Something is wrong with English language teaching and learning and very few people are trying to fix it.
Millions of learners spend large parts of their lives and hard-earned cash failing to become proficient in the English language. But, this $50bn global industry (http://www.carlyle.com/Media%20Room/News%20Archive/2010/item11052.html) is, according to some research, not fit for purpose.
"Traditional EFL pedagogies in East and Southeast Asian nations are not fully adequate to meet the need for an expanded emphasis on oral communications. These traditional pedagogies take a scholastic approach in that they tend to treat English as if it is outside the national or local linguistic environment. Thus they focus almost exclusively on learning to read English-language documents, and to prepare English language essays and letters, with little attention to the skills of conversation in English, let alone the ultimate communicative goal of native speaker-level proficiency." (Sawir 2005)
Those words are from a research paper called 'Language difficulties of international students in Australia: The effects of prior learning experience' published in the International Education Journal. You can read it here:
The research focuses on international students paying for university places in Australia.
Now ask yourself how many would also have paid for private English tuition and IELTS preparation to gain entry to their university of choice?
The value of being truly proficient (that a recent British Council commissioned report estimated at +25% in personal earnings - see link below) is only available to those who can afford to travel for extended periods of time or attend a lot of more communicative classes with native or fluent English speaker teachers (and even when they get into uni, as the research above highlights, they still have a lot of problems).
That leaves a gap, full of most of the world's English learners, struggling in state educational systems and/or paying for courses and materials that will not help them to achieve their goal anytime soon.
As Michael Carrier, an old friend of mine and Head of Innovation at the British Council said,
"This helps to confirm my view that we should be investing time and resources in developing countries. We should be doing more to bridge the gap highlighted in the report between urban elites and the rural population."
Those are fine and, I am sure, well intended words. But maybe someone should point out that his organisation's Delhi teaching centre is charging between 3,400 (68%) and 6,700 (134%) Rupees more than the average monthly salary of a normal Indian and about 33% of the monthly salary of a very well-off Indian executive...for a 32 hour conversational English course.
What can be done? Fly more native speaker teachers to Korea, Turkey and Kigali (Rwanda)...when they can stump up the cash?
It doesn't need to be like this, does it? Not when a seat in an Indian cyber café costs 50 US cents per hour and Facebook and Google do free video chat?
Please read the reports above, have a think about it, and then leave your comments on our website where this article will be posted on the news blog here (below).
All the best
P.s. If you want to start improving now and want me to help you personally visit the Learn to Speak English Fast page now!