸置疑,学校的用意是好的,引进外包的配套课程也有一定的优点。但是在与一些老师的交流中,我们发现了一些值得进一步探讨的课题,特此提出来,供大家参考:

1.      在学校外包或引进配套课程前,必须对配套课程有深入的了解并建立良好的评估机制。因为引进配套课程花费不小,对学生的影响也很大,最好能设立一个评估委员会,广泛征求老师及教育学者的意见,从纯教育的角度对配套课程有深入及实质的了解后,才初步决定是否试点采用,不应完全取信商家的说词或依决策人对某个教学法泛泛的印象来做决定。

2.      评估时必须检查商家所提供的教材及课本,藉此判断课程的水平和可用度。如果发现课本内容错误百出,教材不完善,学校绝对有权利怀疑课程有问题。这决不是杞人忧天,在我们与老师的交流中,就发现这样的事确实发生过。另外更必须确保商家会向学校提供充分的师资培训。许多配套课程有固定的模式,是否真的合用,老师是否能应用自如,有弹性的发挥,也是重要的考虑因素。

3.      所述,沟通式教学法仍在演进中,教育及学术界对沟通式教学法也仍有许多争议。一些英语教育专家所推广的是在系统的文法教学中加入境况(context)的元素,这是对传统教学法的一种改进,有别于沟通式教学法以生活情景为主,比较没有系统的教导文法的模式,这里无法尽述。一般上外包的配套课程,标榜的就是沟通式教学法。这种配套课程对沟通式教学法的具体方案,如果不能让学生扎实的打好基础,比如说系统的文法教学只有微不足道的比重,对学生的总体语言能力会有负面的影响。这是一个严肃的教育课题,对学生影响深远,不应草草决定。

4.      在初步决定采用后,必须有一个试用及实验的过程,以进一步评估配套课程是否真的能达到商家所宣传的效果和水平。试用时必须先从较小的范围开始,再逐步扩大。写到这里,不得不感叹马来西亚的许多教育政策都不曾通过这样的评估及实验过程,英语教数理政策的实施就是一个最显著的例子。前车之鉴,希望独中在进行教改时千万要好好考虑,听取教育专家学者的多方意见,详细探讨后再来执行,这是必要的决策过程。特别是沟通式教学法强调小班制,如果独中不能在根本上解决师资不足及师资流失的问题,沟通式教学法的实施将会事倍功半,吃力不讨好。

 

其实落实沟通式教学法有各种途径,一个好的语言老师为了提升学生的兴趣和学习意愿,必定会在系统文法教学中加入以沟通为主的元素。所以,采纳沟通式教学法绝对不等于引进外包的教学配套。我们认为,如果独中想要汲取英语沟通式教学法的优点,必须从根本着手,集合独中优秀英语老师及校外教育专家学者的力量,共同开发一套适合独中,又能够完善执行的方案,并加强师资的培训。

 

独中一路走来,筚路褴褛,必须克服重重困难。而经费及师资更是独中办学的两个相互牵连的问题。的确,独中的经费来之不易,在努力求变时,务必深思熟虑,从长计议,更必须务实的从基础上着手,不一定要采纳华丽的配套方案。真诚希望这篇短文能引发更多的讨论,更希望已经引进外包配套课程的学校能够评估这些课程的效果,把评估的结果与其他学校分享。本着纯教育的立场及共享的原则,多方的探究及开放的讨论,独中的办学才能更有活力,更能有效的解决根本的问题。

 

作者

许丽莲,澳洲墨尔本大学教育(社会语言学)博士,曾任台湾新店高中英语老师,马来西亚中化中学英语老师及英迪大学英语讲师,并在澳洲及中国从事英语教学及研究工作。现任英迪大学教育及培训顾问。

 

陈维武,美国纽约洲立大学石溪分校物理(大气物理)博士,曾在美国宇航局从事大气科学研究工作,并参与佛法中英翻译工作多年。现从事自由翻译及科技工作。

 

网编:本文曾刊登于华文报章,现获得作者同意,在桃李网发布,春风化雨,润物无声,何其有荣焉! 2008.9.3

 

 

Is It Ok to Use Mandarin in An English Classroom in Chinese Independent High Schools?

 

By Dr. Khaw Li Lian

 

“Is it ok to use Mandarin in an English classroom in Chinese independent high schools?”

 

This is a question that I have always encountered in almost all ELT (English language teaching) workshops I have conducted. While there are some people including academicians who have argued that there should be strictly no languages other than the target language in an English classroom, I will argue that a moderate amount of students’ native language is necessary to make the teaching and learning process more effective, especially when students are still at an entry or at the beginner level. This is also a common viewpoint of bilingual educators in the US.[1]

 

Having taught in a Chinese-speaking environment such as schools in Taiwan and China, and Chinese independent high schools in Malaysia, my experience has told me that if I speak to my students only in English throughout the whole lesson, especially to those who have almost zero proficiency of the language, I run the risk of killing my students’ interest in learning. They will get frustrated and eventually lose interest and concentration. That reminded me when I was learning Japanese in Melbourne.  If my teacher had spoken only Japanese throughout the class all the time and did not explain anything in English, I would have tuned off and refused to step into the class room again. In a foreign language classroom or second language classroom, it is inevitable to use the students’ native language to enhance teaching and students’ understanding. The issue here is how much native language input we should give in an English classroom. 

 

Indeed, we should be careful with the amount of native language input we give in the classroom. It depends on the levels of English we are teaching. If the learners are advanced students, the lesson can be conducted totally in the target language or with a minimal amount of the native language to elaborate difficult terms or concepts. However, in a beginner English classroom, the amount of native language input can be increased to an extent that it enhances students’ learning. In other words, in an English classroom, the target language should be timely and appropriately used. The opposite extreme is that if we use only students’ native language throughout the lesson, the target language may become merely a form of half-baked knowledge but not a tool for communication. Thus, experienced and trained teachers should know when to use the students’ native language and when to insist on using the target language. They should also know how to create opportunities for students to use the target language, and make their teaching more communicative.  It is thus suggested that the native language is used as long as it enhances the effective learning of the target language.

 

Environment is a very important factor in second/foreign language learning, and what Chinese independent high schools lack is an English-speaking environment. Thus it is very important for teachers to create the opportunities for the students to use the language in class in a timely manner, especially for speaking and listening classes. However, when it comes to grammar which requires a certain degree of conceptualizing skills, moderate use of learners’ native language will make the teaching and learning more effective. Therefore imposing a ‘strictly no mandarin’ rule in an English classroom in Chinese independent schools without taking the learning context into account is unrealistic and not a good idea. It should always be remembered that there are many factors to be considered when such a restriction is placed.

 

Author

Dr. Khaw Li Lian has been teaching English and doing research in language education for more than 12 years. Her research focuses on Malaysian English, New Englishes and Second Language Learning. She obtained her Master of Education and PhD in Education from the University of Melbourne and has taught English in Taiwan, China, Australia, and Malaysia, including a 4-year stint at INTI College as a lecturer. Currently, she works as an English & Training Specialist, providing training for teachers and students in Malaysian schools.

 



[1] For example, see James Crawford “Does Bilingual Ed. Work?”, website: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/bilingual/Work164.shtml