Malaysians have learnt English since primary school which makes a total number of 11 years of learning the language. Everybody starts learning from letters, pronunciation, syllables and gradually move up to a higher level to identifying words, constructing sentences which will eventually lead to a paragraph and an essay. Everyone is learning English but only some students by the end of the 11 years of study seem to be proficient in the language. Why does this happen? Ditch the theories about right or left brain dominance…
Reality reveals that in our daily lives we often use our mother tongue. Indeed it is still important for Malaysians to be proficient in Malay language but it doesn’t hinder you from learning other languages. To be good in another language (far from being excellent as linguists) is to practice because language is a skill. It is not to be memorized but it is to be applied in your life regularly. Some students may ask me how they can improve their English. I will ask them back, how did you learn your mother tongue?
This reoccurring question doesn’t bother me; at least it gets the students to think about what they should do. So, what should you do to improve yourself in terms of learning another language (either English or Arabic)? The answer to the question is easier said than done. All you need to do is practice. Practice all the skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening. Grammar can be learnt according to the situation, the purpose and can be learnt implicitly. You must have effort and motivation to learn and succeed.
My observation shows that students are talking with friends, but they are talking in Malay. As for my class students, they know that I’ll fine them, so in the end, they put a pause in the conversation until I leave. This occurs every year no matter which course, medic, dental students, science, law or accountancy students. Then, they have their mp3’s or 4 but I know that they listening to a malay station or malay songs rarely do they listen to an English station. When it comes to reading, they love reading metro and neglects The Star. These are routines in our daily life, the simple things that can be applied with some effort. So if these simple things are carried out in such manner, the other things you do in life will probably end up in the same way. How can you improve yourself when these basic simple things are left out and done in a manner that you are secured and suitable with. You need to change.
Change requires effort and willingness. A positive change is good for the personal growth. So don’t be reluctant to speak in the language, consider it a part of your learning process. Overcome your shyness or fear of making mistakes. Learn and improvise on it. Find small opportunities to communicate, read and listen to materials in the language. Learning a language is Easy as E is indeed for EFFORT.