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  • Apr 18, 2014
  • Updated: 5:33am

Teachers can easily dispense with textbooks in language classes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am

In recent weeks, a debate has been raging on the price of textbooks.

The government is urging publishers to lower prices, but publishers are unwilling to succumb.

Critics have stated that the only way to get prices down is for 'teachers to write the teaching materials' ('Textbook prices up despite pressure', May 12).

I would like to take this idea even further and say that textbooks can be eliminated altogether from language classes. Language, whether it is speaking, listening, reading or writing, is best learned by doing.

From the moment we are born, we begin learning how to speak and listen. As infants, we hear our parents, learn their speech patterns and then try to emulate those patterns ourselves. At about the age of two, we are able to form simple sentences.

As adolescents, we can communicate with others effortlessly. Within this process, there are no textbooks involved.

It seems preposterous to use them to teach something we learn so naturally. Reading is another facet of language that does not require textbooks.

In the past, receiving an education was a rare occurrence. Yet today, many old people can read better than some students. They can do so because they had to use other resources. They consumed whatever reading material was available to them. The more they read, the better they became at reading. Nowadays, a myriad of reading material abounds on the internet.

Students are able to find information about any subject from any place in any language.

Textbooks are superfluous. Writing is considered a separate aspect of learning a language, but if we can read and speak with no trouble, automatically we can write. When we read, we subconsciously absorb grammar, vocabulary and sentence structures.

We then naturally use these things in our writing. Both speaking and writing are created in our mind. The only difference is whether what we think is spoken or written. Either way, we find our voice through repeated practice.

When I was young, I was not taught how to write through textbooks, but through homework and writing tests. This can still hold true today. When it comes to language classes, textbooks are of little, if any, use.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long

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