Almost every country has its own official language as a part of culture and national regime; whereas there are many countries that do not have any official language. It is noteworthy that in several countries English occupies a dominant role, but not an official status; though it is considered as a second language there. Today, almost a quarter of the total world population speaks English fluently (David, 2003). There is a list of countries including Singapore, India, Australia, Denmark, Nagaland, Iceland, Sweden, Canada and South Korea that have implemented English as a second language (ESL) quiet efficaciously. The reason for such elevated preference to English is because it is a means of common communication in many countries. It is termed as the global language by David Crystal. The language is pragmatic universally for international communications, trade, business, technology, education, entertainment, tourism and entertainment in more than 70 countries (Boyanova, 2011). Thus, it can be said that English has gained a special status as a second language; if not holding a primary status.
ESL programs are instigated for teaching English to people speaking native languages other than English. An ESL program helps foreign immigrants and international students to settle soundly in their chosen country. The core reason for introducing and implementing ESL learning is to make common people or students understand the fundamentals of English language (such as asking directions, reading instructions, ordering food, buying accessories and groceries etc.); which would otherwise become difficult to identify if these simple rules of English language are not known. Immigrant educators, job seekers and even employers have been recognized with the lack of fluency in English as a major restraint for their professional career growth; and so special ESL programs are quite obligatory for them. Following the year 2000 census, educational laws in US have declared that schools should provide ESL instruction learning in classrooms to any student registered; whose primary language has not been identified as English, with the fact that USA itself does not have any official language (Susana, 2006).
It is also seen that in many countries (like Canada and Australia) ESL learning is a part of the pre-departure program in the form of IELTS (International English Language Testing System), TES (Test of Spoken English) and TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). But besides the pre-testing these countries including many others have specialized ESL schools that facilitate students in learning and becoming more proficient in English. For implementation of such programs teachers with bilingual capabilities are employed to help students in developing all aspects of reading, writing, speaking and understanding the English language.
One of the basic rationales for countries to introduce ESL programs is because of these countries being the center of immigrants’ attraction like US, UK, and Australia. In US, since 1965, there are immigrants entering from all around the world belonging to different cultures and ethnic backgrounds; and thus implementation of ESL became very vital and an evident need. English is not the official language of USA but almost 27 states have declared it as official. An ESL program in USA is offered differently at beginner, intermediate, and advanced level with courses being offered both online as well as offline (campus based). Besides this, flexible schedules are also offered like a full semester ESL course or summer, spring and Easter programs. It has been identified that not just immigrants but US citizens, though fluent in conversant English, mostly do not perform well in classes and thus tend to drop out. This is also another reason behind the strategy for implementation of ESL programs in US. It is comprehended that often students come to US and enter schools at a very tender age with no relevant education; or come in at a grown up age with inappropriate schooling, whatever the backdrop maybe, they are forced to learn ESL in order to keep a pace with academics and perform as well as contribute well in class. Thus US education ministry of different states have different polices to support the type of ESL requirement depending on individual background factors like; age, academic history, English know how and language absorption capabilities. On the other side it is identified that, such students with minor language skills and proficiency have to face certain systemic obstacles and attend underfunded urban schools that lack the sufficient educational material which restrains their educational opportunities and blocks their academic development.
In 1981, Texas introduced bilingual educational programs at elementary school level with ESL programs to be offered at post-elementary (high school) level. Today in the middle school level of Texas, ESL programs are a indispensable implementation as a local option available; however at high school level ESL is a requisite program (Albert and Roy, 2008). In order to prepare for an ESL program in Texas it is important to check with the school, college or university about what individuals actually need and go along with the recommendations. There are diagnostic tests like TOEFL, IELTS and TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) that determine the needs (beginner, intermediate, advance levels) of the individual. It is also important to choose the appropriate ESL program that may suit the individual needs depending on the focus of the corresponding program (why a person has migrated to US and what suits appropriately in career watch of the existing skills) recognition of the program (meet the standards set by a Language training agency), quality of teaching, materials provided, program goals etc. When the program to be enrolled is chosen, it is vital to check the entry requirements like minimum age, minimum grades, certain awareness of English language, assured scores of the language tests, etc.
The Texas education policy according to the section 89.1205 of TAC articulates that individuals with limited proficiency in English should be given opportunities to join ESL (bilingual) programs offered by the help of qualified ESL teachers, and their progress should be assessed and reported (Rousseau, 2011). The aim behind ESL learning in US is to actually go from an ESL program to academic programs in any college or university throughout US. However universities and colleges offer ESL courses as a part of their academic curricula. Some of the basic ESL strategies incorporated by US includes; cooperative learning with interactive lesson plans and practical performance of activities, encouraged creativity, flexibility, versatility, enrichment and development of the materials, opportunity for all, organizing, planning and presenting specific types of information, progress self monitoring and self evaluation, note-taking by teachers as well as students, transfer of knowledge, integration of language and judgmental skills with the ESL content available (Chamot, Anna and Michael, 1994). However, the implementation of bilingual education policy in Texas raised many issues like; ESL program funding, testing accommodation, competition for teaching and other fiscal resources etc. Funding was very meager initially and later on it was not supported by the education ministry, resulting in the implementation of highly tax paid subsidized programs or underfunded, optimum programs (Robeldo and Cortez, 2008).
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It is imperative to compare the ESL strategies of Texas with regions that have successfully adopted English as a second language. For example, India has adopted ESL magnificently in contemporary times; however, this trend it not new. English is originated in India since 1600’s when trading between India and other English countries started, but it became the official academic language of India by the early twentieth century. Even though it was a second language after Hindi but it was a medium through which a large number of trading and business interactions took place. Making English as the second language of India was because of the growing internationalization and advancements. It could not be considered as a primary language since other Indian languages could not be completely ignored; so the switch came in the form of English being the second most communicated language in India. This also promoted amalgamation because English cannot be confined to any one region and it remained a pathway to the world, modernization and advance thinking (Sreenivasulu, 2012). Therefore in 1956 a policy was projected by the Central Advisory Education Board of India and later on, it was upgraded in 1961. The policy intended to make English as an essential part of schooling in India. This resulted in limitation towards learning and speaking Hindi and a complete decline in Sanskrit, leading the English to become the second language for academic purpose in all the cities of India. It is also realized that in many urban cities, it is not considered as a second language but still this global language could not be avoided so as to swiftly adopt the variations of world (Times of India, 2010).
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ESL courses are offered at all the institutes, schools, universities and at all levels with advance English in higher ranks. The rule followed in India was to divide English into four basic components and thus the strategies were also developed to fulfill the four different criteria. The most simple strategies as a part of their long term ESL plan includes, use of English for reading, writing, communicating (speaking), and listening by responding to students or other people at a normal talking speed in English, developing and creating interest in library reading, enjoying simple poems etc. Particular strategies for building ‘listening skills’ include; understanding and distinguishing characteristics of sounds, creating an understanding of the expressing tones. ESL strategies for building ‘speaking skills’ are; recognition of correct sounds and combination of them, use of sentences and words, understanding of sentence patterns, understanding of stress points like pausing, ending, intonation. ESL ‘reading strategies’ are; extensive reading (silently, as well as loudly), getting an understanding of the central idea of the article (passage), location of key words or phrase and identifying the meanings of newer words (building vocabulary). The strategies predominantly for building ‘writing skills’are; grammatical corrections and knowledge, Use of appropriate words, paragraph writing, understanding preventable repetition, pursue logical sequencing, learning spellings and proper use of punctuation marks.
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Even after such proper strategic development in ESL programs, still it has been of wide controversy that the English standards in India is very poor due to the lack of proper governmental policies, absence of exposure towards English language, nonexistence of proper ESL trained teachers and non-availability of proper teaching material, methods and the content is flawed (oral speaking is ignored which figures the base, writing is much focused which is advance requirement, improper language rules and more focus on memorizing these rules is established), huge number of students in classes, lack of direct motivation and lastly, faults in the assessments and evaluation system. It was identified by an undated article that 23% (232 million) of Indians speak English, which is still growing because of abundant numbers of advanced ESL courses being offered to students; so that they may get proper jobs and become capable to grow in their career. Still with such flaws identified, it is comprehended that India is the top most country where English (except Hindi) is spoken more than any other language. English speakers in India are more than twice the population of UK (TOI, 2010).
In India the funding for ESL programs is not at all by its regional education ministries or government and individuals have to put in their efforts in order to gain access to this international language. If we compare the policies, methods and strategies used by USA and India we can very prominently and justifiably prove that India has a well developed and well sought out plan; however, the support and re-enforcement in ESL learning for its citizens is not found. On comparison of Texas ESL strategies and Indian strategies, it can easily be identified that ESL courses are a part of the academic curriculum of Texas; and in order to acquire the next grade or getting higher grades in these courses is compulsory in USA which is not the situation in India. English is taught as a compulsory subject there but only minimum passing marks are considered and students get promoted, due to which the lower achievers are increasing by considerably a larger ratio, leading to non consideration of English marks as critical for higher studies.
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USA has a very segregated method of ESL studied for immigrants, with a lot of presence and lack of enforcement for students to willingly sign up for such programs. Also when, such facilities are not funded by the ministry, then it gets very difficult to even take out time and go for attaining such education; especially for immigrants seeking a new life. In India the students are not basically the immigrants but the residents of India are seeking ESL studies to excel in their career and thus lack of governmental funding does not come into much effect for them. This also reveals the fact that motivation among students to go for ESL learning, proper ESL teaching and funding by education ministry combine and give a picture of high number of educated citizens in a nation on the whole and vice versa.
The use of English language has been very well presented by a linguist, Braj Kachru in The Handbook of World Englishes (1985, 2006) which portrays the three circles of English and evaluates that the inner circle is the one, where English plays a dominated traditional role (primary language). Outer circle includes the countries that use English as an important or official language; but not as a native language (second language). Last circle is the expanding circle where it plays no historic role and is used as a foreign language (third language). This philosophy of Kachru is expressed in the form of outer circle, which reveals that even if English is not the first language in these countries but the norms are developing and ESL courses or programs are highly preferred and taught in the form of Business Communication, Conversational English and English for Specific Purpose (workplace or test preparation). English language is chosen as a second language and many countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Phillipines, Malaysia, and Tanzania) use the term ESOL (English for speakers of other language) where a dominant status of English is not present but widespread presence can be seen. In the expanding circle English is considered as a foreign language (EFL) and these countries rely on standards present by inner circle countries. Still in these countries, English is the preferred mode of communication and contact for business purposes. Robert Phillipson (1999) another professor, supports multilingualism saying that being a bilingual or trilingual adds up the specialty. He also supports English as a global language on different platforms but does not declare it as flexible or easy, because it has been changing with the passage of time.
In order to bring an end to this essay, I am of the opinion that there is no impairment in using a global language and making it a second language in any country. Doing so not just helps in brining all the students on a similar platform but also guides them in their work and social life; as well as it helps them through their academic curriculum. Of all the strategies implemented in India and USA-Texas is that, the most effective of the strategies are adopted by India which are structured but still the strategies that influenced a great deal were that from USA, because the focus was on supporting the newly entered citizens, immigrants. Also another reason for proper implementation of ESL strategies in USA was that the people seeking such English knowledge need it so as to survive in USA; they need to know how to communicate and socialize in USA and thus they willingly learn it. In India the motivation was absent and this is the main hindrance even after such proper planned and structured strategies.
If I am ever interrogated to implement a few of the ESL strategies in my teaching, I would first of all go for proper assessment as my main strategy which would lead to proper understanding of the individual capabilities, knowledge and base level. Writing down (Journaling) whatever the students feel on any topic desired would be my next teaching strategy. Reading out loud these journals helps a lot as it reduces stress and gives a feeling of common shared issues, and might be another one of my beneficial strategies. One of the most successful strategies for ESL learning would be to stock a library with books, having translated versions in different languages. This would attract immigrants of different mother tongues to come in and read what they desire. Frequent reading will develop reading habit in them as well as a move towards English translated versions of the same books, as they have already understood it. Another teaching strategy that would be effective is to use computer/internet in classrooms as well as after class work assignments (like reading a particular chapter on a web link, email to the students or writing down a transcript of an e-article). Teaching them to learn via internet, giving them reading or writing tasks and even supporting online ESL learning will give them access to a world where English is used as the basic mode of communication and it woud ultimately lead to increased learning efforts by the students. Annual assessment reviews of individual progress is a highly effective mean and it is one of the most successful strategies by giving them as well as their parents a consultation session of where the student stands currently and how the progress would ultimately boost them up and make them aware of their performance and future requirements. Preparing a proper schedule through a well trained ESL instructor based on the assessment reviews is yet another effectual strategy for success of the ESL programs. Lastly I would suggest that no discrimination on the basis of cast, color or creed would eventually bring success to the ESL programs.
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To conclude, it can rightly be said that since English has become an internationally accepted language and it opens up many doors of opportunities for people, thus implementing a well planned and strategically driven ESL learning program in countries would eventually lead to the success of the economy all together. ELS trained people are able to easily get hold of a situation and they are also able to converse easily. For them settling in a newer country becomes much easier; still, if these ESL programs are not developed, designed or implemented well, these programs would give no effective results at all and entire hard work may be ruined.