A language barrier-TESOLinChina

发表时间:2021-09-28 11:17作者:TESOL in China来源:TESOL总部官微网址:

Simply put, a language barrier, in the most basic and simplistic use of the term, is the lack of a common language that prevents two or more people form speaking to or understanding each other through verbal communication.

I have studied in Barrie, Ontario of Canada for two and half years as an international student from mainland of China. I had worked really hard on my language learning for a very long time. However, I still encountered many language barrier difficulties. When I was in EAP (English for Academic Purpose) program, I had a sever toothache one time. It was so painful that I was not just suffering from the toothache, but also struggling on trying to understand the dentist’s inquiries and instructions properly. I could hardly communicate or cooperate well with him!


And there are many other moments that I felt embarrassed caused by language barriers: I couldn’t understand a teacher who has a strong British accent well in the class; I wasn’t be able to communicate smoothly with those friendly people who use certain kind of dialects; Back then, I always confused about some abbreviations my friends used when they messaged me, such as FYI, LOL, ROFL, XOXO etc.; Even when I graduated from the EAP program, I still couldn’t get the idea when I heard someone said I was hard-working and I must graduate with a flying colour... It was so stressful!

You think you have remembered a great amount of words. And if you travel a foreign country and native speakers converse with you in English, you should be able to understand them, right? Odds are, you’ll find it difficult. Part of the reason is that their English is spoken with a heavy cultural accent that still sounds foreign to you. Other cultural differences include the use of pauses and even the rate or flow of conversation, which can both be language barriers.

As you see, when I lived abroad, I could understand the native English speakers’ facial expressions or some gestures, but in terms of a shared common language, we had none. Actually, even if I could graduate from EAP program with a great grade, I still had problems in daily life. There are other kinds of language barriers that relate less to literal “language” and more to issues around dialect, slang or in some cases, a lack of a shared vocabulary with which to discuss a particular topic. Among those language barriers, I consider native English speaker’s expression way influenced by culture difference are the biggest reason that could easily lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Except that you step on the land of an English-speaking country, you could barely imagine how different it could be to use English everyday. According to my experience, no matter how much vocabulary amount you have obtained before, you still will be shocked when you really have to use English to do everything everyday. It was out my expectation that native English speakers could speak English so fast! Even in the classroom, when I listened to some classmates to read something. I started realizing that they didn’t pause when there is a comma or period in the text, instead, they pause when they are out of breath! And the stress matters so much!

pexels-andrew-neel-3178818.jpgYou basically can’t hear those words one by one clearly if they are not being stressed in oral English. Moreover, they may use many idioms and slang. If you write them down, you would find that those idioms or slang are made of only super simple and commonly used words, but you just don’t understand them when putting them together. As I mentioned above, I was very confused about that when someone said to me that I much graduate from the college with a flying colour. There was no clue for me to understand why someone talking about colour all of a sudden at the moment? And why the colour is flying? Can a colour fly? What the business does it do with my graduation? How do I make a proper response to that?

Once I started my study life in Barrie, I heard many of those expressions that I had never gotten any chance to know before . Now you know how helpless I felt when I heard someone said “I ain’t know nothing.” “Whassup?” or “What ya gonna do?” These expression ways indeed made barriers for an international student to understand native speakers completely.

But what can we do to help those students like me who want to learn English well as a second language in China? Except for what we have learned from TESOL, I believe CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is another approach we can use in classrooms in China. In CLIL, language serves to communicate meaning. All aspects of language help communicate meaning, e.g. skills, discourse, lexis, grammar, functions. The syllabus is based round learning about the subject matter and cognitive (thinking and learning) skills related to a school subject, e.g. maths, history, art. And the school subject is taught in L2, which is English in this case. In this way, students could learn English along with fun knowledge. For example, in art class, teachers can present red and blue paints to students and teach them the words of two colors. After that, teachers can mix the two colors up to get the purple paint and teach students the new word of purple. So, in the end, students not just learn something new in vocabulary, but also in knowledge. And it’s not boring! In addition, CLIL also can be helpful for teachers to plan a sequence of lessons, which is a number of related lessons that develop language knowledge and/or language skills over a period of time. Sequences may develop a single topic or language area, or may involve topics or language areas that are very closely connected. So, if you teach vocabulary of colors and related grammars in the first week, why not helping students to practice listening and speaking skills next week? Then how about putting a reading and a writing class in the following weeks? Making a scheme of work will help you plan a sequence of lessons in the best way to cover the school syllabus or the units of a coursebook in the time available.


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