According to the website at freeenglishnow.com, “Students universally complain because ESL does not teach them to speak English. It can’t. ESL principally teaches two things (language memory and visual memory) and only one of these is required in speech. At its very best, ESL partially teaches only one of the three essential elements required in spoken language.” (http://freeenglishnow.com/why-esl-does-not-work)
Despite this claim, English as a Second Language (ESL) is taught in schools around the world without any serious challengers to its status as the default method for training those whose native tongue is not English to reach proficiency in English in the shortest period of time possible. Part of the reason why ESL is the undisputed method leader is because there is no standardized ESL curriculum. All ESL classes are different as teachers often edit their curriculum to deal with the specific language needs of their students.
Does the claim that ESL doesn’t teach students to speak English hold any weight, and if it does, does it matter? In my professional opinion, the claim is legitimate but the purpose of ESL is not to train students to speak the language in the first place.
Learning a language is hard work. I lived in Brazil for two years and did the best I could to learn to speak Portuguese (I didn’t speak a word of it before moving there.) I found that it was much easier for me to understand what others were saying around me and to read the language than it was to speak it back to my Portuguese-speaking neighbours. In fact, by the end of my time in Brazil I was able to have limited conversations with Brazilians who had some knowledge of English if they spoke to me in Portuguese and I spoke to them in English. There is just so much more to speaking a language than knowing the vocabulary, as the folk at freeenglishnow.com are quick to point out.