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Community Language Learning

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2541 words Published: 12th May 2017

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Community language learning (CLL) is a type of language learning approach. The founder for CLL methodology was Charles Curran, an American Jesuit priest who was working as the Counseling Learning. CLL play a fundamental role for students who are learning English as their second language. It is an example of an innovative model that takes the importance of learning process into consideration. Learning new languages might be challenging for students who are not familiar with the language as they will face difficulty in understanding the language that they are learning. Some of the learners will feel nervous when they are talking using other languages. They might feel that they are embarrassing themselves when they are communicating with the native speakers. So, Curran was best known for his extensive studies on adult learning. He had addressed some issues on affective domain that are related to adult learners when they are learning new languages.

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Technique that is applied in CLL method is that teachers act as the language counselor or translator during language learning, while the students are the client in the learning process. During the discussion or lesson, students sit in a circle while the teacher sits outside the circle. Sitting in the form of circle will give the students the sense ownership and feel included. The circle helps to build community. It provides a non-competitive, a sense of involvement and a sense of equality atmosphere for the students. Students will feel even more comfortable with their peers and this will make them try to use the language . When the class starts, everyone is encouraged to know each other well. This will create a warm and close class identity. Students will listen clearly when other students are talking. They will enjoy the chance to be imaginative and can direct their answers quickly when they are sitting in the form of a circle. This is because when they are sitting together, students can see each other faces clearly, have eye contact and hear each other well. They will feel secure and safe to speak out their thoughts and can have debates and discussions among themselves.

Interpersonal relationship among students and teachers are very important. Teachers need to treat the students fairly so that students will lower their defensive behavior and will start communicating interpersonally. Students will feel free to talk about their experiences or introduce themselves using their mother tongue. Teachers have to listen carefully to the students’ conversation and translate the conversation into English. Then, students will follow and imitate teachers’ pronunciation and sentence structures again during the discussion. Students will then repeat what have been said by the teachers in front of the class. So, in order to make the learning process easier, students should ensure that they make simple and short phrases around five to six words when they are talking in their mother tongue. So, maybe the teachers can control or stop the students from talking too long. This is because when teachers translate it in English, it will be easy for the students to understand and imitate the pronunciation and sentences easily. When it is the students’ turn to speak in target language directly to the group, teachers can correct students’ grammatical error and mispronunciation. But teachers must make sure that they are not over doing it.

Even though the teachers are not taking part or involve in the discussion, they still play an important role in the learning process. Teachers should not always correct the students’ pronunciation as this will discourage them to continue learning and affect the students’ interest in learning. It will also lead to frustration. The teacher should not control the conversation in CLL, but let students talk whatever they wishes (Rardin et al., 1988). What was important is that teacher should ensure that their students are generally able to speak in a way that is easy for others to understand and not necessarily like a native speaker. Scaffolding can be provided for the students if students are still unable to pronounce or speak correctly. Set up a personal tutorial for the selected students by providing them extra classes and teach them again the proper usage of English will eventually help them. Their learning progress may be very slow, but teachers’ concerned and mutual trust will help them to master the language slowly. Mutual trust between the teachers and the students should be maintained throughout the discussion. Students will feel more comfortable when they are sharing their opinions and thoughts. This will eventually motivate students to learn new languages and boost their confident when speaking in front the group. In a non-defensive relationship learners are able to engage with and personalize the material (Rardin, Tranel, Tirone and Green, 1988).

This method is not really relevant in a Malaysian classroom. Malaysia is a multiracial country that consists of Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. Everyone is put under the same education system, where all races are studying in the same class. When students are studying in the class, they still prefer to use language that they feel more comfortable and familiar to communicate with others. Because of this, there will be some language differences between students. Everyone in the class uses different mother tongue and prefer to use language that they feel more comfortable and familiar with when communicating with others. That is why CLL is not really applicable in Malaysian classrooms that consist of multiracial students. In CLL teaching approaches, most of the communication and talking are in mother tongue. Students from different races will face difficulty in understanding their friend’s conversation and this will actually lead to some confusion in students. During the discussion, students’ initiative to communicate will be less. This is because they will feel left out or awkward to speak with their mother tongue where most of their friends cannot understand.

Teachers will also have to realize that their students come from various backgrounds and will face many problems when learning new languages. For example, students who are learning English as their second language, while their mother tongue is Mandarin. Mandarin grammar is much simpler if compared to English. Students will face difficulty in learning English because Mandarin has little or no bound morphology and there are no grammatical paradigms to memorize. Each word has a fixed and single form and verbs do not take prefixes or suffixes showing the tense or the person. However it is different for English. When teaching in English classes, CLL approach is not applicable also. Teachers who want to apply this approach in classroom need to have strong understanding of languages where they are able to explain and differentiate the uses and function of certain languages. Translation from mother tongue to target language is not easy for teachers because they need to concern about the complicated grammar rules and sentence structures of the language. When the teachers are translating to the target language, they need to make sure that the sentence structures are following the grammar rules and arrangement of sentence structure of the target language. Clear explanation must be made by teachers so that students can understand how sentences are formed. They must be able to explain and give examples to students that not every sentence can be translated directly to the target language. That is why teachers must have strong understanding of every function of different languages.

The Grammar Translation Method (GTL) is another method that can be used by teachers when teaching second language learners. This method was introduced in the 19th century, when moves were made to bring foreign- language learning into school curriculum. Furthermore, grammar translation method emerged when people from the western world wanted to learn Latin and Greek. It focuses on grammatical rules, memorization of vocabulary, translation of text and doing excises. Students were given explanation using their mother tongues language.

There are some limitations for the Grammar Translation method. One of the reasons is that the class is conducted using mother tongue, with little use of the target language. Because of this, students prefer to communicate using mother tongue as everyone in the class will understand what they are trying to convey. Unfortunately, this will not help students who are struggling to acquire speaking skills and will not help in developing and improving their proficiency in target language. Students will not be able to speak correctly using correct grammar rules and pronunciation because they cannot practice how to speak correctly using target language. Other than that, students will not have the initiative to communicate in using target language, some of them even feel shy and refuse to try to speak in target language because they are afraid to make mistakes when speaking with others.

Vocabulary is also taught in the form of isolated words list. The students are taught about the literal meaning of the word, but they pay less attention to the way that it is used. For example, they only know the literal meaning of the word ‘happy’, but they do not know how to apply it correctly in sentences. They will construct ‘her eyes shone with happy’ instead of ‘her eyes shone with happiness’. Even though they learn about the change in the form of the word according to the grammatical function in the sentence, however the application is less. Other than that, they also learn how to translate sentences from their mother tongue to target language. Even though this will help the students to master the basic knowledge of English such as basic vocabulary and grammar, however, the conditions of learning second language are different. Sometimes, certain language cannot be translated to other languages without considering grammar rules. For example, in Malay language ‘Jangan main main’, but when it is translated to English it will become ‘you do not play play’ . The grammar rules and sentence structures are correct but it carries illogical meaning to the sentence.

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Furthermore, GTL is focuses on reading and writing. This is parallel to Malaysia curriculum specification which is also emphasizes on those skills. The curriculum specification outlines the communicative teaching approach to English based on the integration of the four main skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking (Malaysian Education Ministry, 1989). The curriculum specification in Malaysian schools is supposed to place emphasis on oral activities that would help students to use English language effectively in their daily communication and relate the language to the environment. However, in terms of implementation, the classroom situation is far from what is envisioned by the Ministry Classroom. Teaching often relies on reading comprehension, writing, grammar and vocabulary skills. Thus largely neglecting listening and speaking skills which are not given emphasize in the classroom (Pandian, 2002).

Although GTL has its advantages, however there are some lacking elements in this method. Communicative competence are not really emphasizes in this method. This is because the teaching process is solely based on books only. Drilling the learners with continuous grammatical exercises especially at the primary school level is a norm in Malaysia classroom. Drilling exercise will help the learners to have deeper understanding of grammar rules writing so that they can correct their errors and will not repeat the same mistakes when writing. Even though the drilling exercises approach has some advantages in language teaching, it is however does not help the students to master the language in the long run. Often, students from the rural areas are not able to speak and write competently in English after they have graduated from high schools. According to (Maarof et al., 2003; David & Govindasamy; 2005), ninety-four percent of students are unemployed after graduates in Malaysia due to their insufficient competency in English language, particularly in using English for oral business communication.

GTM is relevant to Malaysia classroom for students who are learning English as their second language as it focuses on translation method. Translation from L1 to L2 is important in learning second language. This is because the students need to think in their mother tongue first before applying to their target language. According to the curriculum specifications, grammar is taught according to stages by stages. Students will learn from simple words to more complex words. First, it begins with a word list, teachers are supposed or required to translate the word list into students’ native language so that students can understand. This is because Malaysia school is divided into SK (Sekolah Kebangsaan), SJKC (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina), and SJKT(Sekolah Kebangsaan Tamil).

This is applicable in Malaysia classroom because everyone in the class understands Malay language in SK school, Mandarin in SJKC and Tamil Language in SJKT. It will be easier for the teachers to translate words from native language to target language as all the students understand the same native language.

This method also plays a fundamental role for the slow learners or learners who are trying to learn new languages. Teachers can translate words by words to them using their mother tongue so that can understand more. They will be able to acquire vocabulary and understand the meaning of words and phrases in context. Furthermore, they also can recognize certain words that can be applied in different context and situation. When students have strong understanding of the application of the meaning of words, they can slowly learn to construct simple sentence and then progress to the next level. However, if we look back to the history of GTM, GTM only teaches students how to memorize words and its meaning. But overall, grammar is still the main part in learning language. In primary school, the usage of textbooks, worksheets and exercise books is common in the learning process. When the pupils are reaching intermediate level, cassettes and video tapes are introduced to make the learning process more interesting. However, these materials lack the capability to nurture oral communication skills due to the lack of interactivity (Faridah, 2004). In other words, many teachers are more interested in training students how to read and write well in addition to teaching students to master the grammar component of the language.

In conclusion, every approach has its own strength and weaknesses. It depends on how teachers apply it in the learning and teaching process. In order to motivate students to improve their English, teachers need to understand how they actually learn and adopt more suitable approaches .


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