READING FOR WHAT PURPOSE?


FIRMAN PARLINDUNGAN

Graduate Program of English Education, Islamic University of Malang, Indonesia

A.   Reading in the FL Classroom

Reading in FL learning is often used for purposes which are different from those found in mother-tongue learning. The most typical use of reading in a foreign language class is to teach the language itself. The typical text in a FL course book is one that helps the teacher to present or practice specific linguistic items-vocabulary, structures, etc.

 B.   Reading and Language Improvement

The authentic purposes of reading are often submerged by the purpose of language improvement. Language improvement is the central purpose of the language learner. The author of this book wants command of the language that it is usually something like to deal with overseas customers or to keep up to date with current research in nuclear physics. The purpose has nothing to do with the language as such; the language is merely the means of achieving a non-linguistic purpose.

 C.   Characteristics of FL Textbooks

One common feature of this course is that the material does not consist of texts at all, even short ones, but is rather a series of disconnected sentences. These may be used to practice the skill of decoding but they are useless for practicing any higher level skills. There are still many courses in use with some of these defects:

  1. Texts are often contrived and distorted because of these desire to include numerous examples of a particular teaching item.
  2. Texts often reflect spoken rather that written usage. This is not serious problem, though the two styles of language are different.
  3. The common in FL courses are texts which deal with over familiar topics.
  4. Many FL texts are over explicit.
  5. FL texts are guilty of having virtually nothing to say; the writer is so absorbed by the need to include certain language items that the need for the text to have a message is over locked.

 D.   Language Lessons and Reading Lessons

In this sub topic, the author concerns to be aware of the effect of quality of texts used with FL learners that it has procedures used in lessons based on texts: they are more often lessons on pronunciation, vocabulary or structure than reading lessons. Giving a lesson based on a text is not the same thing as giving a reading lesson: most of the skills practiced are probably not reading skills at all.

The difference between language lessons and reading lessons is that the type of text is used likely to be different. In reading lesson the students need to use texts that have been written not to teach language but for any of the authentic purposes of writing: to inform, to entertain, etc.

Even if the language has been modified to suit the level of the learners, the purpose of the text must be first and foremost to convey a message.

The procedures have to be different, because the aim of the reading lesson is to develop the students’ ability to extract the message the text contains. So, the different kinds of text make different demands on the reader, the procedures used in reading lessons will also have to be varied.

 E.   Aims of Reading Programmed

There are some lines:

To enable students to read without help unfamiliar authentic texts, at appropriate speed, silently and with adequate understand

From these lines can be described:

  1. To enable students: The teacher can only try to promote ability in the student; the student cannot pass on the ability itself.
  2. To read without help: we can seldom expect help with the reading tasks we undertake in real life outside the classroom. Teacher’s job as a teacher is to make his or her own help unnecessary.
  3. Unfamiliar texts: being able to read the texts the student has read in class is not enough; the student as the reader must be able to tackle texts that he or she has never seen before. This implies that it is more useful to read two texts once each rather than one text twice.
  4. Authentic texts: the reading skill is of no practical use unless it enables us to read texts we actually require for some authentic purpose. However, the stage at which authentic texts are introduced will need to be decided according to the students’ command of the language.
  5. Appropriate speed: it is not always appropriate to concentrate on reading fast; a flexible speed is the sign of a competent reader. But students should prefer to read fast if they can do it without loss of effectiveness.
  6. Silently: People seldom need to read aloud except in the classroom. Because it is useful in the early stages of FL learning. This means that too little time is given to developing the skill of silent reading.
  7. With adequate understanding: in this step the flexibility is really required.

 F.    The Role of the Teacher

            Reading involves skills that the student must learn for himself, and that the measure of the teacher’s success is how far the student learns to do without his help. Conscious development of reading skills is important because it is obviously impossible for us to familiarize our students with every text they will ever want to read. So, the teacher must give them techniques for approaching texts of various kinds to be read for various purposes.

 G.   Intensive and Extensive Reading

Intensive and extensive reading is reading for accuracy, reading for fluency. These are certainly more informative but still do not reflect all the purposes served by each type of reading. Intensive and extensive reading is complementary and both are necessary, as well as other approaches which perhaps fit into neither category.

Intensive reading involves approaching the text under the close guidance of the teacher. The aim is to arrive at a profound and detailed understanding of the text; not only what it means but also of how the meaning is produced.

 

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