A letter to the teachers of English: 66Some avoidable problems in writing [Archives:2004/790/Education]

November 15 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb

Dear Fellow teachers,
In my last four letters I was sharing with you some of my ideas about developing your learners' handwriting in English. I hope you will find them useful in your classes. As I promised, Insha Allah, I will try to provide some help in this regard, in some way or other.
In this letter, I will look at some of the problems our students face in writing English; most of them are avoidable if we are a bit careful in correcting them in the beginning itself. Most of these problems arise because of wrong learning of the basics of writing such as the movement of the hands while writing the letters of the English alphabet. It is also true that the writing pattern in Arabic interferes with that in English; that is why most of our students write letters a, c, e, m, n, o, p, u, v, w in the clock-wise fashion, whereas they have to be written in the anti-clockwise fashion. My observation is that about 90% of our learners have this problem especially in letters w, v, u, if not in other letters; most of the teachers have this problem too. This reduces the speed of their writing and it becomes a serious problem at the time of writing examinations. They don't realize this when they often complain that they don't have enough time to finish the examinations in the given time.
Another common problem with our learners is the spacing between words ,especially when the word is preceded by an indefinite article 'a'. I have seen a large number of my students writing with no space in between when they write words with an indefinite article 'a', for example: abook, along road, aroom, aline, anotebook etc. It creates a problem with 'a long road' and 'a live chicken'; it is funny that some of them write words like 'abroad', 'about' with a space between 'a' and other letters; I am at a loss to find the reason for this error! Maybe that is how they are taught in the beginning classes! As I have said earlier, it is very difficult to remove such errors once they are entrenched in the learners' system. Spacing is not a problem with other words as it is a phenomenon in Arabic writing as well. Can any of my professional colleagues enlighten me as to why this only happens with the article 'a' ?
Yet another problem in writing in our learners is the lack of speed. Most of them are very slow in writing English. Is it because of the nature of English writing, which is sharply different from that in Arabic? Or is it because of lack of motivation to write in English? Or is it so because they most often write in English things which do not interest them,such as copying the teacher's answers or some boring letter, or some useless transformation exercises? If it is the last, then this should concern us and it is our responsibility to find solution to this; the writing exercises should be made purposeful and interesting so that they develop an interest in writing in English. I have made some suggestions and you can think of more with a bit of imagination and innovation. Writing should be considered as an activity that empowers the learners to voice their own opinions rather than someone else's. It is important to plan each writing activity with care and, if possible ,in consultation with the learners- at least in the higher classes. It is not impossible , but it needs a lot of hard work and patience. Let's attempt to achieve it and empower our learners to write what they want to. Good luck!

Yours fraternally,