Mark Pilling teaches English to workers in the oil industry
in Qatar and, in response to several recent exchanges on the
TESL-L mailing list regarding the usefulness of reading aloud
as a classroom activity, he has some unique insights which suggest
that ESL/EFL professionals might better rethink our predisposition against such activities.
See also related articles on warnings against reading out loud
as well as suggested lessons incorporating the activity.
I too appreciate the comments of John Harbord and subsequent advocates
regarding reading aloud, and, working in a culture where schooling placed
great emphasis on reading aloud, especially in language learning, I used
to go to lengths to de-emphasise this expectation and increase the focus
and time spent on silent reading, comprehension and other activities to
practice and develop speaking skills.
However, I have come to realise that reading aloud does have a place and
value and would like to share my thoughts.
Firstly, my learners enjoy reading aloud and listening to others read
aloud; moreover they are disappointed if there are few opportunities to do
so. Whilst I may not regard this as intrinsically worthwhile, if it is
used as a spring-board for further activities and helps the learners
appreciate their lessons more, I no longer consider a bit of reading aloud
to be a waste of time.
Secondly, and importantly, I've become aware that at work, in the oil
industry, my learners are not infrequently asked to read aloud. Field
workers read data over the telephone or walkie-talkie. The daily log is
read out at the beginning of shift. Instructions and Work Permit details
are read out. Office based staff read minutes of meetings, memos,
circulars, letters, extracts of reports and contract documents, etc. to
Furthermore, the ability to communicate in English is important for our
employees' appraisals and critical for their promotion possibilities.
Regularly it seems that appraisers, especially those who do not work
closely with the appraisee, will judge his or her ability in
English on their ability to read aloud.
Indeed, perhaps there is more reading aloud to communicate than we think.
"It says here ' .....' ".
By Mark Pilling
2002 ESL MiniConference Online