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ceded by exposing the students to d i f f e r - versities j u s t several years ago w h e n the l e a m i n g E n g l i s h or w o u l d l i k e to elimí-

ent types of summaries from various types educational institutions had not yet started nate f r o m the process i n general, as w e l l
of m a t e r i a l s . E x a m p l e s i n c l u d e t a b l e s , to see foreign language l e a m i n g as a p r i o r - as to give reasons f o r b o t h . T h e n i t a t -
grids, and charts. ity, also have a lot to catch up w i t h . They tempted to sound out more p a r t i c u l a r d i s -
To conclude, s u m m a r i z i n g is a h i g h l y d i d l e a r n some E n g l i s h , b u t one could likes c o n c e m i n g such things as the t e x t -
c h a l l e n g i n g a c t i v i t y for the students b e - hardly c a l i them fluent speakers of the l a n - book, type of classroom activities,
cause i t compels them to t h i n k i n an eco- guage. So they too take up E n g l i s h courses. exercises, m a t e r i a l s , t o p i c s , and f i n a l l y
n o m i c a l way a n d to p r o d u c e a h e r n a t i v e I f we combine the two groups, we can see the teacher.
language w h i l e m a i n t a i n i n g the same t h a t the m a r k e t for t e a c h i n g E n g l i s h to O n the basis of the answers received, I
ideas. ® adults i n Poland is a considerable one.
discovered the f o l l o w i n g seven things that
W h e n teaching post-tertiary students,
adult learners of E n g l i s h d i s l i k e most:
a teacher of E n g l i s h must be aware of the
1. Texthooks in English only. Al-
specifics of this group. A d u l t learners d i f -
though adult learners appreciate the t e x t -
fer f r o m o t h e r age groups i n respect to
books available on the Polish book market
t h e i r l e a r n i n g experience, memory t y p e ,
and used i n most l a n g u a g e courses for
motivation, a n d , most of a l l , i n respect to
their needs and expectations. A s they are their c l a r i t y , logical structuring of the m a -

a l i t t l e b i t " b e h i n d schedule," they want to t e r i a l , and pleasant visual f o r m , one of the

learn fast and see the results almost i m m e - c r i t i c a l remarks about t h e m is t h e i r lack

diately. Generally, they are a likeable age of any language notes or explanations i n

group to teach, although there are things Polish. W i t h o u t seeing a word i n their n a -

w h i c h s i m p l y do not w o r k w i t h t h e m . tive language, the learners feel totally

H a v i n g some e x p e r i e n c e of t e a c h i n g teacher-dependent and unable to use the

E n g l i s h to adults, I decided to write out a t e x t b o o k f o r s e l f - s t u d y or r e v i s i ó n at

questionnaire w h i c h w o u l d c o n f i r m some home. Learning words and grammar

Seven Things Adult of m y observations as to w h a t i r r i t a t e s , points w h i c h the l e a m e r d i d not memorise


i n the classroom or note down i n class is
Learners Dislike frustrates, and demotivates learners i n
this age group. K n o w i n g about the don'ts d i f f i c u l t . T h e adult learner finds browsing
of teaching adults seemed as important as through dictionaries and grammar com-
k n o w i n g about t h e do's. I d e c i d e d t h a t p e n d i u m s i n P o l i s h too t i m e - c o n s u m i n g
k n o w i n g about the d i s l i k e s of a d u l t s and becomes discouraged f r o m s t u d y i n g
should h e l p to make the t e a c h i n g - l e a m i n g on his or her own.
A G N I E S Z K A S T R Z A L K A
process more effective and enjoyable for
M o s t t e x t b o o k s i n use are b a s e d o n
the learners.
the communicative method w h i c h stresses
Why worry about adults? the efficiency of teaching E n g l i s h through
Sample and questionnaire profile
A s a result of the absence or the r a t h e r E n g l i s h ; t h a t i s , to m a k e t h e s t u d e n t s
My sample consisted of 50 adult l e a r n -
poor standard of E n g l i s h language teach- " l e a r n how to l i s t e n , to p i c k out k e y
ers f r o m two P o l i s h c i t i e s : K r a k o w a n d
i n g i n Poland over the past few decades, words, and begin to t h i n k for themselves,
C i e s z y n . These l e a r n e r s u n d e r w e n t i n -
we now have a low percentage of people thereby r e d u c i n g the amount of i n t e r f e r -
house t r a i n i n g i n E n g l i s h at the elemen-
who are fluent i n any f o r e i g n language. ence f r o m L ^ " ( W i l l i s 1981). T h e l e a r n -
T h e situation is certainly going to change t a r y , intermedíate, a n d advanced levéis
ers, h o w e v e r , seem to f i n d t h e i d e a of
as our school c u r r i c u l a are now strongly organised by their employers. They come
abandoning the nativo language a b i t too
language-oriented. Children and teen- from the professional backgrounds of
challenging, at least when i t comes to the
agers l e a r n t w o or t h r e e l a n g u a g e s at banking, public administration, and i n -
textbooks they use.
school and many p u p i l s take a d d i t i o n a l dustr)'.
I f we t h i n k of Suggestopedic textbooks,
lessons. The most popular of foreign l a n - The questionnaire they were asked to
which i n a n e f f o r t to m i n i m i z e t h e
guages is of course E n g l i s h . f i l l i n consisted of ten questions, three of
t h e m open-ended (e.g., " A r e you satisfied leamer's stress próvido h i m w i t h p a r a l l e l
The group who suffered most from the
w i t h your textbook? Why? W h y not?") columns of texts i n the foreign and native
unfavourable socio-political situation was
a n d seven of t h e m u l t i p l e - c h o i c e t y p e . language, respectively, we may come to a
the m i d d l e - a g e d group. T h i s group also
T h e c h o l e e of s u g g e s t e d a n s w e r s was conclusión that some explanatory notes i n
does not want to " g i v e u p . " They want to
tune i n to the times of change and l e a r n based on m y o b s e r v a t i o n s a n d also i n - Polish and b i l i n g u a l glossaries may not do

E n g l i s h , w h i c h i n many cases they now cluded an " o t h e r " option. m u c h h a r m . These notes w o u l d not o n l y

need for t h e i r career. T h e i r younger c o l - The questionnaire asked the learners save the leamers t i m e , b u t also give them

leagues, people who graduated from u n i - to a d m i t to the things they d i s l i k e about t h e sense of s e c u r i t y t h e y m i s s i n t h e

ENGLISH TEACHING FORUM • A P R - J U N 1 9 9 8 39


often new experience of l e a r n i n g a foreign p r a c t i s i n g . W i t h t h i s cognitive approach bered i f they are introduced i n a context of
language. to l e a r n i n g , when we move from the p r e - a longer text, a s t m c t u r e d entity devoted
2. Role-plays. M a n y a d u l t learners sentation stage to practice, adult leamers u s u a l l y to one s u b j e c t w i t h w h i c h t h e
admit to their i n h i b i t i o n s when i t comes to are not very fond of t y p i c a l d r i l l i n g exer- l e a r n e r l a t e r associates a g r o u p of new
p l a y i n g roles (i.e., pretending to be some- c i s e s l i k e s u b s t i t u t i o n , r e p e t i t i o n , or words.
one else). The p r o b l e m w i t h this k i n d of transformation. A d u l t learners are not satisfied w i t h
classroom a c t i v i t y boils down to the ne- D o i n g these k i n d s of meohanical exer- j u s t any reading m a t e r i a l . They want i t to
cessity of acting and i m p r o v i s i n g , w h i c h cises, leamers do not see how this rather be interesting and realistic. A d u l t l e a r n -
according to some learners requires spe- passive a c t i v i t y c o u l d p o s s i b l y improve ers do not seem to enjoy r e a d i n g about
cial talent. Here adult learners prove t h e i r o v e r a l l performance i n the f o r e i g n i m a g i n a r y characters w h o have j u s t a r -
more self-conscious t h a n representatives l a n g u a g e a n d t h e y e a s i l y get d i s i n t e r - rived from another planet. They are
of other age groups. ested. T h e i r way of t h i n k i n g seems to be, slightly surprised when presented w i t h r e -

W e m u s t , however, account for i n d i - " I m u s t f i r s t u n d e r s t a n d w h a t i t is a l l ports about made-up countries, they frown

v i d u a l differences w h i c h , irrespective of about and t h e n t r y to use i t m y s e l f i n a at texts they f i n d far f r o m t m e . I f we want

their age, allow some people to be more or sentence w h i c h is not so easy to p r e d i c t . " to discuss a text as a f o l l o w - u p a c t i v i t y ,

less s u i t e d to d r a m a t i c a c t i v i t i e s . W h e n I n t e l l i g e n t learners, a t e r m that includes the text must be of interest to the leamers.

asked to play a role of a tourist abroad or most adults, soon realise that such exer- W h a t triggers d i s c u s s i o n best are texts

a customer i n a shop, some learners w i l l cises can be done without even t r y i n g to touching upon controversial matters (e.g.,

behave almost naturally, w h i l e , others, for u n d e r s t a n d the sentence f u l l y , w h i c h is women priests, the advantages and d i s a d -

w h o m the situation seems a r t i f i c i a l , may rather pointless. W h e n asked to do a d r i l l - vantages of the latest t e c h n i c a l develop-

lack ideas to e n l i v e n the activity. O n the l i k e e x e r c i s e as t h e i r h o m e w o r k , a d u l t ments, etc.).

other h a n d , asked to play a totally unreal l e a r n e r s c a n o f t e n be f o u n d to have I t seems that authentio texts, even at

situation (e.g., " y o u are a pólice officer i n - " c h e a t e d , " that is, having done the exer- the elementary level, serve their purpose

t e r v i e w i n g p e o p l e f o r an a l i b i " ) , some cise w i t h o u t c h e c k i n g the u n k n o w n better t h a n do artificially composed texts.

learners w i l l let themselves be c a r r i e d words. They give the leamers a challenge as w e l l

away by imagination w h i l e others w i l l just as a foretaste of r e a l E n g l i s h . As m a n y


As we cannot s k i p the guided practice
be double-stressed, h a v i n g to t h i n k not a d u l t l e a r n e r s stress, t h e y n e e d to be
altogether, adult learners must have
o n l y how to say t h i n g s i n E n g l i s h , b u t e q u a l l y a c q u a i n t e d w i t h the spoken and
something instead of h a b i t - f o r m i n g d r i l l s .
what to say. w r i t t e n f o r m of the foreign language they
They obviously prefer more i n v o l v e d ac-
are l e a m i n g . A u r a l - o r a l s k i l l s cire i m p o r -
A s o l u t i o n to the latter p r o b l e m may t i v i t i e s , l i k e answering open-ended ques-
tant, but we must not forget that adult s t u -
s i m p l y be giving the more i n h i b i t e d l e a r n - tions, d e s c r i b i n g pictures or cartoon sto-
dents need some more sound r e a d i n g
ers m o r e d e t a i l e d b r i e f i n g a b o u t t h e i r r i e s , or s o l v i n g c r o s s w o r d puzzles.
practice, too. Choosing a textbook w i t h a
role, thus l i m i t i n g the freedom of choice A n o t h e r a c t i v i t y is a translation exercise
s u f f i c i e n t a m o u n t of i n t e r e s t i n g , u p - t o -
w h i c h seems to be troublesome for some in w h i c h each sentence, even though
date reading material is what adult l e a m -
adult leamers. Foreign language l e a m i n g based on the same s t m c t u r e , is different
ers w i l l certainly appreciate.
without using language in situations and the a d u l t l e a m e r s have to b u i l d the
w o u l d not be the same. As B y m e (1976) sentence from scratch, paying attention to 5 . Homework, What characterises

says: " W e do not need to be over c o n - the meaning of what they are saying. A t - an a d u l t l e a r n e r is h i s or her p e r e n n i a l

c e r n e d i f there are one or two students tention-capturing activities i n w h i c h some l a c k of t i m e . A d u l t l e a r n e r s are b u s y

who f i n d themselves unable to particípate t h i n k i n g is r e q u i r e d seem more suitable e n o u g h c a r r y i n g out t h e i r professional

fuUy. Dramatic a c t i v i t i e s . . . involve more for adult leamers of a foreign language. I n work and f u l f i l l i n g f a m i l y duties; so, i f on

than j u s t performance: the situation has to some cases, however, pronunciation prac-
be discussed, the characters d e v e l o p e d , t i c e f o r e x a m p l e , we m u s t s m u g g l e i n
the scene elaborated and the language to some d r i l l i n g , as c o g n i t i v e t h i n k i n g w i l l
be used w o r k e d out. I n these a n d other not be of m u c h help here.
matters a l l students can particípate f u U y . "
4. Textbooks with no reading ma- AGNIESZKA STRZALKA
W e must use the less i n h i b i t e d or "more
g i f t e d " learners' potential and help those
terial or with artificial texts. Perhaps is a júnior aca-
as a r e m n a n t of the g r a m m a r - t r a n s l a t i o n demic teacher at
less l i k e l y to " i m p r o v i s e . "
method w i t h w h i c h they were once taught tile Silesian
foreign languages, aduk leamers do not ap-
University in
3. Drilling. W h e n l e a m i n g grammar, Katowice, Poiand.
a d u l t learners l i k e to be given nice and preciate textbooks that feature dialogues,
clear explanations without too m u c h spe- pictures, and charts, but have only a few
c i a l i s t t e r m i n o l o g y so that t h e y u n d e r - rather short passages for reading. New vo-
stand the p r o b l e m fuUy before they start cabulary items seem to be better remem-

40 A P R - J U N 1 9 9 8 • ENGLISH TEACHING FORUM


top of that they decide to take up a foreign teacher may sometimos deviate f r o m or Summing up
language, t h i s becomes q u i t e a b u r d e n . supplement the author's suggestions. A d u l t s make d e m a n d i n g f o r e i g n l a n -
A d u l t learners do want to learn but have A d u l t learners expect t h e i r teacher to guage learners. They want t h e i r l e a m i n g
very l i t t l e or no t i m e for i t at home. They easily change the plans for the lesson, i f to be an almost stress-free activity w h i c h
expect to learn as m u c h as possible i n the s u c h w e r e t h e n e e d of t h e g r o u p . T h e they c a n h e l p p l a n . T h e y w o u l d l i k e to
classroom. Being assigned homework and leamers may ask for more situational l a n - l e a r n as m u c h as possible i n the class-
not f i n d i n g t i m e to do i t can be very f r u s - guage p r a c t i c e , or extra h e l p i n d e a l i n g room because they have d i f f i c u l t i e s rec-
trating and may eventually lead to giving w i t h s p e c i a l i s t language i n t h e i r w o r k . o n c i l i n g h o m e s t u d y w i t h other d u t i e s .
u p the course. The teacher must be ready to adapt to the They do need some i n s t m c t i o n and e q u i v -
W h e t h e r or not to give h o m e w o r k is learners' temporary needs. I n t e r e s t i n g alents i n their native language to feel very
for the i n d i v i d u a l teacher to decide, once ideas and a readiness to accommodate to secure. W h a t stresses them most are role-
the teacher knows the "homework capac- the changing needs of the participants of p l a y s a n d l i s t e n i n g to n a t i v e s p e a k e r s
i t y " of the leamers i n a course. W h e n as- the course is what adult learners a p p r e c i - t a l k i n g r a p i d l y . Most c e r t a i n l y there are
s i g n i n g h o m e w o r k is p o i n t l e s s because ate about their teacher. other things adult leamers might d i s l i k e ,
the learners never do i t , classroom a c t i v i - and i t is a very useful for the teacher not
7. Audiotapes. This is one t h i n g we
ties must be enough. M u c h revisión and o n l y to observe b u t to ask the l e a r n e r s
c a n n o t do w i t h o u t , e v e n t h o u g h s o m e
remedial w o r k , effective use of t i m e , and openly about those things. The more you
learners m i g h t hate i t . The problem w i t h
some i n d i v i d u a l work (normally given as know about your learners' l i k e s and d i s -
listening-based activities is that they are,
homework) i n the classroom should solve l i k e s , the more f u l f i l l i n g and successful
for some a d u l t leamers, the most f m s t r a t -
the problem. your classes w i l l be.
i n g o n e s . A d u l t l e a r n e r s seem to f e e l
T h e r e m a y be a l t e r n a t i v e h o m e w o r k under more pressure w h e n they are sup-
References
w h i c h does not r e q u i r e e x t r a t i m e , l i k e posed to u n d e r s t a n d an a u r a l , r e c o r d e d
l i s t e n i n g to the radio or T V news i n E n - Byme, D. 1976. Teaching oral English. Lon-
text t h a n w h e n they are asked to speak.
don: Longman.
g l i s h and r e a d i n g the press i n E n g l i s h .
T h e y c o m p l a i n about the q u a l i t y of the Broughton, G., C. Brumfit, R. Flavell, P. HiU,
Some P o l i s h n e w s p a p e r s , for example, and A. Fincas. 1980. Teaching English as
r e c o r d i n g a n d f r o w n at any b a c k g r o u n d
Nowa Europa, now have summaries of the a foreign language. London: Routledge and
noises. W h a t irritates t h e m most is " t h e
issue's articles i n E n g l i s h , and i n almost Kegan Paul.
impossible speed" at w h i c h the people i n
any newspaper one can now f i n d adver- Kamla, M . 1992. Teaching EFL to adults: Be-
the recording speak. tween must and must not. English Teach-
tisements i n E n g l i s h . A piece of advice
The speed of authentic speech, o b v i - ing Forum, 30, 3, pp. 4 7 ^ 8
for an a d u l t l e a r n e r can be, " j u s t k e e p Richards, J., and T. Rodgers. 1986. Approaches
o u s l y h i g h e r t h a n t h a t of a n o n n a t i v e
your eyes and ears open to the language and methods in language teaching. Cam-
teacher to w h o m the students are accus-
y o u are l e a r n i n g and we can do w i t h o u t bridge: Cambridge University Press.
tomed; the background noises some Willis, J. 1981. Teaching English through En-
homework as s u c h . "
recordings i n c l u d e ; and the fact that the glish. London: Longman. ®
6 . Inflexible teachers. Adult leam- speakers do not always use standard E n -
ers r e s p o n d n e g a t i v e l y to the teacher's glish (on many cassettes there are volees
u s i n g the textbook as the only t e a c h i n g of c h i l d r e n , e i d e r l y p e o p l e , people w i t h
a i d . They do not l i k e the situation where different social and regional aocents, or a
the teacher uses the book i n an i n d i s c r i m - c o m b i n a t i o n of these) can m a k e the
i n a t i n g way, prepares no other materials, learner's life rather difficult. There is,
or foUows the teacher's book b l i n d l y . One however, no other solution t h a n i n t r o d u c -
of the reasons w h y a d u l t s are not v e r y i n g l i s t e n i n g comprehension as often as
fond of conscientious, u n i n t e r m p t e d cov-
p o s s i b l e so t h e l e a r n e r s o v e r e ó m e t h e
ering of the material i n the textbook may
problem by getting used to i t .
be that they associate this k i n d of l e a r n -
I n a situation where we cannot próvido
i n g w i t h t h e i r school years, w h i c h they ob-
a n a t i v e speaker as a teacher, we m u s t
v i o u s l y w o u l d not l i k e to go b a c k to as
use r e c o r d e d conversations to a c q u a i n t
grown-up, professional people. Civic Education Answers
the learners w i t h a u t h e n t i c s p o k e n E n -
Vocabulary, page 61:
S t i c k i n g to the t e x t b o o k m a t e r i a l a l l glish i n some way. Transcripts of recorded
1. i, 2. j , 3. e, 4. h, 5. c, 6. f, 7. d, 8.
the time sounds boring. I t is necessary for texts for reference w o u l d h e l p some l e a m -
g, 9. b, 10. a.
the teacher to be innovative and prepare ers feel more secure. The teacher must do
some extra materials and organise class- his or her best to sugar the p i l l i n any pos- Testing skills, page 64:
r o o m a c t i v i t i e s i n a d i f f e r e n t way f r o m sible way, so that the a d u l t students do 1. a, 2. b, 3. c, 4. a.
w h a t the t e x t b o o k i n s t r u c t i o n s suggest. n o t p a n i c at t h e v e r y s i g h t of a t a p e
Most textbook writers w o u l d agree that the
recorder.

ENGLISH TEACHING FORUM • A P R - J U N 1 9 9 8 41