Pages: [1]
  Print
Author Topic: How can one practice speaking English in a non English-speaking country?  (Read 4805 times)
Mwita Chacha
Full Member
***

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 136


View Profile Email
« on: August 27, 2013, 07:06:19 AM »

The commonly given advice to folks fighting their poor spoken English is speak, speak, speak. Such a suggestion makes a great deal of sense if the learner lives in an English-speaking country. It becomes unrealistic, however, for someone in a country like Tanzania, where English speaking is restricted to a very small number of people. Extremely tough is to encounter a person on the streets of Dar es Salaam, our capital, talking English to another person--let alone perfect English.

I am fortunate to have been sent to an elementary school in neighboring Kenya. Kenya is a former colony of Britain like our country. But unlike our country's first president, its didn't abolish the use of English as a teaching language in primary schools. It's during the course of my time there that I became somewhat capable of speaking the language confidently. That happened between 1996 and 2002, but the benefits are unfolding today at the university and they certainly will further reveal themselves in the future.

I managed to be enrolled there because my parents were happy to pay for my school fee. Both of them can be described as belonging to what one can call a class of educated citizens, so they may not need to be lectured about the importance of English speaking skills in the integrated globe. An itinerary biology lecturer, my father spends much of his time traveling around the world delivering his lessons in different universities. He also has taken part in several academic conferences, being involved as a speaker or a moderator. A spokesperson at a government institution, my mother issues press releases and holds meetings with reporters to explain issues related to her office almost every single day. She is now preparing to open an evening class that will be dedicated to helping the wannable information officers to become familiar with the kind of job they're about to do. In short, they thought nothing of expending a total of USD 4,000 (it was quite a huge sum then) on the school fee for my seven years at the Kenyan school.

My parents are sort of privileged. Not all parents are having the similar level of education or exposure as them, with the number being more than 20 million of adult people without a college degree in a country of just over 40 million people. To such people, knowing English language is not more important than having a good command of any other local language.

But for those who realize that the usefulness of a good grasp of English language can't be underestimated, the challenge is always there. Foreign English-medium schools charge so high amounts of fees that many parents literary can't afford and dismiss all hopes that their children can be enrolled. For instance, the school I attended now wants parents to pay USD 2,000 per one year of studies, and it isn't even close to the country's first-rate schools. So the amount might be twice as much in comparatively better schools. In a country where the minimum wage is less than USD 130, telling parents to make such exorbitant payments comes close to saying to them that their children are not needed in those schools.

But these children certainly have to become fluent in spoken English in order to survive the forces of modern world. Everywhere English is growing an increasingly demanded language. US and European colleges don't register students who are not conversant in spoken English. Foreign multinational companies operating in our country make it as a criterion that their potential employees must be familiar with spoken English. Ironically, even local employers also demand that job seekers be at home with spoken English. Surely, a precise understanding of the King's language is a must in today's highly competitive society. And to achieve that, one has to speak, speak, speak. But how if he or she is surrounded by people who can't speak?
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 12:48:48 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged
bibliosensei
Initiate
*

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 1


View Profile Email
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2013, 02:51:23 AM »

Hi Mwita Chacha,

I perfectly understand your situation for I, myself, have to learn a foreign language (i.e. - German) which is not widely spoken in the Philippines as part of the requirements for my graduate studies. Even though I have basic understanding of the language system of Deutsch, as Germans call it, I can hardly find someone whom I can talk to to practice using the language.

You are right when you said that for you to learn a language, you need to use it otherwise, you'll lose it. That's how language learning works as proven by respected scholars in the field and innumerable research conducted in the area. A reading competence in a language, especially in English at this day and age, is inadequate if your goal is to reach international audience. This competence must be transformed into the much-needed productive skills (i.e.- speaking and writing) if one wishes to partake in the global trade and industry. The only way to do this to exhaust all means possible to use the language even if the environment is less supportive of your goal.

I tried to read a few things about Tanzania on the internet and it's interesting to find out that your language policy specifically assigns Swahili as a preferred language for local and national identity, and English (being a de facto language in certain institutions) for global participation. I find this supposed "fact" (as my source suggests) about your country contrary to what's really happening in your area based on your case. I wonder how such a policy works in your country.

Nonetheless, I'd like to share a few tips with you which actually worked with people I know.

First, which I guess you might have tried already, is to use the power of the internet to practice using the language. I remember a friend who had to learn Spanish for his foreign language exam not taking any formal courses on Spanish but being able to pass the test all because of his six-month effort to view Youtube tutorials, and free practice exercises in different websites. Since we're talking about English here, it wouldn't be much of a problem since 70% of websites on the internet are in English and I would like to believe that more than half of Youtube content is in English.

Second is to find a friend (the easiest way being on the internet through different platforms) whom you can talk to about random everyday things at a certain time of the day or week when both of you are available. For example, I met a friend in China who is trying to learn English and she asked me if it's ok that we become buddies in WeChat (a mobile application that can be used for chatting). Of course, I said yes and from then on, we have been constantly sending messages to one another. Just last week, I met a Japanese who is also trying to learn English and before we parted ways, he asked for my Facebook account for us to be constantly connected, although of course, one of his goals is to have someone to talk to (or perhaps write to) in English when he returns to Japan.

Third is to attend international conferences, not just to add to your credentials, but also to seek connections and forge friendship ties with foreign nationals. I've attended several international conferences and such have indeed opened wider doors for academic collaborations and many other possibilities in my case.

Finally, talk to yourself in English, when absolutely no one is available to practice with you. But please do this when you're alone because you don't want to be mistaken to have psychological problems or whatnot, do you?. It worked for me. I not only learned more about myself through periodic reflection, but in the process, I managed to improve my conversational English (as far as I believe).

Of course, there are many other ways that may absolutely work for you. One thing you have to remember though, is that it's alright to commit mistakes while learning the language. Sometimes, people including my students refuse to speak in English for fear that the person they are speaking with will size them up based on the kind of English they speak, which results in the lack of confidence to actually use the language. This should not be the case because everyone will commit mistakes no matter how good one is in any language. If you happen to make one while conversing with someone, ignore the fact that you made a mistake. What is important is for you deliver your message across, and that you are aware that you made a mistake so that in the future, you could avoid doing it again.

In my experience, I found that it doesn't matter what variety of English you speak or whether you speak the language in a way that is far from the dominant varieties (i.e.- British or American) as long as they get what you mean. This is because they will be delighted by the fact that you actually tried talk to them in a language familiar to both of you despite your cultural differences.

I hope this helps...



Regards,


Nic Guinto
nicguinto@gmail.com
bibliosensei@gmail.com
Logged
Mwita Chacha
Full Member
***

Karma: +0/-0
Posts: 136


View Profile Email
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2013, 11:06:29 PM »

I appreciate the methods you've provided, bibliosense, to be taken into consideration by someone ambitious to become fluent in spoken English but fails to practice speaking it because he or she is living in a country where there are no enough people capable of speaking the language and therefore not enough people to speak with. Although in my Third World country the Internet connection obviously isn't as widespread and readily available as in the Phillipines, I still think many of academic institutions have the access to the service (as the governement wants them to have it as a condition to get permission to start business), and students and staffers alike in such places may want to make it a point to carry out your suggestions if they are serious about getting a good grasp of the Queen's language for them to be able to compete in this incredibly English-demanding world and to be able to communicate confidently with people whose only language is English.
But one thing before I go: Your writing style looks so strikingly similar to that of Jose Carillo that I almost thought he had signed in under a different username. I wonder if this is an outcome of a deliberate effort or merely it is a coincidence. I am curious about that because I myself have a massive soft spot for his style and have been over several months trying to go through the archives of his past postings to see if I might be able to discover the secret behind his compelling writings. This task unfortunately hasn't been as easy as I had thought; nevertheless, I haven't lost hope that I someday will be able to achieve that. Now if indeed you managed to attain that through some kind of an effort, please tell me why it has been a breeze for you to bring off what seems to me as somewhat a highly elusive goal.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 11:24:25 PM by Mwita Chacha » Logged
Pages: [1]
  Print
 
Jump to: