PROBLEMS UKRAINIAN STUDENTS HAVE LEARNING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

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                                     Parsons Angela (Newfoundland, Canada)

                                                        Ryan Research International (California, USA)

PROBLEMS UKRAINIAN  STUDENTS  HAVE  LEARNING  THE  ENGLISH LANGUAGE

В статті досліджуються проблеми, що виникають в українських студентів при вивчені системи дієслів англійської мови та пропонуються методи навчання англійських дієслів.

Ключові слова: метод навчання мови за допомогою читання і прослуховування історій, граматико-перекладний метод, система дієслів.

 В статье исследуются проблемы, что возникают в украинских студентов при изучении системы глаголов английского языка и предлагаются методы обучения английских глаголов.

Ключевые слова: метод обучения языку посредством чтения и прослушивания историй, грамматико-переводной метод, система глаголов.

 This research is focused on problems Ukrainian students have learning the English Verb system and suggested methods for teaching the English verb.

Keywords: method of teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling, grammar-translation method, system of verbs.

 This is research conducted by Angela Parsons for Ryan Research International, California, USA.  RRI has been active in researching problems students of the Slavic languages have in studying the English language, specifically Russian /Ukrainian speaking students.

Mr. Fred Ryan, one of the owners of RRI, became very interested in Russia and Ukraine during his university years.  Growing up in the Cold War era, his interest was piqued because of so much talk of countries behind the “iron curtain”.  He studied Russian in his university and then became interested in the differences in the structures of these languages.  He then formed the company RRI with the intent of researching linguistic and social issues within countries in Eastern Europe.

This research, “problems Ukrainian students have with learning the English language” for RRI began at the Rivne State Humanitarian University in 2011, and is ongoing at the National University of Ostroh Academy.

As in every research, there must be many tests and analyses performed and always a perfecting and fine-tuning of data received.  To determine where to focus my research, the initial stage was to give the students a text in their native language and have them translate it into English.  Other sources of data came from giving them worksheets and essays to write.  Then an analysis was made of the answers given. Using these different sources of answers, I felt I had a reasonable base to analyze their errors.  The article I gave them to translate included many specific business terms related to their studies, however, it being an article from current events it also included words they were not familiar with which gave me an idea of their vocabulary level in English. The use of worksheets helped to identify their level of grammar knowledge and the essays indicated their competence in using the obtained knowledge.

The major problems Ukrainian students have in learning the English language are determiners, verbs, and prepositions. Since “determiners” and “verbs” were the two greatest problem areas, a further analysis was performed to determine what the specific problems were in these two areas.

 Studying the determiner problems, it was evident that the use of the article was the biggest problem area.  Students were not clear on when to use the articles ‘the” “a’ or ‘an” or when no article was required. The other problem areas were the use of specific determiners such as       “this”, “that” and “those”, and the use of possessive pronouns and nouns.

 My research was focused on the use of verbs, thus I was very interested in knowing the specific problems students have using English verbs.  From the data received, I could see that subject – verb agreement was a big problem and the proper verb tense usage.  Subject – verb agreement simply meaning the conjugation of the verbs.  Verb tense usage is the proper verb tense to be used in specific situations: determining whether it should be perfect or continuous or perfect continuous. It will be good to do further research with this study to determine which tenses the students have a greater problem with. Through the use of worksheets, it is easy to detect that they have some understanding of the difference between verb forms, but not when to use these actual forms.  For example, in worksheet practice students could easily fill in the sentences in the particular tense that was being taught, however, in conversation or in essay writing they were confused and unsure of which tense to use.

 Having gathered all this information, it was now time to decide what technique or techniques to use to teach these verb tenses to students.  It was obvious that some had a good knowledge of the grammar but needed help in knowing how to put this knowledge into practice.

Techniques. One of the more common techniques used is “grammar translation”, sometimes called the “Classical method”. This method is a teacher-based method where the teacher explains the grammar of the language that is being learned – in this case, the English language.  Here we explain the rules of the English verb system and then try to correlate the English verb usage to the Ukrainian verb usage. In doing my research, I found this approach useful in the beginning as I had beginner level students.  Their level of understanding of the English verb system was quite low; therefore I concentrated on correlating the similarities in both verb systems.  In the Ukrainian language, most verbs have a perfect and imperfect tense and in English our two basic tenses are perfect and continuous.  So in using this technique, comparisons were made between the continuous forms of English verbs and the imperfective forms of Ukrainian verbs. However, this was a very basic comparison as both the English and the Ukrainian verb systems are very complex.  When students became somewhat confident with this concept, I could move on to past tense of perfective and imperfective Ukrainian verbs and try to correlate this to the perfect past tense in English and the continuous past tense in English.  There is not a direct translation between the two languages; students could not automatically assume that the perfective form of the Ukrainian was a perfective form in English therefore other approaches were also sought to help students learn and practice the appropriate verb tense responses.

 The TPRS approach. Teaching physical response through storytelling.

Cheol Beom Lee expressed in his book, Thoughts on Foreign Language Education :Introduction to Babble Training Method”, “We have applied to our teaching what is believed to be the best among the numerous FLE methods, but failed to produce students who are fluent with our languages”.  Having noted this, Beom felt it necessary to develop a series of methods where students could produce the language with confidence and not just have a basic knowledge of it.

Steven Krashen also has given many talks and written books on the same subject. He emphasizes that students learning a target language must have confidence in the language to produce it, and feels that practice speaking it through repetition is a far better teacher than just learning the rules.

This TPRS approach was the second approach used to help students with learning the English verb system.  I found this useful for students at varying levels of English. A series of pictures were presented and through a series of questions, students were encouraged to answer questions based on what they perceived in the picture.  Having the pictures to focus on, students tended to be less self-conscious and tended to answer the questions freely, and in time, even began to input their own ideas.  When students answered, the answer was repeated a few times to reinforce the correct answer form. Also questions or statements were repeated often so students could learn what the appropriate answer form was.

In using the TPRS approach, the students’ attention was kept focused on the subject and they were freely speaking without realizing it.  It also was a good way to encourage responses from the students who sometimes are hesitant to speak out in front of others, and encouraged them to listen to the responses of their peers.

Using this method enabled students to switch more freely from one verb form to another while they were speaking.  Students found it easier to switch from one tense to another when a dialogue was presented. Specific exercises focusing on a specific verb tense was also easily presented in the TPRS approach.

  References:

 

  1. Humesky, Asssya.  Modern Ukrainian.  Toronto, 1988
  2. Krashen, Stephen. D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.  California. 1981
  3. Lee, Cheol Boem.  Thoughts on Foreign Langugae Education: Introduction to Babble Training Method.  Bloomington, Indiana. 2009
  4. Peterson, Patricia Wilcox. Changing Times, Changing Tenses. Washington DC, 1996
  5. Press, Ian and Stefan Pugh. Colloquial Ukrainian: A Complete Language Course.  London and New York, 1995
  6. “A Constructive study of grammar translation method and Communicative approach in teaching English Grammar” www.ccsnet.org/elt   Vol.4, No.2, June 2011 Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
  7. Lecture: “Stephen Krashen on Language Acquistion” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTsduRreug  uploaded Oct. 15, 2010

Відомості про авторів:  Парсонс Анджела  — науковий асистент університету Ryan Research International (Каліфорнія, США).

 

 

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One thought on “PROBLEMS UKRAINIAN STUDENTS HAVE LEARNING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

  1. avatarmemphis

    A very interesting work, thanks. The technique you mentioned regarding the use of pictures during foreign language learning is a great one, considering that the work in cognitive linguistics and psychology have already demonstrated that images help the comprehenders to simulate entities described in the sentence, and thus induce language comprehension and learning. Also, I would like to mention the other problem students of all nationalities face while learning English. It has to do with the construction “verb-pronoun (noun) + infinitive”. It appears that students with a basic and, sometimes, intermediate level of English tend to say, for instance, “I want that you help me” instead of “I want you to help me”. At least that’s what I’ve noticed in native Spanish speakers.

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