Reading for EFL college students [Archives:2007/1023/Education]

February 8 2007

Omer Hassan Mahfoodh
USM, Malaysia
[email protected]

Generally, there are four basic language skills: “Listening”, “Speaking”, “Reading” and “Writing”. All of these skills are important for our EFL learners. However, when we look at their importance from the point of view of our EFL learners in English Departments, we find that “reading” is the most important skill of the four. This does not mean that we are trying to neglect the importance of other skills.

Many equate “Reading Skills” with “reading aloud”. In fact, “Reading” is a receptive language process. It is the process of recognition, interpretation and the perception of written or printed materials. It is a psycholinguistic process in that it starts with a linguistic surface representation encoded by a writer and ends with meaning which the reader constructs. There is also an important interaction between language, thought and students' background knowledge (schema). That is why, language teachers should enhance students' ability to read with comprehension. Without comprehension, reading would be counterproductive and meaningless. In other words, the key word is “Comprehension”. All of the students read but only a few comprehend to an optimal extent.

Reading proficiency plays a great role in understanding written statements or any type of written texts accurately and efficiently. Reading serves as an important tool in every field of professional service. In many situations, “Reading” is considered to be an indispensable channel for communication. It is decidedly the most important skill in an EFL situation.

In order to ensure the level of reading proficiency, our Yemeni EFL learners, before joining English Departments, need to be assessed on the following areas:

1- Reading Proficiency

2- Writing Proficiency and

3- Grammatical rules and their use.

The majority of the subjects for the college freshman are presented in printed materials: handouts and books. There are Linguistics courses, courses on English Literature, courses on English Teaching Methodology and others. Good EFL readers are unlikely to face difficulties in trying to handle a large amount of these written materials. On the other hand, poor EFL readers are seen struggling a lot in reading the materials and also in the preparation for the examinations.

The importance of reading skills is realized while using “Internet” for searching for topics, articles, journals and researches. We are living in a world that is called “the Digital Age”. One feature of this age is the widespread use of internet in education formally and informally. Our students in English Departments are asked, sometimes, to submit some projects (i.e. researches on small scales) especially when they are in their Fourth Year. Their teachers give them assignments on “Teaching Materials”, “Contrastive and Error Analysis” and sometimes on English Literature courses such as “Novel”, “Drama”, and “Poetry.”

More often than not students go to Internet cafe (Cyber Cafe) for getting some articles that are useful for their researches. In fact, when our EFL learners browse Internet, they depend mostly on their “Reading strategies'. Skilled readers spend little time to get hands on what they want. On the other hand, “Poor Readers” waste their time and their money to come up with the same result the skilled readers got.

English Departments in Yemeni universities try to develop the “Reading Proficiency” and “Reading Strategies” of the learners by devoting four “Reading Skills” courses in the first and second years. However, not all reading strategies can be developed and covered during the formal classes. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the learners themselves to develop their reading strategies by practicing reading.