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Problems For Adult English Learners From Turkey

Problems For Adult English Learners From Turkey | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Learning the English language during adult years is a specific process when a student has reached a certain age, got some kind of profession (occupation), and decided for some specific reasons to learn (improve) English language.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Dinara Y. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Specific purposes

For example, the first category of students I came across decided to learn the English language and attend lessons because they needed to pass a governmental exam (YDS English), which could provide public officers with certain advantages such as promotion, salary bonuses and /or appointment abroad. The second category of adult students (generally working in the private sector) believed that learning English, especially conversational and business English, would help them with their job, trade, and business. The last category of adults would wish to improve their English for the sake of other reasons such as traveling abroad, meeting other people, being able to talk to foreigners, tourists, etc.

All these categories of people shared a common goal of learning/improving English language skills, and a decision to take lessons was intentional.

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There is a general opinion in Turkey that to learn a foreign language, one needs to go abroad to a foreign country, preferably to a country in which that language is native. (For Russian to Russia, for English to the UK or the USA.) Going abroad and living there for some time is seen as the best way to learn a foreign language. As Turkish people are very skeptical about the chances of learning English in Turkey, they try to send their kids abroad to language schools. As for those who cannot afford it, they try to send their kids to private schools that promise a native speaker teacher. So it is assumed that it is almost impossible to learn English if one did not go abroad to study or did not attend a private school.

Not all share this view. There are various courses and language schools in Turkey that offer language courses to various age groups.

Coming to problems of learners in Turkey, some problems can be identified. Indeed these problems do not reflect the complicated multi-faceted reality of learning a foreign language. However, what is mentioned in this essay includes a reflection on hours of working with Turkish students and listening to their opinions on what they see as “hard to learn”.

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Lack of Confidence

First of all, the majority of students though having strong motivation lack confidence in their ability to master the language. It seems that in general they were made believe that English is a hard language, difficult to learn, difficult to use, etc. many students complained that it is not the first time they take lessons or attend a course but they did not get to the satisfactory level. Many students mentioned general dissatisfaction with the Turkish education system and how foreign language is taught in schools. Some believe that it is because they did not receive a solid background during school years (just a few hours of English lessons per week, poor teaching, etc.), now they have to take lessons and pay for that. In general, it can be noted that students share a view that English is hard to learn for people who attended a normal governmental school and did not travel abroad to a language course or did not attend special language courses with a native speaker.

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Belief in Cultural Difference

The second reason that can be indicated is a belief in cultural differences. For Turkish people language is associated with culture. Interestingly, many students were able to read the text and answer written questions but were unable to speak and express themselves. Some faced difficulties in making sentences because they may be misunderstood, and/or pronunciation problems. It seems like these people were more or less trained to answer written test-like questions, read texts but were completely not given any conversational lessons and a chance to practice with what they have learned. Again this can be linked to previously taken education.

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Last but not least, it can be stated that learning a foreign language is a process, which takes time and effort. Some adult students having their goal to get a good grade in the YDS English exam stop their learning process because they believe they reached the goal. However, it is important not to lose what you learned and practice. Unfortunately, it is not always the case. So this approach in learning language can be another problem because foreign words can be forgotten when not used.

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