English for suc­cess

> Bri­tish Coun­cil’s SMART English course aims to raise com­pe­tency and con­fi­dence in English

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ - BY YEE JIE MIN

WITH Malaysia’s am­bi­tion to achieve and move for­ward in the world stage, English pro­fi­ciency is cru­cial. There are many other coun­tries in Asia that are com­ing up and Malaysia needs to recog­nise that English is a tool for suc­cess.

And to in­ten­sively im­prove English in a short pe­riod of time, Bri­tish Coun­cil of­fers SMART English which is a full-time in­ten­sive course that runs from Be­gin­ner to Ad­vanced level.

“Be­fore we did this course, we had a course on Gen­eral English where stu­dents did three hours each day and we wanted to find out whether that was meet­ing stu­dents’ needs. We did an ex­ten­sive ques­tion­naire and we found many stu­dents come to us to study for two cen­tral rea­sons.

“Ei­ther be­cause they want to do ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion or they want to use English in their real life. We de­cided we need to have a course for stu­dents to gain that kind of English skills while im­prov­ing their ba­sics like gram­mar and vo­cab­u­lary,” said Bri­tish Coun­cil Head of Adults, Sean Smith.

Stu­dents do four hours a day where the first two hours is Gen­eral English. It fo­cuses on im­prov­ing gram­mar and vo­cab­u­lary, and looks at study skills like read­ing and lis­ten­ing. It also de­vel­ops speak­ing and writ­ing.

Stu­dents get a break and there are some op­tions avail­able in the sec­ond two-hour slot, de­pend­ing on the level. How­ever, op­tions are lim­ited for the Be­gin­ner level as they don’t have enough English abil­i­ties to be able to ap­ply to an aca­demic set­ting so they do four hours of Gen­eral English.

Mean­while, Gen­eral Skills at the Ele­men­tary level is de­signed so stu­dents de­velop their speak­ing, lis­ten­ing, read­ing and writ­ing skills for real life sit­u­a­tions. It is di­vided into 12 dif­fer­ent themes which could be re­lated to tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, trans­port, money and health. Lessons are based on th­ese sit­u­a­tions where you need to use English in the real world rather than in a class­room set­ting.

“There is also Aca­demic Skills which help you de­velop study skills, how do you speak and present in English, how to write an es­say in an aca­demic set­ting and how you deal with English text­books. Then you have the third op­tion from In­ter­me­di­ate up­wards which is an IELTS (In­ter­na­tional English Lan­guage Test­ing Sys­tem) prepa­ra­tion course,” Smith said.

“If you are do­ing Gen­eral Skills or Aca­demic Skills, there is also a 30minute mini les­son to do soft skills in that sec­ond les­son. It is not a hard core soft skills train­ing, but aware­ness rais­ing and we cre­ate that aware­ness by ex­pos­ing them to dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios by prac­tis­ing speak­ing in English, and lis­ten­ing and read­ing prac­tice.

“This is some­thing new added to SMART and not many other lan­guage schools of­fer this. It is not about pro­fes­sional skills train­ing as it is still a lan­guage course, but we are draw­ing at­ten­tion to things like con­ver­sa­tions, ne­go­ti­at­ing and get­ting a point across. There are lots of dif­fer­ent ar­eas we cover.” He added that the goal is to raise ev­ery­one’s com­pe­tence and con­fi­dence us­ing English. The key is be­ing un­der­stood with who you are com­mu­ni­cat­ing with and con­fi­dence is def­i­nitely im­por­tant oth­er­wise you will be too shy to open your mouth. “What is dif­fer­ent about com­ing to study at a lan­guage cen­tre like Bri­tish Coun­cil is it is try­ing to de­velop in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Stu­dents are work­ing with part­ners or groups and it is very col­lab­o­ra­tive. You have to speak and peo­ple do come out of their shells and nat­u­rally be­come more con­fi­dent over the course,” he said. To com­plete one level of SMART English takes three months and over that pe­riod, stu­dents are reg­u­larly com­ing to class, en­gag­ing in the tasks and hence should make fairly good progress. “The key thing you no­tice is they are more con­fi­dent in English. If they are strug­gling with ac­cu­racy, they be­come more flu­ent and they are less shy about ask­ing ques­tions on things they are not sure of. Also, their vo­cab­u­lary ex­pands and un­der­stand­ing of gram­mar im­proves,” Smith said.

ZULK­I­FLI ERSAL/THESUN

“What is dif­fer­ent about study­ing at Bri­tish Coun­cil is it is try­ing to de­velop in­ter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Smith said.

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