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Worried about the English Oral Exam? Try Listening.

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

It is the season P6 and Sec 4 students worry about English Oral Exam. But what can a parent do to help a child who is insecure about reading aloud?

Well, the first thing to acknowledge is that the answer isn’t necessarily in more attempts to read aloud.

Well, speech drills won’t really help as much unless you are in a Speech and Drama or Effective Speaking class, prepping for a graded exam. That would be akin to having a voice coach as a teacher.

Phonics is a good entry-point to finding one’s feet with pronunciation but over-reliance on phonics may actually frustrate the child because pronouncing English words ain’t always matter of logic. English words are often borrowed from different cultures, and so you cannot count on pronunciation rules applying consistently.

More correcting of your child’s reading won’t help his/her self-esteem either. They will become a bundle of nerves before the Oral Exam.

What parents need to understand is that the reader who is comfortably fluent is one who can “summon” up the experience of having heard the words. The richer his reading experience, the more likely the child can call up the word in his mind and then pronounce it right.

Strange though it seems, it’s more listening that will do the trick.

What the parent needs to do is to assess what takes over the airwaves at home.  Is it the quarrelling in the sitting-room set of a long-drawn Taiwanese soap-opera, or the strains of K-Pop and lilting tones of addictive K-Drama dialogue? Are we watching the likes of Gordon Ramsay tear down the career hopes of budding chefs with an unseemly spray of expletives? Does a family member always switch from what requires listening and thinking to what only needs our applause, like a talent competition? Do we interrupt the family viewing experience with a comment on how terrible or fat the host looks?

I think you get the point.

Richer content in your child’s listening experiences - that's the answer. Less engagement with that hip DJ and afternoon talk-show host and more attention LISTENING to the scripted documentary or programme commentary.

Your child would be listening to the structures, following the arguments, catching on to the intonation, and becoming more sensitive to how meaning is conveyed. So before you switch channels, listen again!

For more information on my ongoing programmes, click here.

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