Monday, 22 April 2013

At a loss for words

I have been giving private tuition for a few years now and there is one problem that most students face: lack of vocabulary.

Most Spanish students in secondary education tell you that they don't know a large number of words in English and yet they don't seem to be doing much to remedy that situation.

When you meet students at Bachillerato (A-level stage) who don't know basic words such as "earn", "pass", "remember", etc., it is hardly surprising that they cannot pass their English exams, let alone hold a conversation in English.

Students usually have some knowledge of grammar and pronunciation but, when it comes to having a conversation or writing a composition, they fail miserably. The reason is very simple: they haven't mastered the basics yet.

You usually see students doing badly at an intermediate level when the reality is that they haven't even reached a beginner's level. As I say to them, "You're trying to build a house without foundations." It's like putting the cart before the horse.

In my opinion, this happens because most students don't take their language learning seriously. Why? Because they are more interested in passing exams rather than actually learning something they can use. They manage to scrape through exams year after year instead of building on the knowledge they already have... until one day they realise they haven't learned anything.

That is not the teacher's fault. You can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Ultimately, it is all down to the student. 

Students need to remember that in order to be a successful learner they have to keep up their English. You don't just study for an exam and then forget everything and party like there's no tomorrow. It doesn't work like that.

As far as I'm concerned, I have decided to test my students on some basic vocabulary every week. If they can't string a sentence together, there is little hope that they will be able to write a coherent and cohesive composition in their final exam.

Time to get back to basics.

Do you study or revise vocabulary on a regular basis?

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