Teacher of English
Vilnius College of Technologies and Design, Lithuania
Teacher of English,
Vilnius College of Technologies and Design, Lithuania
Vilnius College of Technologies and Design is an institution of higher education offering fifteen part-time study programmes in design and engineering. In order to find out what challenges and problems in learning English do part-time students encounter with during their studies, the teachers of English prepared the questionnaire for students consisting of 13 questions in order to find out the need of English during their studies, professional and personal life. The results of the questionnaire show that part-time students consider English as a compulsory subject in their curriculum, understand its importance for their future career and indicate that the biggest challenges and problems in learning English are weak knowledge of the basics of English and the lack of time and motivation.
According to the father of education Eduard C. Lindeman: “the purpose of education is to put meaning into the whole of life“. Part-time students are non-traditional learners who want to put meaning into their life by pursuing higher education and at the same time already having some responsibilities to family and/or commitment to work. In adult eduction the subject matter is brought into situation and is put to work when needed. The specifics of part-time studies requires adjustments for the composition of the study programme and for students themselves because they not only might face situational difficulties related to work and family obligations, but also meet challenges and problems in their curriculum, especially in learning English during their studies. Our College annually accepts about 460 part-time students to different study programmes in engineering and art studies. English, as a foreign language subject and as a part of curriculum is taught for two semesters and ends up with the exam.
To find out the need of English during the studies, personal and professional life, teachers of English prepared the questionnaire consisting of 13 questions and gave it to 87 part-time students. There were questions about the reasons of choosing part-time study mode, the need of a foreign language at work and during free time, their age, etc. The most important questions and answers related to the subject of English will be discussed below. One of the questions was: “Which foreign language usage skills (speaking, reading, writing, listening or all of them) are the most difficult for you?“. The students responded that speaking (46 responses) and writing (25 responses) were the most complicated. Another question was: “Why a foreign language is an important part of the curriculum?“. The responses were diverse: 55 students claimed that they “will be able to find the current information/learning material needed for their studies on the Internet“, 29 students answered that “they will be able to communicate better with foreign colleagues during business trips“, 25 students responded that “an educated person must have the knowledge of foreign languages“ and 44 students chose the combination of all the above mentioned reasons. The third question was: “How the process of learning a foreign language should be organized during part-time studies?“. Interestingly, 21 student claimed that “the basic grammar should be revised during classes and the practical tasks should be performed at home“, 17 students responded that “grammar should not be revised, only the basic professional terms should be mastered“, 14 students thought that “only everyday communicative skills should be taught“ and 43 students anwered that “all study methods should be combined to achieve the best results“.
On average part-time students of Vilnius College of Technologies and Design are 21-30 years old. The vast majority (83 out of 87) of the students being questioned agree that a foreign language is needed as a study subject and most of them agree that 2 semesters of a foreign language are appropriate in their curriculum. The results of the questionnaire revealed that the biggest problems and challenges for part-time students in learning English are weak knowledge of the basics of English and the lack of time and motivation. It seems that the English language learning for our part-time students is a challenge and a problem in itself because 62 students claimed that they feel the English language knowledge gaps. Half of the questioned students learned English at schools more than 5 years ago, which explains why they feel the lack of basic grammar rules and need to revise it during classes rather than concentrate on specific professional vocabulary. Also, when questioned which foreign language do they use at work and leisure time, 34 students use Russian rather than English at work and 59 use Russian during leisure activities. The tendency to use other foreign languages (not only English) in Lithuania might be explained by the specific geographical position of Lithuania as a neighbouring country to Russia, Poland, etc. The specifics of part-time studies adds to the lack of time and motivation for learning or deepening knowledge of a foreign language because most students already have obligations to their families and work and if they do not need to use foreign language skills for their professional life, they will hardly understand that it is “they who have to develop the competencies and strategies and carry out tasks needed to participate effectively in communicative events. <…> Most (students) learn reactively, following the instructions and carrying out the activities prescribed for them by teachers and by textbooks“ (Council of Europe 141:2002). We suppose that the role of a teacher is of crucial importance because “teacher expectations and task requirements help determine strategy choice: organizing, setting goals and objectives <…> help learners to arrange and plan their language learning in an efficient, effective way“ (Oxford 136:1990). Learning a foreign language is not only a mastery of linguistic component, it is also “the way to develop a learner‘s personality (getting better self-confidence, willingness to speak in a group, greater openess to what is new and curiosity about the unknown)“ (Council of Europe 135:2002) and we expect that the course of English during part-time studies in the college will encourage students to deepen the English knowledge for interpersonal usage rather than simply fulfill a graduation requirement.
Council of Europe “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment”. CUP. 2002
Oxford R.L. “Language Learning Strategies”. OUP. 1990
Online article: http://infed.org/mobi/eduard-c-lindeman-and-the-meaning-of-adult-education/ [checked 23 March, 2015]