In considering objectives for our Englishour courses, we keep in mind that English today is spoken by a vast array of people, both native speakers and speakers of English as a second language. While the variation is not huge, we need to bear in mind the reasons why specific learners are on our program. For some, the language they want is purely social, whilst for others it may be to advance their careers. Therefore, when looking at our learners as a group, our objectives need to be quite broad, as opposed to a group, for example, learning English for special purposes. Below is a look at our objectives through the five skills as laid down by The Council of Europe.
This is how we in Englishour think about developing communication skills.
It has been estimated that in our normal lives, we spend 40-50% of the time listening. Listening is the process of understanding spoken language, and learners often feel that this is their weakest area, as there is no time for reflection as there is in, for example, writing. Listening requires both a knowledge of the language and of the social context as well as being able to read body language, expressions and intonation in order to understand what is being implied as well as what is being said. In listening there are so many unknown factors such as accent and clarity, and these need to be tackled in the program.
Englishour’s learning objectives for this skill is for the learners to develop their listening so that they can understand language presented orally in more difficult settings. This can be achieved by introducing more speakers at the same time, perhaps speaking quickly, speaking about concepts which are abstract or implying rather than directly communicating messages.
In Englishour the focus is always on natural spoken English which gives our students a real advantage to understanding in the real world.
Definitely an under-estimated skill, reading improves vocabulary, shows examples of language in context, and encourages an appreciation for literature. It accounts for between 11% and 16% of our skill use in everyday life, whether it be the newspaper, internet, or simply the TV guide. The question is should reading be intensive? i.e. should learners should be tested on what they have read, or should it be extensive, where learners are reading for pleasure? In Englishour, we feel that it should be a mixture of the two.
Here, our learning objectives are firstly to rid the learners of their reliance on dictionaries, and to get them to read more for gist. Scanning text is a very useful skill which we employ daily, and this should be reflected in the classroom. Learners also need to differenciate between different styles of writing, thereby improving their predictive skills.
A hugely important skill, it involves formulating ideas, producing and articulating them and receiving information from the other party. In most learner groups, this skill can vary a lot from one learner to another, and therefore a more individual approach should be taken. This skill is used in both social and professional settings, and again the learner should be able to differenciate between the formal and informal sides of this skill.
In our experience, learners come quite well-equiped to deal with the formal aspect of spoken interaction, but seriously lack a knowledge of idiom, or an ability to use phrasal verbs and expressions which mirror how we ‘really’ talk. Therefore our objective here is to promote fluency through a more informal use of language.
The Council of Europe’s definition of spoken production at a C1 level is
‘I can present clear detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropiate conclusion’
This is a skill which many learners have developed to an extent, but often lack the confidence to produce the language. The report phase of the task is essential to improve this skill, as it aids the learners to regularly produce language for an attentive audience. Our objective here is quite simple: To instill confidence and to provide the language tools to present well.
Frequently neglected, we believe that writing should play an integral role in the course. Where speech is often informal and interactive, writing is formal and detached. It is a reflective process, and this in itself is very valuable for the learner. As a means, writing can be used to get learners to focus on a particular language point, and as an end to produce a body of work which will be read. We can write for content or for form, and whatever is produced will be permanent. This permanence provides a record for the learner, and through this skill, other areas can be developed.
Englishour’s objectives in relation to this skill are to give the learners ample opportunities to write towards a well-structured text, where they can reflect on form, and also to develop the skill of ‘headlining’ the key points from something they have read or heard, an invaluable skill, whether they are receiving instructions, or breaking down an idea for further understanding.
In Englishour we are committed to improving the language skills of learners of English as a second language.