College-level students who are non-native English speakers almost always view academic writing in particular and English writing in general as frustrating tasks. For non-native English speakers, speaking in English is challenging enough and writing is often viewed as a burden. The tendency to view it as a burden arises with the mindset that speaking is the only necessary skill in order to get by inside an EFL classroom. In addition, students are likely to develop a distaste for writing if the English language curriculum/program provided is inept in emphasizing a whole language approach to the study of the target language.
For countries wherein learning the English language is an emerging trend, the development of proficiency in speaking and conversation skills among the people are seen as key national goals and are even indicators of global competitiveness. English language programs focus on students’ ability to speak and carry a conversation in English as opposed to the more traditional grammar-translation method. The particular problem that has emerged from emphasizing communicative competence is the lopsided development in the basic language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) of students given the emphasis of the curriculum/program on a particular language skill alone. Ideally, all basic language skills should be developed accordingly through a whole language approach.
How do we make college-level students who are non-native English speakers like writing then? This is probably going to be an uphill battle given the students’ conditioned distaste for writing. There are no quick and definitive solutions but nevertheless, changing the mindset of the students is necessary. A word of caution though, teachers should be prepared to respond with empathy and patience toward the very possibility of resentment among students.
Positive change and innovation, in order for them to be successful, should come from the top and be implemented downwards. The leadership in an academic department or unit has the particular challenge to develop the vision, goals, policies, and strategies for a whole language approach toward English language learning. Teachers who introduce change without the full backing of the system are likely to feel frustrated with the lack of support from the department or unit leadership.
EFL students need to understand that English speaking and conversation skills are no longer considered special skills. Perhaps, there was a time when fewer people could speak in English and it was a special feeling to be one of them. Nowadays, globalization and the Internet have created an English language explosion. All over the world, there are more people who can speak English, and the English language is now considered a lingua franca. Hence, proficiency in speaking and conversation skills alone is definitely not enough to be successful in your career.
Although there is nothing novel about English writing skills per se, even so, not all EFL students have actually mastered English writing. In fact, there are many EFL students who do not like writing and therefore do not have the patience to improve their writing skills, which happens to be an opportunity for you. Since English writing for EFL students is not easy, this also means that investing extra effort into developing your writing skills actually gives you an edge compared to other EFL students.
Think of future profitable applications if you are able to develop your English writing skills. Writing is an essential part of any business or industry. From advertisements and websites to forms and letters, all of them are some form of writing. Students miss the point if they think that they are only training themselves to write for a class requirement.
Nowadays, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and other blogging services have revolutionized the way we keep in touch with friends. Also, people’s writing habits have been significantly impacted and changed. People all over the world are writing more than ever. Self-expression is a universal need. EFL students can benefit from using Internet technology to practice and enjoy writing. What needs to be done is for students to just develop the habit of expressing their thoughts.
At the end of the day, keeping students motivated to write in English depends on how well they understand the future implications of developing their basic English language skills in order to attain success in their careers. The motivation should come from within and using grades alone and other external rewards might work on a short-term basis but students who can motivate themselves independent of their teachers are more likely to be successful. To do this, students need to establish a personal meaning for going through all the trouble in developing their English writing skills alongside the other basic skills, as well.