Teaching Writing among Weak and Reluctant ESL Learners in Malaysian Classrooms : Part 1 (Understandi
Writing is not an easy task to be accomplished and it is often considered a difficult skill to be acquired. It is more complex in a second or foreign language context. Writing in ESL or EFL requires the writer to conform to all the conventions and deal with the language at the same time (Zahariah Pilus, 1992). Tunku Mohani (1992: 26) considers writing as the most challenging skill to be mastered compared to other skills such as listening, speaking or reading. It is described as “a fragile skill, the last to be learned and the one soonest lost in states of acute disturbances”.
Malaysian teachers have to face more challenges dealing with weak and reluctant writers. Whether in PT3 or SPM examination, some candidates do not write anything for their essay. In the Mid-Semester and Final Examinations in school, many of them simply leave blank pages when it comes to essay writing. Even if they attempt to write something, their piece of written product will be very short.
No doubt, some of the weak and reluctant ESL writers are genuinely weak. They really possess limited vocabulary and can hardly understand anything in English. In short, not much can be done to help them due to their extremely low proficiency level of English. However, some of the weak and reluctant learners, who are sometimes labeled as "hopeless learners", are actually capable of passing the English paper, if they are given the right guidance and amount of motivation by the teachers. Therefore, how can teachers develop confidence to write among weak and reluctant learners?
First and foremost, before teachers try to implement any writing strategies or techniques, I personally believe English teachers have to be fully aware of the writing anxieties faced by their learners. Malaysian learners commonly have these three anxieties when they write essays (Zanurin, 2010):
i) They are worried because they claim they do not have enough vocabulary to write in English.
ii) They dislike writing because they do not know what to write.
iii) Some of them hate writing because they always get stuck when they write. They do have ideas but do not know how to write them in English
Once teachers have a clear understanding of their learners' anxieties in writing, only then they can plan and address each anxiety one by one, step by step. If English teachers fail to address and overcome each of the three anxieties above, it is going to be a monumental task to develop weak learners' confidence and motivation to write.
[I presented my 6th paper with the title "Learning Anxiety in the EFL Writing Classrooms: Voices of Malaysian Learners" at the International Conference on Linguistics, Literature and Culture (ICLLIC) 2010, Eastin Hotel, Penang]
Tunku Mohani Tunku Mohtar. (1992). Helping ESL Learners Write: The Process
Approach. Jurnal Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Bahasa Jil. 5 Bil. 1 Dis 1992
Zaharah Pilus. (1992). Making Writing Activities More Meaningful and Interesting.
Jurnal Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Bahasa Jil. 5 Bil. 1 Dis 1992
Zanurin Mohamad Safar. (2010). Learning Anxiety in the EFL Writing Classrooms: Voices of
Malaysian Learners. Proceedings of the International Conference on Linguistics,
Literature and Culture