English learning spells trouble for Turks

Published 17.01.2019 00:44

More than 250,000 people in Turkey pay more than TL 300 million for private English courses every year. Yet, the country remains an underachiever in English language education.

According to the 2018 figures by Education First, an international education company that publishes an English proficiency index every year, Turkey came in 73rd out of 88 countries where English proficiency is measured.

So, why don't the long hours of the best English courses pay off for participants? Experts link it to teaching methods based on grammar. Though English has been the most popular foreign language taught in Turkey for decades, learners are often confined to a curriculum widely based on trivial grammatical rules rather than practical English teaching that focuses on speaking and writing.

The government, which recently laid out a five-year plan to improve education, plans to make English learning a more "interactive" experience.

Suat Gürcan and Rıdvan Gürbüz, two experts on foreign language teaching, say that though students are taught English starting from primary school, the speaking part of language learning was often skipped or insufficient. This forces many to take private courses; however, except for a few private language schools, most focus on teaching grammar. "English teaching should be a fun experience rather than forcing grammar rules on students," Gürcan and Gürbüz said.

Education authorities now plan to put the fun back into English learning and will produce animated movies in cooperation with public broadcaster TRT for English lessons that emphasize speaking rather than grammar. Teachers who are native speakers will also be employed for video content in English lessons on the Education Communication Network, a state-run education portal that supplies digital content to schools. Turkey also plans to send English teachers abroad to improve their skills.

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