Do You Practice Your English?


Do You Practice Your English?
It’s the Ultimate Question
By Dwi Panggah Wiji Harjo

     Years ago, Diller (1971) has already stated that the history of foreign language teaching often appears to have been a history of failure. Not many students of foreign languages ever achieve full bilingual proficiency. They could only get to the level of “minimum professional proficiency” in speaking and reading. We also have known that there have been several different methods of foreign language teaching which have been carried out: Audio-lingual Method, Rationalist Approach, Direct Method, and Communicative Approach. They have created stories of successes and failures. But in spite of the widespread failure of foreign language learning and teaching, there have been language learners who have spectacular success at becoming bilingual. Not mentioning which method has been the best for them in their foreign language learning, they must have worked hard for achieving their level of English.
Can you imagine entering an English class with more than 30 students who most of them are there not willingly to study? It would be such a sorrowful moment. I just do not understand they have spent their time in the classroom not for studying; their parents have given their trust for them, yet they come to college not for school work. Instead, some students will not pay attention to the lesson as they are busy with their own daydream, deliberating over their false impression, and even one of them try to “update status” with his mobile phone. When they are asked to do an exercise, they just want to find or cheat it from their friends. Why does this situation happen? It all depends on their motives.
Morgan mentioned that motive is the driving force in the organism to do something and it deals with some factors, which can influence it, called motivation. Moreover, the basic motivational cycle is a driving force, the readiness to move because of the need, environment and mind; instrumental behavior; and goal. In addition, there is also an important factor which supports the cycle that is a cognitive factor.
So, how could the students be motivated to learn English if they are not aware of the use (reward) of mastering it? Don’t they realize that many companies now are looking for employees who active in English? Furthermore, don’t they agree that in this Information Technology (Internet) era English is the main language used? No wonder, in a classroom we often hear, “I am sorry Sir. I don’t know the word. I could not write my ideas.” These were some students’ complaints when they are asked to write. Then, when they are required to speak or perform a presentation, they would say, “Excuse me, I can’t say this in English. Poor me, I can’t memorize those vocabularies.” And on a grammar quiz,” I think I am not able to understand the complicated grammar. Tenses?, Passive Voice? or Conditional Sentence? Come on. Don’t mention them. They make me crazy.” These accusations, which have been observed thousand times, show us that these students are really unhappy in their learning. It also reflects the failure of their studying English. And you know the worst? When the students are required to write and it is taken home then they will do it by Google translate. They write their essay in Bahasa Indonesia then translate it into English by using the tool. Do these sentences make sense? No. Of course not. They are not grammatical.
Moreover, it has been supported clearly by the condition that most classrooms do not give students opportunities to perform their English. The big number of students (usually more than 30) is one of the reasons for teachers not wanting to arrange this performance. They consider about the limited time they have. Most of the students’ activities will only be there for their teachers’ explanation and again, I am afraid the students won’t listen. Thus, whether the students have been in English classes for years they are still in big problems. They will be nervous speaking in front of the class, and afraid of doing written tests; moreover, they will be scared of giving English presentation. Even, in an oral test, when they are asked simple questions, they will be confused of what to say.
In addition this worrying situation is worsened by the reality that English is a foreign language. Consequently, it is almost impossible for the students to expose their English anytime unless they create a condition that enables them to practice their English. Not all of the students are lucky having parents and relatives, who are bilingual; Indonesian and in this case English, so that they can practice English at home. Some of them also do not have friends to practice. Realistically, they only listen and speak (hopefully) in the classroom. Outside the class, it sounds like they are dreaming to have a chance to use English.
If the students realize living in a country which doesn’t provide them chances to use English, they have to create their own ways to practice it. They just can’t grumble that they have no possibility to utilize it but the students should try to find ways to learn. There are some ways to create students’ behavior in learning English. They can make it through conditioning or habit formation. They may create such a condition that they use their English and get the experiences of making mistakes. There is an old proverb “Practice Makes Perfect”. It has also been mentioned that the changing in behavior is a result if practice and experience. So to practice and to experience are the best ways in learning English. Then, the question is, “Do you practice your English?”
When can the students practice? Actually, they can make use of the technology products and other facilities in improving their English. It all depends on the students’ own efforts, though. Are they listening to English songs from their smart phones? Are they watching English movies in XXI? Are they reading English magazines, newspapers or websites? Are they chatting in English? In short, there are some ways that the students can carry out. Firstly, find English TV channels or watch English movies. Secondly, write messages in English. Next, chat or “update status” in English. Hopefully, there will be somebody who may give response. These could lead them into more and more in elaborating their vocabularies. Rather than they only write small words in English such as, BTW (by the way) or CU (see you), why don’t they try to use all the words in English?

Bimo Walgito. 1981. Pengantar Psikologi Umum. Yogyakarta. Andi Offset
Diller, K.C. 1971. The Language Teaching Controversy. Massachusets. Newbury House Publihsers, Inc.

#abridged from the writer’s article published in Gocara Edisi 20/III/Mei 2010

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