Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why students complain : reason 1

The first reason students give for not being happy with their class is, "My teacher never corrects our mistakes when we speak. How are we supposed to know if our English is correct if the teacher doesn't tell us?" A good point, you might think, and is not uncommon among my students. Well, I'm gonna tell you a secret. We do correct your mistakes, you just don't realise it! Personally, I hate it when I'm speaking French and the person that I'm talking to keeps interrupting me to tell me that what I just said isn't right. And you know what? Even if I try really hard to make a mental note of my mistake so as not to repeat it, I just go right on and make the same mistake 20 seconds later. What's the lesson here? That error correction is virtually useless. I know, I'm a teacher and I shouldn't say things like that, it will give the profession a bad reputation, but that's how it is.
There's a contradiction here, you may say. Didn't I just say that we do correct your mistakes without you realising it? Yes I did. This is how: we use something called
reformulation and this is how it works-
Teacher: "What did you do last weekend?"
Student: "I go to Paris for see my brother"
Teacher: "That's interesting, you went to Paris to see your brother? What did you do?"
Student: "We go to the cinema."
Teacher: "You went to the cinema, what did you see?"

and so on. This is much better than, "sorry, what did you say?, did you say 'I go'? What tense should we be using here, the present or the past? That's right, the past. And how to we say 'go' in the past? You don't know? It's 'went'. So last weekend I went to Paris..."

After this kind of error correction the student has forgotten what he was talking about, and the conversation dies. In order for you the student to benefit from reformulation, use your ears, and listen to the correct language your teacher is using. You will be correcting your own mistakes slowly, over a period of time, if you pay attention, and in a much more agreeable way.

1 comment:

MacGyver13 said...

I have often noticed this fact, while attending your course, but I was not the one speaking. I think it's easier to notice the mistakes when another student is speaking.

Moreover, personnaly when I'm speaking english, I'm so focused on it, that I don't pay much attention to the 'reformulation' the teacher might do.

Actually, I realise it, but later...on second thought...maybe other students don't ever think about it after the course...

This might be the reason why students feel as if their own mistakes were not corrected.
The correction is not obvious to the one concerned.

Besides, I do understand that your point is to have the students speaking, and thus you have a choice to make: correct the mistakes or let them's rather tricky , and I suppose it depens....

But I can't deny that I highly appreciate a 'great big formal lesson' when the same mistakes pop up too regularly . It's clear, efficient ,and then every student is supposed to use the right rules !