Emphasis on literature will lead to improved standard of English

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am

I could not agree more with Philip Yeung's views ('Language's magic can't be taught by rote', May 31).

In the past all students read English literature in lower forms. Learning English through literature has been advocated in Hong Kong and discussed in academic journals for 20 years. It was recommended in the English language curriculum. Not much has been done.

Mr Yeung said students are 'bored' and 'vocabulary-deficient'. Given the input, how can they be otherwise? Textbook contents have for years repeated the same topics, from Primary 1 to Form 3. The curriculum stresses the importance of using English in daily lives. Textbook modules have therefore centred on family, school, friends, shopping, going to the supermarket, and so on. The mundane styles differ greatly from past texts, which were extracted from the best literature. So don't blame our students for poor output.

As to nurturing an interest in reading, there are far more reading programmes in schools and public libraries than in our days. Yet, my average-scoring former schoolmate speaks and writes better English than current university graduates. Why? As far as reading is concerned, we studied story books in class. Our teachers took time with us to appreciate the language and culture. Now, we rely on the students themselves to read on their own. Without guidance and discipline how much can they achieve?

In recent years, teachers have adopted communicative, situational approaches. There is simply no room for language appreciation. 'Language is social', so our children participate in social situations set up in lesson modules. Emphasis is placed on language use.

Many science students have no chance of learning history and geography. History, particularly, goes hand in hand with culture. Also, schoolchildren do not learn many English songs now. In weekly music lessons we learned dozens of traditional songs and it enriched us. Learning lyrics is an enjoyable way of acquiring a good command of English.

Ng Shiu-may, Wan Chai



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