Analysis of the Real Situation of Teaching Reading Comprehension to First Year Students at the Department of English Language and Literature at Al-Zaytoonah Private University of Jordan

Article excerpt

Abstract

There is a trend in teaching foreign languages that advocates the prime importance of teaching reading as a receptive skill before the other productive skills (listening, speaking, and writing).There is also an increasing feeling among teachers and educators that reading should receive a considerable amount of attention in teaching a foreign language.

Reading is an essential skill for students not only because it is a source of pleasure and getting information but also because it helps them widen and deepen their knowledge of language. Reading in this sense is not the mere mouthing of words and decoding of every word in every sentence. It is rather the activity that enables the students to go deeper and deeper to get the meaning which is intended by the author. It is the activity that depends largely on comprehension. Accordingly, developing reading comprehension is one of the great aims of teaching English. It is reading comprehension that enables students to pursue their studies and to meet their interests in all fields of knowledge. Thus, reading comprehension should receive more emphasis throughout the teaching process.

The importance of this study is to help students realize that they are literary readers and their attempts to go beyond the literal meaning are very limited.

Moreover, this study attempts to make students aware of the fact that reading comprehension is a process of thinking, evaluating, judging, imagining, and problem solving.

The study yields that:

1) First year students lack many important reading comprehension skills which they should have in order to understand fully a piece of writing.

2) The textbook adopted in teaching reading comprehension is mainly designed to help create readers to whom the absorbing of the literal meaning of a piece of writing is the ultimate aim of reading comprehension courses.

3) Little attention is given to teaching other important reading comprehension skills like the inferential and critical ones.

Keywords: Real situation, Teaching reading comprehension, First year students

1. Introduction

To master language is to master its four skills, namely listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Today, especially in designing a foreign language curriculum "... many teachers realize that the skill students need more is reading" (Dublin 1982: 14). According to Rivers (1981: 259) "reading" gives the students "the opportunity to share the thinking of the great minds of another culture and so to widen horizons of their knowledge and understanding". Thiele and Herzic (1983: 277) go beyond this. They consider reading comprehension as a dominant factor in determining whether a learner will be able to master the foreign language or not. They write: " It [reading comprehension] is a pre-requisite for the acquisition of knowledge and may play a dominant role in determining whether a person will ultimately succeed in mastering a foreign language or not."

2. Significance of the study

The importance of this study stems from its attempt to point out that good readers are engaged in the following activities:

1) They actively integrate the text to seek the meaning in the writer's mind.

2) They compare what the writer is saying with their own experience both in life and language.

3) They adjust their reading approach in accordance with the purpose for which they are reading.

4) They delay "the put-down moment" and can tolerate a high degree of incomprehension while they are searching out the meaning.

5) They adjust and revise their views in the light of what they read.

3. Purpose of the study

Viewing the real situation of the first year students, it can be maintained that the students lack most of the characteristics listed above. According to Al-Rufai (1977: 49) Arab readers are "Word by word readers. That is to say, they only pay their attention to pronouncing words without taking into consideration the deep meanings which the writer may want the reader to grasp. …