General English or Academic English?


(An article; by one NEB)

The increasing number of schools, academies, universities, and similar higher learning institutions which utilize English as their instructional language due to their establishing bilingual classes, international classes, joint programs, and double-degree programs requires that both instructors and students alike be able to use their academic English (subsequently AE) adequately for respectively teaching and learning purposes in their classes; this ability can also later be applied for daily communicative purposes should this need exist at all.

There abound now a lot of institutions that train and teach General and Conversational English to students who don’t actually need it in their daily life as they don’t really come into contact with native speakers or foreigners to be able to use it. And, (un)interestingly, when they have to use this English more for their academic purposes with all due language functions in their classes, they can’t perform this well, either. By definition, this suggests that the on-going teaching and training of English by these institutions may constitute a failure.

Actually, especially in the context of Indonesia where English is only a foreign language plus the fact that English today is much more a tool than a skill for a lot of people who need it for various purposes—specially with students and their future education in mind, the kind of English that is needed now is AE. This is also highlighted by Horn (2011). This goes with all the relevant language functions to be taught and trained to the students who learn it. Other kinds of English that can be offered can be based on the learner’s needs, this raising the concept of customized programs to be made available upon request.

This AE is also much more important because it trains students’ (critical) thinking, speech, character, attitude, and confidence—elements that are essential in today’s competitive world of business, jobs, idea transactions, debates, and diplomacy in general and that are lacking in Indonesia’s present (formal) education. Also simultaneously offered can be other kinds of English or programs customized and suited to the learner’s needs. These two constitute strong contributions to the betterment of English training and teaching service as also associated with the improvement of such other aspects as above.

For the delivering of this English training and teaching service, the imperatives to hold dear are as follows: First, support the concept of World Englishes; that is, there are a variety of Englishes used in the world with regards to users, countries, and backgrounds; second, believe in training and teaching both ’fixed expressions’ such as introducing self, initiating a conversation, excusing self, parting, complementing, etc. and ’creative language’ such as giving an opinion, disagreeing, reasoning, arguing, explaining, etc., this all based on students’ school-subject materials or customized needs; and third, hold that particularly in spoken English, intelligibility is above accuracy. Should problems of comprehension persist, then there prevail these functions of asking for repetition, asking for clarification, asking for voice volume, and the likes that can be resorted to.

The learning participants targeted should be students at large especially of junior high schools up to universities. These learning institutions’ students are those who need AE more than simply general English. Everyone knows that they may stand every chance to enter high and later higher learning institutions inside or outside the country where AE is very likely to be used as an instructional language. The very same language can also still be used for daily communicative purposes. Other participants sought can be those who need English as a tool for various purposes: teachers needing English as an instructional language, young mothers wanting to speak English to be able to talk to their children at home, lecturers requiring TOEFL(R) skills, etc.

Reference:

Horn, B. (2011). The Future Is Now: Preparing a New Generation of CBI Teachers. English Teaching Forum. Volume 49 No. 3.

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