This I Believe

Wenjing - Minnesota, China
Entered on November 15, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

My Experience in the English Summer Camp

Jim?????

It is my first time I am in the summer camp. I think the experience is valuable both to my oral English and my teaching way in the future.

More than two decades ago, I began the study of English in junior middle school. As a matter of fact, what I had at that time was, apart from a textbook, a respectable English teacher, who made her classes attractive and lively and interesting enough to make me listen to her classes attentively. With my interest in English increasing, I learned more and more English, which was my strongest subject during my six middle school years. Only after I went to the college did I begin to learn to speak English. You might think it is ridiculous, but it’s true. In fact ,many of us began to learn to speak English as well as Mandarin at college. I now often think that today people who really want to study English well are a lot luckier than we were 20 years ago. They have more English magazines and newspapers. They can watch English programmes on TV or listen to English on the radio. They can read essays on the Internet with the help of an e-dictionary. They can listen to the downloaded MP3 files in their easily-carried MP3 or MP4 players. They can even participate in the English summer camp, where they can practise speaking English with native speakers of English. How fortunate they are!

But now today, I am fortunate as well. I came. I studied. I tried my best. For three weeks , I have been cherishing every opportunity to talk to and learn from the American teachers, who are kind and active and responsible and enthusiastic…

Here in the camp I have learned a lot which is brand new to me, and to my colleagues, I think. It is known that Chinese teachers put more emphasis on grammatical competence rather than communicative competence because of the traditional way of teaching and the old curriculum. But now, with the new standard curriculum being implemented, communicative approach, with its emphasis on interactive use of English for meaningful communication, is being more and more popular. And so in the English Teachers Training Class as well as the Students English Summer Camp, we learn how American teachers use the communicative approach in the classroom, which is useful and helpful to my future teaching, I am sure.

Here in the camp , I think students can also develop their communicative competence, i.e. the ability to use English to communicate appropriately in a variety of contexts. In regard to spoken language, communicative competence involves knowing what and how to say what to whom. Communicative classrooms are learner-centered and characterized by an emphasis on language use, fluency, authentic language and contexts, and negotiation of meaning, which is new to our students, while the English classes in China have historically been conducted using the Grammar-Translation Method, a teacher-centered methodology that is known for producing excellent grammarians and high scores, with limited abilities in speaking and listening. Now here in the camp, students are highly motivated to speak English. They interact with native speakes. They like the relaxed, casual and enjoyable way of teaching and talking. They have the opportunity to get to know Americans and American culture. They get the American teachers’ attention and encouragement. They actively participate in games, singing, dancing, sports, etc. And just the experiece in the summer camp , I think , will make them more interested in the study of English, which, I am sure, is vital to their English improvement!

In a word, a beneficial aspect of the English camp is that it complements in a limited but distinctly different way the formalized school experience by affording teachers and students the opportunity to focus almost exclusively on interactive use of English.

I value my experience in the camp.