Focus on the Learner Student Case Study
Section A: The student as a person and as a language learner
The student and his previous language learning experiences
The student is a male student from Turkey who has been attending Pre-intermediate English classes for three months. He is 30 years of age and has been in England for three months. He speaks Turkish and some English. He has been learning English for thirteen years. He started to learn English when he started at middle school. He was required to take exams in English every two weeks when he was at university. He obtained a mark of 2.7 / 4, in his final exam, and he said this was not a very good mark. He was taught American English which he found difficult and confusing. The teachers said ‘vaase’ instead of the English ‘vase’.
He has a degree in Electrical Technology but thinks if he could speak English he would have a better chance of obtaining a job as a teacher of Electrical technology. He is also motivated to learn English because his wife speaks English. She has attended an English course for a year and is now studying for an MA degree. She hopes to go on to study for a PhD. He said ‘English has been good for her, good for me’.
Attitude to learning and the language
He enjoys learning English. He sees English as an important factor in his ability to obtain the type of job he desires. Consequently, he has a positive attitude to learning English, even if he finds English difficult to learn. He said that writing in English is the most difficult part of learning English. He said ‘I am bad for writing’. I asked him what he feels he needs to work on with his English. He said he needs to speak more with English people. He learns English outside the classroom. He watches English and American films with Turkish subtitles. He also watches BBC news and the BBC learning programme on the internet. He uses a dictionary when he is at home to look up words he cannot understand.
Any other factors that may affect his learning
He said he forgets what he has learnt, and he also struggles to understand English when people talk too fast.
Section B: The student’s language level
Effectiveness of oral communication (speaking and listening)
I chatted with the student to assess his speaking and listening. I understood the student 90 per cent of the time. I had to grade my language for some words he had not understood. For example, he had not understood ‘devote’ and I had to change my language. He said when I first started teaching him I talked too fast and he struggled to understand me. But now I talk slower and he understands 85 per cent of what I say.
He made several grammatical errors. He had difficulty with words ending in ‘ing’ and he failed to add the ‘ing’ to some words, for example ‘stay’. He struggled with the correct form of the verb to do ‘I learn English words, later I didn’t learn’. However, his grammatical errors had not impeded my understanding.
I asked the student to tell me how to get to Tesco from the university campus:
‘Go straight and cross the road, and turn right and then go straight. It take fifteen for foot. When you come on the main route. You must stop at traffic lamp to push button pass cross route and you will see Tesco. You look and turn left. You will look big parking area’.
He does not make any marked conversational errors. The underlying meaning of the directions were clear, although he used ’route’ instead of ’road’, and ‘lamp’ instead of ‘lights’. His directions were appropriate.
I found that the student struggled to pronounce certain words. For example, he said ‘enuff’ instead of ‘enough’, and he had difficulty with ‘th’. He said ‘Tirsday’ instead of ‘Thursday’.
I gave the student two reading tasks, both are extracts from a Pre-intermediate English course book. When reading out a list of numbers, he struggled with ‘th’ and said ‘tirteen’ instead of ‘thirteen’. When reading from a text, he struggled with two letters that are the same in a word. For example, the ‘ll’ in ‘fall’ and the double ‘ll’ in ‘Mallorca’ and he placed stress on the two letters. He also pronounced ‘i’ as ‘e’ in several words. For example, ‘time’ sounded like ‘teme’.
I asked the student to write a letter, telling me about his English course and his accommodation. His letter conveyed details of his accommodation, where he lives on campus with his wife and his key number. His wife is a student at Essex University. He talked about the size of his flat and conveyed the message adequately. He likes cooking Turkish food. However, he said ‘I like cook just only Turkish food’. It was clear that he likes to cook Turkish food. However, he has missed out ‘to’ cook and added ‘just’ when ‘only Turkish food’ would have conveyed the message correctly. He is interested in ‘electrical’ without adding technology, which he stated earlier. He provided details of his English classes and the frequency of his classes. However, he confused ‘course’ with ‘class’. He stated that he had a course every day, instead of saying that he had a class every day. He finished his letter with a confusing sentence, ‘if I learn English well, I better well than this letter.. I think he is trying to say that he wants to learn English well, better than his writing in the letter. ’The meaning of the second half of the sentence has to be guessed. His conversational English appears to be slightly more effective in conveying meaning than his writing. He said earlier in the interview that his written English was poor.
Section C: Conclusion
A study plan for the student.
The areas I would advise him to work on in the immediate future.
In summary, he should continue to work on his English grammar. He should work on increasing his vocabulary and continue to practice writing in English. He should continue to read English text, work on his speaking and his pronunciation. He should try to talk more with native speakers of English to improve his speaking and pronunciation of English.
He should learn the words that make a sentence join up to form a coherent sentence. For example, definite articles and prepositions. He should learn the gerund or the ‘ing’ form of the verb, to enable him to convey an action more accurately. He should learn the plural forms of words to convey the correct meaning of a word. He should continue to use the correct forms of verbs to convey meaning accurately. He should learn about the stress on letters and syllables. For example, the difference between the ‘th’ in thirteen and the ‘tr’ in tree.
He failed to use the correct form of the verb, for example he said, ‘I learn English words, later I didn’t learn’. When he provided directions he failed to use words in the plural, and the definite article. He used the wrong preposition and frequently missed out a preposition. When he talked in a letter about his flat he had difficulty with words ending in ‘ing, he failed to add the ‘ing’ to ‘stay’, and ‘ing’ to ‘cooking’. He struggled with the correct form of the verb to do ‘I learn English words, later I didn’t learn’. He struggled to pronounce certain words. For example, he said ‘enuff’ instead of ‘enough’, and ‘tirteen’ instead of ‘thirteen’.
He should look up the meaning of words in a dictionary, so that he gradually increases his vocabulary and becomes more familiar with the correct word for something. Thereby decreasing the likelihood of mixing one word up with another. Perhaps using a dictionary that shows a detailed picture of a particular subject. For example, a small map of a few roads with crossings, sign posts and traffic lights, where each item is labelled with the correct word. This would enable him to deal with survival English and to give correct directions.
When he provided directions to Tesco, he used the wrong words to describe some things. For example, he used ‘route’ instead of ‘road’. In his letter he used ‘course’ instead of ‘class’.
He should try to improve his pronunciation. He could do that by learning phonemic symbols that represent the sounds in English, and use them as a tool for learning the pronunciation of new words.
When he read from a text he placed inappropriate stress on syllables, for example, he pronounced some words with ‘I’, as ‘e’. ‘Time’ sounded like ‘teme’. He struggled with two letters that are the same in a word. For example, the ‘ll’ in ‘fall’ and the double ‘ll’ in ‘Mallorca’ and he placed inappropriate stress on the two letters.