A letter to the teachers of English: 91Why students dislike English: a study [Archives:2005/862/Education]

July 25 2005

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

Dear Fellow teachers,

Yemeni students' dislike for English, especially at the school level, is scandalously true. It has been proved through a small-scale study undertaken by one of our students, Mohammed Hessian Ahmed Al-Najjar. It is not a research in the strict sense of the term but a research exercise as a practical application of the course called research methodology. The student has collected the opinions of several students and teachers in a few secondary schools in Ibb and has useful information to the readers. I would like to present his findings to you, my fellow teachers, as it concerns us, teachers of English in schools and colleges. It is true that the learning of English is severely affected by this dislike for English, as the internal motivation of the learners is an important pre-requirement for successful learning and our students' like or dislike for English is an essential factor constituting their internal motivation.

The study has found that 56% of the students interviewed expressed their strong dislike for English and they would drop out of the English classes, if they have the freedom to do so. About 37% of the subjects liked English and 7% of them didn't want to participate in the discussion as they were not interested in a discussion regarding the learning of English at all; in other words, they were indifferent.

The reasons they pointed out for their dislike were many and varied. Most of them blamed their teachers in the preparatory classes; they were of the opinion that their desire for learning English was killed by their teachers in the beginning classes. They justified their complaint saying that their teachers failed to make the teaching of English interesting to them, to simplify the language they used and to come down to their level and make learning possible. Another important reason, they pointed out, was the size of the classes; large classes were not conducive to the effective learning of English. Yet another reason was non-availability of course books at proper time.

All their reasons are worth consideration, though they have been worded strongly. But one of their observations seems contradictory to what we have noticed in the preparatory schools; for example, the common complaint against the teachers of English in the preparatory schools is that they use a lot of Arabic in English classes, sometimes indiscriminately, and if it is so, the students' observation that their teachers failed to simplify the language cannot be well-founded. Their complaint of the largeness of the English classes working against their developing interest in the learning of English needs consideration. Though large classes are a necessary evil we have to live with in developing countries like ours, we have to find suitable ways to make the best out of the worst, devising ways of teaching large classes effectively. I have discussed the large class problem in one of my earlier letters.

I find this small effort to study one of the biggest problems facing English education in Yemen interesting and it deserves appreciation. The findings should help us to review our teaching strategies in the beginning classes so that we are not responsible for killing the interest of our students for learning English. Good luck.

“The value of education is to pass it on to others”.

Yours fraternally,