Most students hope they can speak English fluently. Although they have the desire to participate in speaking tasks in EFL classes, EFL teachers describe their response to these tasks as “Not good”. There might be some factors demotivate them. Here are the main four factors that discourage them from participating in speaking exercises.
1. Fear of making mistakes:
Speaking skills are often neglected because of large classes in some places. There, students have little chance to practice speaking in class. This leads to the result that the speaking skills of most students are low.
On the other hand, the fear of “losing face” prevents students from speaking in class. For many English learners, they believe if they make mistakes or fail to find suitable words to express themselves, they will lose face. To protect themselves from being laughed at, they are reluctant to speak. So they rotate in a vicious circle: the less they speak, the less they improve their speaking skills, and the more they are afraid of speaking.
2. Topics are not interesting:
The dominating speaking tasks according to the communicative approach aim to enable students to cope, in the target language, with typical situations in school and work environments as well as in ordinary life. Most of these tasks require students to role-play and learn dialogues according to given situations or topics. Students often complain that they have been repeatedly asked to introduce their families or schools, talk about their hobbies or favorite studies, make dialogues on topics such as job interviews, meeting visitors or shopping. These “practical” topics and situations provide little space for students to imagine and create. Therefore, dialogues on these situational topics are hard to develop in depth and width. Students tend to lose interest in what they learn if they find they make little progress and say repeatedly what they have learned.
Another problem with this kind of topic-based speaking training is you can’t expect all the listeners to be interested in your hobby or favorite studies. Moreover, the other students in the classroom are talking about similar things, which could hardly offer anything new to each other. Consequently, students in the speaking tasks are not very attentive and the speakers just make a perfunctory effort instead of getting involved, not even to mention enjoying it.
3. The classroom atmosphere is not encouraging:
The effect of classroom atmosphere on language learning, especially an oral class, is obvious and immediate. A free and friendly atmosphere promotes communications, while a nervous and stiff atmosphere builds invisible obstacles in communications. So, teachers should create real-life and various situations that sound enchanting and encourage students to participate.
4. Feedback of the listeners is not supportive:
Listeners’ feedback also has a strong influence on the performance of the speakers. Very often, at the beginning of the performance, the speakers are confident and active when doing some dialogues or role-play exercises. However, when the listener students lose interest in the speakers, begin to talk to each other or just do whatever else instead of listening attentively to the speakers, the speakers tend to, consciously or unconsciously, speed up or cut down their words, trying to flee back to their own seats as quickly as they can. Even the slightest indifference or impatience indicated by the listener students can be immediately felt by the speakers, which, in turn, greatly inhibits their passion to communicate. Of course, teachers can force the listener students to listen to the speakers but it is of no use blaming them. The most effective way is to use interesting topics that relate to the listeners’ life.