Pros and Cons of English Only Approach
Studying English has been one of the major concerns of Korean society for a long time so the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been developing English curriculums, evaluation systems, hiring native teachers, offering various English courses for teachers etc. As a result, MOE adapted the Teaching English through English (TETE) policy when I started to teach English. At first I suffered from my poor English ability. Because MOE's TETE policy gave me stress and anxiety to use English only in class even though there was not obvious pressure. After acquiring English speaking skills, I was frustrated because my students could not understand my English at the time. So I have been trying to figure out how to teach English properly in my classroom. It took several years for me to focus on teaching English itself and now I would like to clarify my ideas on teaching English in the classroom as I present this essay.
1. What are the advantages of teaching English only English?
Krashen(1892) described that the effective language teacher is someone who can provide input and help make it comprehensible in a low anxiety situation. I agree that languages are learned most effectively when students are exposed to lots of comprehensible input in context of real communication. However Korea is a monolingual country and Korean Elementary School only provides three English classes a week for 5th and 6th graders, (two classes for 3rd and 4th graders) so there are no places to listen English outside of the school. That is why it is difficult for students to expose to lots of comprehensible input, therefore as teachers we have to use only English as much as we can for students’ benefit. An ‘English only class’ can give students a chance to be exposed to instructional, communicative English, so they can get used to the vocabulary, the phrases and the conversations.
An only English class can encourage students to think and to give speak in English naturally. English pronunciation and intonation are totally different from Korean that is why most of students feel awkward when they speak in English. They don’t have a chance to speak in English in their home lives and they don’t want to feel embarrassed making bizarre sounds. They want to avoid that situation and keep silent, however if teachers make English class an only English environment, then students are more willing to try. In this way we encourage students to speak out and practice hard naturally.
2. What are the disadvantages of using only English?
For a long time foreign language teachers were fascinated by using only the target language in the classroom because they believed that the monolingual principle was the best way to learn a foreign language, however students can’t understand what they hear during the lesson. How can they learn?
Korean elementary school has mixed level English classes so when teachers speak only English without Korean some excellent students were expected to translate for their classmates. Some of them can’t understand and some of them need to pay close attention to understand, so sometimes they want to rely on the excellent students as interpreters. It is difficult for students to learn English effectively, so some low level students can give up learning English quickly. Therefore teachers should consider students’ various levels and whether the TETE policy benefits them or not.
Kim (2008) pointed out Korean teachers’ limited proficiency in English is a barrier to the successful implementation of the TETE policy. I agree with her, however I think the TETE policy can give too much pressure to teachers, even though skillful teachers who can speak English can lose their confidence. On the other hand, I saw an English only teacher(Korean government hires English only teachers to back up the TETE policy, so the teachers only teach English even though they don’t have teachers’ certificates.) who could speak English fluently, however she didn’t know how to teach elementary school students. Her fluent English had students dancing and the class was chaos. She can teach English using only English, however she can’t manage the students properly, and then how can students learn? Therefore we have to think about the purpose of using English only.
3. How can modify?
Let's think about the reason for TETE in the classroom. The reason using English only is to expose students to lots of comprehensible input, however they cannot understand what they hear, or it takes too long to understand the concept, then there is no point but wasting time and energy. Using English itself cannot be a goal, it is only a tool to teach English naturally, however it seems like some teachers are stuck using English only. That is why I think teachers should think outside of the box and consider them seriously; Peter Mckenzie's idea (2006) that teachers use the mother tongue sparingly in class and Butzhamm's sandwich technique to teach English efficiently in the classroom. There are some arguments for and against the use of the mother tongue, however "the best solution is to make limited use of students’ native language at appropriate times and in appropriate places" (Rao Zhenhui, 2000).
Mckay(2009) suggested that teachers use Korean in their classrooms with discretion, and I think it needs for mixed level elementary school students. If teachers do not have strategies to use the mother tongue efficiently, then they could abuse it unconsciously or students could rely on their mother tongue so teachers have to think about it carefully.
-When should teachers use it? For example when teachers start the semester they have to share classroom management with students to make sure the students totally understand what they have to do or what they are expected to do, and so on.
-How should teachers use it? Teachers have to plan how often use it, what period or which step use it, how to reduce using it etc. If teachers do not have specific plans for using it then students can also feel free to use it carelessly.
There are some arguments for and against to use the mother tongue, however I believe that the best solution is to make limited use of students’ native language at appropriate times and in appropriate places especially for lower level students like elementary school students. They have to put lots of effort and time in to learn a foreign language so teachers should think outside the box of using only English and do not hesitate to use the mother tongue to give students comprehensible input like using the sandwich technique for the students' benefit.