Do you think this person agrees with me? Probably not, right? This person is going to criticise me!
A Conversation with Someone who Disagrees (i)
Let us imagine that I am talking with someone who strongly disagrees with everything I have said. They are like the picture above, and they certainly don’t look happy, right? Remember, this 'old system' of grammar/translation/Chinese explanation/memorisation lives on in Taiwan, and some people are making so much money using it. The people who use this for teaching are not going to agree with anything I say, right? Going further, they might even attack me, with all sorts of interesting comments. Hmmmm. So, why don't I list some of the things they may say, and give my reply?
I have 11 comments/criticisms which I will answer one by one, so this series of posts will go for a while – in fact, this ‘Q & A’ will take up the next 10 posts, after which I will make a final concluding post on this issue. So, here we go. Let us think about the first criticism from those who disagree with me.
What you say is all very fine, but IELTS is different! We need to be taught logic and pronunciation. Memorisation gives you an understanding of the underlying logic of the language.
The 'IELTS is different' comment is interesting. It can be a standard 'cop out' to justify anything at all.
"IELTS is different, so you need to [blah, blah, blah = (excuse for bad teaching, lazy methods, false promises of quick results, and minimal results for you)]."
You've got to listen carefully to the 'blah blah blah', and work out if it actually makes sense.
But here are a few questions. How is IELTS different? Different to what? Different to learning English? But IELTS is a test of English language proficiency, so the better you are at English, the higher your mark will be. Thus, getting a better score in IELTS requires learning English better. As I say in the conclusion of all my IELTS books, 'how can writing (or reading or speaking) tips help if you still cannot write (read or speak)?'
Many students have come to me saying, 'I did this '[Put fancy course name here] IELTS course, but at the end I didn't understand anything.' Yes, those courses were sold upon the basis of ... 'But IELTS is different, and this course gives you special insider advanced magic knowledge to help you quickly ...', and so on and so on. But it was all a trick, of course.
In short, the 'IELTS is different' is a very suspect comment to make. It can simply be a flimsy way to confuse you from the fact that you need to get better at English, and you need a REAL teacher with REAL qualifications who will REALLY give you the skills of English/IELTS.
Regarding your comment 'we need to be taught pronunciation', I’m not quite sure what you mean. Pronunciation is all part of the CLT approach. If you are suggesting that your memorisation approach gives you good pronunciation, I can only say that in IELTS, the pronunciation band score recognises ‘a range of pronunciation features’ (=IELTS 8). This includes ...
- sentence stress, and
These features come from natural speaking, and a natural fluency. They don’t come from memorisation. It is futile having perfect pronunciation, but not being able to speak. And if you can't speak, you don't have 'perfect' pronunciation - you actually have very bad pronunciation. Remember, features of pronunciation come from being able to speak, so you always need to practise speaking! One quarter of your score is based on fluency.
As for your comment about logic, for IELTS speaking, logical answers come from honestly answering a question; it doesn’t come from memorisation, or constantly turning off your brain to access badly-remembered grammar. Anyone who says this is simply making it up to sound smart; however, there is no evidence or research to support this, and no common sense reason why it should work.
Regarding logic and IELTS writing, the teacher who claims you should copy other people's essays many times to learn 'logic' is simply speaking like a person of the street who knows nothing about how languages are really learnt. Learning is a thinking thing - isn't that obvious to everyone? Well, it should be obvious to everyone, so when you hear the 'blah blah blah', it's time to start thinking carefully, right?
We will look at more two more (critical) comments in the next post.
Now, check that you know the meaning of the underlined vocabulary (also repeated below).
- a criticism (n)
- a cop out (n)
- to justify (v)
- to be suspect (v)
- to be flimsy (adj)
- to chunk [words together] (v)
- to be futile (adj)
- to be critical (adj)
If you want to find out more about me, go to aisielts.com .