Thursday, July 19, 2007

Speech is habit-forming

Students who enter college have already developed speech habits which English teachers in college will need to correct. However, the habits are so fossilized that there is very little that the college English professors can do to perform something like "magic" to turn these college students into excellent speakers. It is assuming too much that a 3-unit course in Speech would effect such magic. Speech is habit-forming and habits formed from a very early age are those that stick and are hard or impossible to eliminate. But of course, with an effective Speech teacher there should be some improvement especially in the production of problem sounds. The most that college teachers can do at this stage is to encourage students to communicate in English or boost their confidence is using the language. It is futile to expect wonders in so short a time---one semester against many years of wrong usage? That's expecting the impossible to happen.

I am not saying that a 3-unit subject in Speech is useless. It does help but not much. The most that teachers of this subject can do is to develop students' confidence in communicating with others, especially communicating with a big crowd like in public speaking. After all, correct pronunciation is just one tiny aspect of communication. I've known a number of great public speakers whose way of pronouncing words will make native speakers squirm in their seats but have succeeded in winning the hearts of people through their charm, wit, humor, and spontaneity.

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