Comprehensible Input through Extensive Reading: Problems in English Language Teaching in China
Keywords: CALL, E-learning, Constructivism, Scaffolding, Role Play
University of Macau, SAR, China
Gertrude Tinker Sachs
Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Yan Wang is an assistant professor of TESOL at the Faculty of Education, University of Macau, China. Her current work involves training pre-service and in-service EFL teachers. Prior to this position, she worked for five years at Georgia State University, U.S.A. where she taught courses in ESOL teacher-preparation programs. Her research areas include teaching English as a foreign language to Chinese speakers, cross-cultural issues in education, and second language teacher education.
Gertrude Tinker Sachs is Associate Professor of ESOL, Language and Literacy in the Middle Secondary Education and Instructional Technology Department of the College of Education at Georgia State University. Prior to this appointment she worked for twelve years in Hong Kong where she taught undergraduate and graduate primary and secondary teachers of English as a second/foreign language. While in Hong Kong, she was principal or co-principal investigator for several longitudinal primary and secondary teacher development and research projects in task-based teaching, cooperative learning, action research and shared reading. Dr. Tinker Sachs was the 2009 Program Chair for the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) annual convention in Denver, Colorado and one of her most recent publication is EFL/ESL Cases: Contexts for Teacher Professional Discussions(Tinker Sachs, G & Ho, B. 2007, Hong Kong: City University Press).
Target language input at the right structural level and in adequate amount is believed to be a primary condition for successful second/foreign language learning. This study was designed to investigate the issue of English language input that younger learners were likely to be exposed to through extensive reading in China. Focused-group interviews and analyses of English textbooks in use and extensive-reading books on the market revealed that these learners received rather restricted English language input in terms of quantity, comprehensibility, and variety, and that input-poor, a critical issue in learning English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts, was not addressed by the recent reform in China. The study called for urgent attention to this problem among reform authorities, school administrators, and English teachers in their efforts to improve students learning outcomes of English and suggested the adoption of extensive reading programs as the most effective means in the creation of an input-rich environment in EFL learning contexts. Suggestions were also given to book writers and publishers regarding ways to improve children literature, story books, and other books for entertainment reading in English. This study has wider implications for other Asian contexts in which similar issues surrounding English language teaching and learning may arise.