How to build proficiency in English
Published on: Sunday, March 11, 2018

By Dr Haja Mohideen
Over 50pc of fresh graduates are unemployed because of their poor command of the language (English) and their weak communication skills.

As an English educator at various levels for both students and teachers, I can say that there are numerous strategies which students themselves may employ.

The most basic of these are related to the four basic language skills: reading, speaking, listening and writing.

Students must be habitual readers. Besides the textbooks prescribed, imported as well as local, they need to show interest in other genres of reading.

The Internet today is a rich source of reading materials.

The language used in many web pages is authentic and includes a wide range of new vocabulary whose meaning may be guessed from the context.

Although some of the vocabulary do not have to be in a student’s lexical repertoire, they may form part of their passive vocabulary.

Reading has many sub-skills which can be acquired in a fun-filled way. Students could learn how to string sentences together.

Their language would not seem entirely bookish or clichéd. The grammatical aspects would not be lacking to the point of intelligibility.

Speaking the language may be done through different means. To begin with, English may be used among family members alongside their native language or dialect.

Students could seek out conversations with visiting native English-speaking tourists.

They should also attempt to converse with their subject teachers and fellow students who excel in the language.

They ought to participate in student societies which require much use of English.

This will enable them to gain confidence and speak the language eloquently.

There are many real situations where English may be used for communication.

This is especially true in urban areas.

Students from rural areas who study in urban/semi-urban schools need to speak the language when the opportunities arise.

Listening to the language reinforces what we read and the way we speak. With cable television, we have the advantage of listening to native English accents, besides our own educated accents.

Listening to English programmes and radio deejays is an additional and enjoyable activity.

Listen attentively to the dialogue and commentary on TV programmes for the use of the language.

These programmes are an entertaining source for language acquisition.

Listening to various programmes will enrich the lexical competence of the students as they are exposed to the vocabulary of different discourse genres like travel, entertainment, law, crime, and politics.

Writing is the most difficult skill to master but there are many fun ways to improve in general.

This includes writing in social media, but even then students must ensure they are reasonably accurate in terms of language usage.

With regard to their writing activity in school, students could ask their teachers to point out their weaknesses so that they may further improve.

Another strategy is peer editing, which is to get the help of a senior or better student.

They can engage in email communication while paying attention to the correct use of language, and the more adventurous ones can maintain a blog and get the readers to respond.

It is hoped that students would use some of the initiatives mentioned here and that they will make a difference in their English language performance.

Dr Haja Mohideen


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