English Teachers must Speak English during Instruction

By Hartono
College of Languages of Sultan Agung Islamic University UNISSULA Semarang
Programs Availabe: English Education (S1) and English Literature. Both are accredited by BAN PT

In the Introduction, I have expressed my wonder how many SMA graduates fail to demonstrate their language competence though they have sat in English classrooms for more than 600 credit hours. My gratitude and appreciation always go to my English teachers both when I was at SMP and SMA even at the university. I know they have worked very sincerely, patiently, and hard to help the students develop their English competence. They all were dedicated persons who put the interest of teaching and learning on top. However, I must say that the efforts they made were not sufficient to stimulate an acquisition of English. Formal instruction helps very little in acquisition of foreign or second language.

If we want to make formal instruction bring benefit to learners, some points need reconsidering. Formal instruction is of advantage for language acquisition when it can provide input for the learners. This is following Krashen (1982) as he claimed that the real advantage of the informal environment is that it supplies comprehensible input. If, however, we fill our second language classrooms with input that is optimal for acquisition, it is quite possible that we can actually do better than the informal environment, at least up to the intermediate level.

How do we do this? The first one and the most important one is that English teacher must speak English at least when she / he is in the classroom doing the activity of teaching. If the second language is learnt as a foreign language in a language class in a non-supportive environment, like in Indonesia , instruction (teacher talk) is likely to be the major or even the only source of target language input (Stern, 1983). This is the requirement of an English teacher, English teacher must demonstrate very good competence in the target language he / she teaches, though it doesn’t mean that he / she has to be a native speaker of English. A native speaker is of course a good option, a very good one, but we need to keep in mind that being a native speaker alone will not always qualify someone to become a good English teacher.

An English teacher must be competent not only on the language he / she teaches in the sense that he can use the language very well, but also on the knowledge of teaching method and pedagogy.
The way he speaks and what he speaks about are the questions following. An English teacher must speak English during instruction because he/ she has to play the role of supplying input for the students since as it was previously discussed, in Indonesia English is a foreign language; not many people use it outside the classroom; and the teacher can be the only person the students can talk to. English teacher must speak in a way that will encourage acquisition. Therefore, the language must be comprehensible, the language can be digested by the students; it must be interesting- that it will not make students get bored easily, relevant in the sense that it has something to do with the students’ lives, and it is supplied in enough quantity as it is repeated for several times.

For this, we need to go back to English teacher education and teacher recruitment procedure. English teacher education must graduate English teacher candidates whose competence in English is guaranteed. It is believed that some or even many of English teacher education graduates are not really competent in using the English language for communication. So the recruitment procedure must involve a kind test to explore the language competence of the teacher applicants.

Secondly, genuine communication between the teacher and students must be engaged very frequently. The teacher can do this by making questions as comprehension check. One of the characteristics of effective teaching can be identified from the teacher’s use of questions because questioning is one of the most commonly employed techniques in the teacher’s repertoire (Richards, 1990). The quantity and quality of questioning that the teacher engages in is thought to influence the quality of classroom learning.

Engaging in communication means that the two parts (students and teacher) interact. This can be done verbally as in the written and the spoken words, or non-verbally as by the use of eye contact, facial expression, and proximity (Robinson, 1994). For students, getting involved in interactions gives a number of advantages. It gives the opportunity to learn from each other, to get feedback and to build a strong social relationship (Naimat, 2011). In classroom setting, interaction creates the best learning of language through the real performance and the increased knowledge (Lier, 1988). It also helps the learners use the language in real situation (Nunan, 1991). Through interaction, students can increase their language store as they listen and read materials. Students may have the opportunity to develop their production of language as they listen to their fellows in the classroom. In addition, there will be much listening to the materials without any discouragement of the spoken response (Rivers, 1987).

Thirdly, English formal instruction must be conducted in such a way that is enjoyable. The students must be able to follow the course happy-heartedly. Teaching can be viewed as entertaining activity sometimes. The class must be made relax. Teachers must have some senses of humor though it doesn’t mean that fun is the learning objective.
It is commonly accepted that the teacher factor matters to students’ learning. According to Richards (2002), it is the teacher’s duty to create a desirable classroom climate, to plan a variety of learning activities, and to use materials of instruction effectively. Teaching a wide range of students needs good preparation based on their interest and ability. In other words, creating and maintaining stimulating learning environments can be achieved through effective classroom organization. So, there are a lot of competencies, skills, and knowledge that the teacher must possess. In addition, another essential feature that helps to establish a positive classroom climate is teachers’ personal qualities. Personal attributes like an “easygoing”, “relaxed” or “open” manner can foster student motivation in the classroom. This concept is supported by Thompson (2008), who states that good teachers have a combination of strong teaching skills and positive personality traits. Good teachers make students look forward to coming to classes.

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