It perhaps has come to our mind on the idea that we don’t know about how to teach English to our students. Some might say that the way I teach is confusing my students. Other might say that teaching English for complete beginners is practically impossible. These are problems the we, teachers, face today because we could not differentiate between language and skills.
In teaching English, there are two main domains that teachers need to understand and comprehend, system/language and skills. These two should not be mixed since both are not the same things and one has very little to do to the other.
Language/system (language will be used) deals with the pattern of the language. On this domain, there are 4 items that need to be taught in the class; vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and function. Vocabulary deals with the meaning of a word; pronunciation deals with how the word is pronounced; grammar deals with the structure of words; function deals with meaning of the structure of words, grammar (we will discuss this in depth letter on).
Skill, on the other hand, is the ability to use the patterns of the language, in other words, the ability to listen, read, speak and write. Our understanding of language/system is applied or used when we listen, read, speak or write. Thus, it is acceptable to state that language and skill are two different things which should be taught separately.
Additionally, reading and listening skills are called receptive skill, and likewise, speaking and writing are called productive skill. Thus, teaching the English language – and any other languages – should be focused on teaching one receptive skill and simultaneously teaching one productive skill. In other words, when students receive an input, they need to produce an output, for example, teaching reading and consecutively teaching speaking.
In teaching English, some researchers suggest to use 1/3 of classroom activities to teach language and 2/3 to teach skills, one receptive and one productive. This is not to suggest that language is less important, but teaching skills requires more time and more tasks, so students understand and able to use the language. It is believed that teaching language could be indirectly while teaching skills (more reading on this claim is suggested).
One of the misconception that we, teachers, believe is correct is that we tend to integrate teaching skills and language – which as we discussed are two separate things – into one activity in the classroom. How come students who have limited range of vocabulary able to read an article. This is none sense. We need to teach them language first (e.g. vocabulary) before we teach them reading. Thus, teachers should aware of this dilemma that teaching language should come first prior to teaching skills.
Teachers, sometimes, tend to fix students’ error of how to pronounce a certain word while he/she speaks. This act resulting not only the problem of mixing language and skill but also the problem of distracting students while they speak expressing ideas.
To conclude, teaching the English language by blending language/system and skills either receptive or productive will only mislead students and worst of all, the instructional aim could not be more unaccomplished.