Semantic Problem: Ambiguity in EFL Classroom

For a teacher, classroom is more than a place to share knowledge but a field to research. That problem develops between teacher and student is a noteworthy subject to research. Practically, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching and learning may potentially lead to many problems including communication. Since communication is the biggest reason people learn a language, different proficiency of language in conversation may sometimes cause ambiguity. So, let’s take a closer look on what happen exactly.

People communicate to each other should be meaningful and so does students. If not, communication must be an idle talk. In classroom setting, ambiguity in communication is commonplace problems for EFL learners. For instances, struggling upon vocabularies they are unfamiliar with when talking to each other in discussion or to the teacher. This is accommodated by different level of proficiency in that language they use.

Semantics, the study of meaning, identifies many factors that develop any problem in communication. In very basic, ambiguity can be a result of a disconnection in between components of semiotic triangle. The semiotic triangle suggests that speaker’s mind can only be meaningful to the listener’s mind if the words used by the speaker is understood just the same way the listener does to the words in his world. Thus, if one out of three components there is disconnected, ambiguity will be the result after all or precisely saying misunderstanding.

In ideal English use, students who are still struggling with vocabulary will more likely attempt harder to understand teacher’s talk. Once the teacher recognized that students could not understand after some repetitions, teacher tried to develop student’s understanding through depicting the sense of certain vocabulary at which students got trouble with. As result, the students eventually could understand after they can imagine those words described by the teacher.

If we look at the case above within the approach of semiotic triangle, we can understand that student’s misunderstanding was caused by the picture (world) seen through the words teacher used was different to what in student’s mind. Repetition seemed to be in vein but when it came to the description student could develop more imagination upon vocabulary the teacher stated beforehand. It then accommodates the understanding itself.

Phenomenon above cannot be seen easily always in that state however for it has to be many factors should be contributing to any cases outside there. Looking at the hearth, in my opinion, ambiguity or just misunderstanding is somehow unavoidable but such issue could be easily tackled once one encountered that problem is understanding better in semantics.

Last saying, special thanks for the inspiration, our semantics teacher [lecture], Pandu Prasodjo.

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