Academy of Graduate Studies
School of Languages
Somme Problems Face Libyan Students in Learning The Four Skills
The teaching and learning of receptive and productive skills face number of particular problems which will need to be addressed because they affect communicative purposes of language. This paper tries to provide some of these problems as well as their solutions as following:
Listening Skill Problems
Listening skill is a way in which people extract meaning from the discourse they hear. Libyan students face many problems to overcome this skill successfully. However, a study at the academy of graduate studies titled "Teaching listening Comprehension in Garian Schools ", reveals the following:
Problems of the materials and activities used in teaching listening:
1- The audio tapes were not available for use.
2- No use of teaching aids in teaching listening.
3- Most of the schools lacked facilities such as recorder machines and electricity supplies in class.
4- The time devoted to listening activities was not sufficient.
5- Teachers at the secondary level made no use for the authentic language in teaching listening comprehension.
Teachers preparation problems:
1- Most teachers did not prepare materials for teaching listening comprehension in advance.
2- Teachers could not vary activities to suit their student level and interest.
3- Teachers did not teach their students how to monitor their listening comprehension through guessing predicting, eliciting and interacting.
4- Teachers did not prepare any evaluation tasks for listening comprehension.
5- Teachers did not involve listening comprehension in exams.
Presentation of listening materials and activities problems are as the following:
1- Most of teachers did not use tape recorders in teaching listening comprehension and even those who used tapes did not use them effectively.
2- Teachers did not use pre-listening during listening or post-listening activities in teaching listening comprehension.
3- Teachers did not do any modifications to the new syllabus tasks to suite their students level and interest.
4- Teachers were not aware of the importance of teaching listening and of the use of the authentic materials in teaching English.
5- Most of the teachers, as models, had problems in pronunciation, reading and speaking especially in dealing with the tape script.
6- Listening comprehension was not involved in exams.
7- No specific courses for teachers to develop teachers towards the importance of teaching listening.
In addition, (-----, Testing of Listening Comprehension for Some Libyan School Students), MA thesis, Academy of Graduate Studies, reveals the following:
1- More time should be given to teach listening skill. Two hours a week were insufficient for teaching and testing listening.
2- Some teachers did not have clear pronunciation and this might affect students performance.
3- Teaching materials were not available especially the authentic materials which should be taught to secondary students. However, using authentic materials might not be useful due to the students' English low level at this stage.
4- Marking the listening test was one of the problems that most of the teachers faced. Hence, criteria for making a listening test must be discussed between teachers.
5- Crowded classes were an obstacle for the teachers to teach and test listening, and the teachers were not able to give chance to every student to participate. However, teachers need time to divide the students into groups to make the process of teaching and testing listening as simple as possible.
6- Teachers did not use visual aids which are very helpful in teaching and testing, listening, they just used audio tape, but the sound quality was not clear and this made it difficult for students to listen properly. Also students' English level was really weak. Their pronunciation was really bad and lacked vocabulary except very few students who did well on the test. teachers said that some activities such as phoneme discrimination must have been mastered in preparatory school. However, students' bad pronunciation was due to the way they were taught in earlier stages. Labs were available but most of them were not working.
7- Some teachers did not introduce the topic to the students and did not write down the new words on the board of listening lesson which makes it easier for the students.
8- Only very few teachers motivated and encouraged their students by giving them pair and group work.
Some solution and suggestions to these problems
Not all the problems described above can be overcome but the teacher can use a variety of techniques to improve comprehension skills in Libyan schools
1- The teacher must encourage the students to develop their confidence in their ability to deal with listening problems.
2- It is important for the teacher to give feedback so that s/he can judge where the class is going and how it should be guided.
3- Teachers must teach students how to learn to understand that individual words can be learnt best in context of sentences.
4- Listening materials, tasks and activities should be graded according to the students’ level, and provide authentic materials because the final aim of listening classes is to understand natural speech in real life.
5- Construct the listening exercises round a variety of tasks to engage the students’ interest and help them learn listening skills subconsciously.
6- The teacher may try to find visual aids or draw pictures and diagrams associated with the listening topics to help students guess or imagine actively.
7- Different kinds of input should be provided, such as radio news, films, TV, everyday conversation, English songs, storytelling, and so on.
8- The teacher must give practice on the homonyms, cliché, liaisons, elisions and some colloquial expressions which might be presented in the listening lesson to help students get used to the acoustic forms and rapid natural speech.
9- Ask students to listen and imitate native speakers’ pronunciation so they will be aware of different native-speaker accents.
10- Select short and simple listening texts for lower level students and complicated authentic materials for advanced learners.
11- Provide background knowledge and linguistic knowledge.
Speaking Skill Problems
All of the four skills are equally important, speaking is one of the most interesting skills for students to acquire. Chaney (1998 13) defines it as "the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of a context. However, Libyan students face considerable problems when they learn English as a foreign language.
In a research paper, Zamzam (2011) points that most of the problems of speaking are related to the classroom procedure. Through speaking activities these problems can be identified as:
1- Student inhibition:
Speaking activities require a student to have all eyes on him and exposure to an audience can often give students stage fright. They may also be worried about making mistakes, being criticized or losing face in front of the rest of the class.
2- Some students do not have anything to say on a particular topic:
In reality, they may be bored or feel that the topic is unrelated to anything they know. If this is the case, they will have no motivation to speak other than the fact that they know they should be participating in the speaking activity. Libyan students often lack confidence in their speaking ability and feel they have insufficient language skills to express exactly what they want to say.
3- Students interrupt each other:
There will always be dominant students in an English class making it difficult for more reserved students to express themselves freely. Dominant students who interrupt frequently or who constantly look for the teacher's attention tend to create an environment in the English class where more timid students are quite happy to sit back and watch the lesson unfolding instead of participating.
4- The use of the mother tongue:
Students who insist on using their mother tongue are students who are fearful of criticism and need to be encouraged to speak English. Students must understand that they cannot revert to their mother tongue as this will take away precious speaking practice time during lessons and slow down oral progress.
Some solution and suggestions to these problems
There are a number of resources and activities available to get round these common speaking problems:
Group work increases the amount of time available for oral practice and allows more than one student to benefit from speaking time. Working in groups also lowers the inhibitions of shy students who are not comfortable speaking in front of the whole class.
Simple language makes it easier for students to speak for longer without hesitation and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Essential vocabulary can be pre-taught or reviewed before the activity enabling students to fill-out their speech with more interesting sentences and rich language.
Stating clearly what is expected from each student is essential in ensuring that everyone in the group contributes towards the discussion. Appointing a chairperson to each group to regulate participation is a way to make sure that dominant students leave discussion opportunities open to more reserved students. Feedback reveals the results of the discussion and motivates each student to follow the guidelines.
Rich mount of vocabulary
Teachers must help students to gain a good amount of vocabulary that are needed to be able to form sentences and to help the students to interact confidently and orally with other students and with the teacher.
The teacher must encourage the students to speak and to use the language in and out the classroom room and teachers should help students to build confidence by saying to students that if you make mistake you are not criminal but if you make mistakes you can be corrected in a constructive way.
Correct use of Language
The teacher must teach students how to use language in its appropriate way by showing and giving examples of what situations are best to use some words and phrases.
Reading Skill Problems
Among four language skills , reading is very important in any language because it is not only a matter of getting information or interest , but also for consol dating and expanding the learner's knowledge of the language, such as vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and the way we construct sentences, paragraphs and texts . reading text also provide good models for English writing (AI-Mutawa, and Kailani,T,.1998 56).
Almansoury H,. (2010) investigates the difficulties of reading at the third year of preparatory schools in Zwara. In her research paper mentioned that the Libyan students face lot of problems and difficulties in learning reading skill and here are some of these problems as :
1- Lack of knowledge of the different approaches to teaching reading which leads teachers to adhere to only one approach such as grammar translation method.
2- The teacher depended on reading aloud, which leads to focusing on pronunciation, rather than silent reading which is much better for comprehension.
3- The negligence of the practice of reading tasks (activities) provided in the course and work books.
4- The lack of teaching such as laboratories cassettes and recorders.
5- Some students think that reading comprehension is the most difficult subject
A- Difficult words to pronounce
B- Difficulty in guessing the meaning of the words (vocabulary related difficulties).
C- Difficulty in understanding the whole meaning or the general idea of the given material to read.
D- Some expression are difficult to understand
E- Grammar related difficulties.
F- Usage of long passages with difficult exercises.
6- Boring texts or material
Lack of interest while reading the given material so some students do not like the material provided as it is not interesting and useful.
7- Motivational factors
Students are not motivated to read because they do not have an interest or reason to read. Also some students feel shy because they are afraid of making mistakes.
Some recommendations may provided to these problems are:
Based on the previous findings mentioned before, the recommendations of this study may concerned with three elements of the education system:
a- They should introduce their reading lessons in a proper way and make their students aware of what they are going to read, and practice prediction.
b- The teachers should encourage their students to read silently as early as possible and avoid using reading aloud which is usually employed for pronunciation.
c- The teachers should distinguish between teaching reading and pronunciation , and recognize that reading is mainly for comprehension.
d- The teachers should establish reasons for reading to make the students more active when they read and to make the reading process more effective and efficient.
e- The teachers should follow the procedures employed in the teacher's guide and focus on achieving the objectives of each lesson.
f- The new words of the lesson should be explained in English and taught through the context and not separately, by providing good examples during the discussion of the pictures of the lessons. Since many tasks are prepared to train the students on the explanation in English, the teachers should present the new words in English through the context and avoid presenting them in isolation.
g- Grammar translation method should be kept away from the class and the teachers should try to reduce the use of the mother tongue as much as possible.
h- The time allocated for teaching English should be increased , at least six periods per week , to allow the teachers to have enough time to teach all the language skills and to give remedial work for weak students. In addition, the education authority should prepare some training courses for the English language teachers to improve their knowledge about general principles of English language teaching. The education authority should also provide the schools with the necessary teaching facilities such as tapes and labs which can be very helpful in teaching and learning English.
Learners are partially responsible for the general weakness in reading. They should give a lot of attention to the skill of reading and work hard, because the reading skill is better learned than taught and so can be improved by the students themselves.
Writing Skill Problems
According to Al-Mutawa and Kailani (1989) writing is as an activity means of communication ideas. Its functional role, is equated with speech where both are conveying information. Libyan students are also face problems to overcome this skill.
Othman, R,.(2009) lists the most important problems of writing skills as the following:
1- Some teachers do not use dictation.
2- There are some teachers do not ask their students to correct their own exercises.
3- Some teachers do not ask their students to correct their wrong spelling words three to five times for each.
4- There are many problems which encounter the teachers from the part of students while teaching them writing skills, these problems are the following:
a- Lack of back ground.
b- Poor vocabulary.
c- Difficult curriculum.
d- Lack of writing principles.
e- Lack of reading correctly.
5- There are some common mistakes that were found by the teachers in the students' writing, these are :
a- Spelling mistakes.
b- Punctuation mistakes.
c- Joining sentences in illogical order.
6- Some students do not like writing in English.
7- It has been noticed that the weakness of students' writing, and the difficulty of writing skills from some students' point of view, are referred back to some reasons :
a- Few activities introduced by teachers.
b- Lack of vocabulary.
c- Time is limited and short.
d- Poor pronunciation by teachers.
e- Some teachers do not use dictation.
f- Some teachers do not give training in writing.
Some suggestions and recommendations for encouraging the students to write:
1-Teachers should encourage all students to participate in the writing activities. By using suitable techniques which will help the students in their learning of the writing skills such as
Group work :-
Group work is very important techniques in language teaching and learning. to increase the opportunity for students to practice the language. Group work is also good in releasing students from inhibition and it activities introvert students.
-Pair work: In pair work, every two students work together. Pair work is more beneficial than group work in that it can be formed in a short time and it can be applied in situations where group work is difficult to applied.
2- Teachers should prepare writing activities and tasks which support students' ability of writing inside and outside the classroom.
3- Teachers should familiarize their students with the writing technique and make them used writing in groups and pairs from the beginning of the year to help each other.
4- Students should be encouraged to choose their own topics of writing because they are aware of their needs of communication than the instructors.
5- Syllabus designers should give more concentration in the text book on the element of academic writing.
6- Giving the students samples of essays to serve as models for writing is recommended.
To conclude with, In general, there are mixed factors causes learning skills difficulties in Libya, such as: the teachers' behavior, students' attitude, teaching aids, and so on. However, this paper tried to highlight the most important problems from different countries in Libya as well as their solutions .
-----, Teaching Listening Comprehension in Garian Secondary Schools. MA thesis, Academy of Graduate studies.
-----, Testing of Listening Comprehension for Some libyan Secondary Students. MA thesis, Academy of Graduate Students.
AI-Mutawa N. and Kailani,T,. 1989. Methods of teaching English to Arab student Harlow . Longman.
Almansoury H,. 2010.Probems and Solutions of Reading Skills at the third year of preparatory schools in Zwara. A Research Paper in Research Methodology Course. Academy of Graduate Studies.
Chaney, A.L., and Burk T.L,. 1998. Teaching Oral Communication in Grades K-8. Boston.
Othman R,. 2009. Writing Skills Problems Faced Teachers and Learners in Ubari's Schools. Research Methodology Course. Academy of Graduate Studies.
Zamzam, …(2011). Difficulties Faced by Libyan Students in Learning the Four Skills. Syllabus Design Course. Academy of Graduate Studies.