Selasa, 02 Februari 2010

How do you learn English?

In Indonesia, being an English teacher is considerably a good job. Somehow people in my country think that learning English is dutifully important, either if we are looking for a job or further education. Perhaps it's because we are too lazy to change all computer commands to our language, or we don't bother to translate all devices, manual books, books, songs, even signs of emergency exits in imported trains or planes we have. Very likely so. For teenagers, it sounds like they're on MTV. It makes even a dork look so cool.

Anyway, let's share how we learn English. I know there are methods: from joining an expensive private class by a native English speaker from Oxford/Cambridge to reading a second-hand English dictionary out loud. It depends on how serious, how much time you have, how desperate you are (or how desperate your parents are) and what you can afford. The last one is actually the least, I'm going to tell you why.

In my home village, there was an English teacher who opened a class for free in the evening. Why did she do that? She actually wanted the children to sing Christmas carols in church on Christmas day in English. So she taught us English. This is my first exposure to English and I wasn't very young either (I know some parents nowadays try to talk English to their toddlers and put them to English nursing class or ask the babysitter to speak English etc.). I was 14 years old and never before in my life had I got any English lesson. I have to say that I enjoyed the lesson very much. I remembered those cards with pictures saying: banana, tomato, ear, nose, ball, and so forth.

A year later, because my Mom is a bit advanced in mind regarding my education (in her opinion, if my grandpa a.k.a her Dad sings a very good English song while he is in the toilet, why not her daughter?), I was forced -well, at that time I still considered watching a full episode of Knight Rider was more important than anything- to join a local English course. I was lucky. This place, although is in a small town of Pekalongan, has a very good quality of language teaching. Most students from this course have no difficulty at all to any English exams at school. If not to say that they are very much in advance to normal school's curriculum. This course basically was a foundation of my English. It wasn't a famous language school by all means, no native speaker or anything foreign, no international standard whatsoever. It's so down to earth that it's easy for a native Indonesian (especially from the countryside) to grasp the lessons.

It's very common for Indonesians to know English but have little confidence to speak it. I suggest that working abroad and traveling will sort this problem out. If you're on your own in a foreign place, you have to talk to survive. If we work, we'll earn something and we don't have to pay a class. These are examples where I learnt English:
  • from British advertisement. Once, when asked, "How was the food?" I would just nod or say "good," Since I heard some commercial breaks on TV, now I can say, "Oh, it's very tasty and nourishing, definitely scrumptious!"
  • from a second-hand book stores. They usually have some collections of Adrian Mole series by Sue Towsend. In this book I found the words "barmy", "mongrel", "stick insect", "plonker", "berk", "prat", "daft" and "dork". They're quite useful sometimes.
  • from the signposts. I learnt the meaning of: "cycle dismount" "humps in 30 meters" "cul-de-sac" "pedestrian crossing" "public pathway" "car boot sale" and so on.
  • from the cookery books I used for cooking at work. I learnt some words like saute, roast, grill, simmer, sizzle, stew, toast, steam, thaw, etc and also the difference between fold and mix, oven and microwave (this is serious!), frying pan and saucepan, kettle and casserole. Oh, not to forget many names of the cooking gizmos: colander, apple corer, baster, egg timer, potato peeler, sieve, spatula, whisk, wok, mortar and pestle, etc.
  • from the garden. I've learnt the names of some vegetables: aubergine, swiss chards, squash, white pumpkin, white radish, horseradish, beetroot, etc. And also some herbs: coriander, dill, fenugreek, rosemary, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, star anise, turmeric, and so on.
  • from the road/supermarket: "Are you alright, love?", "Cheers, love!" instead of "How are you?" and "Thank you!"
  • from the table : "Could you pass me the salt please?" and if someone offer me anything I should response "Yes, please" or "No, thank you," instead of merely saying yes or no. It's more polite, they said.
  • from everyday conversation: Instead of saying: help! Now I know I should say: "Do you mind?" or "Would you mind?" and if you want to help, the answer is "No" not "Yes".
So, I think now I'm speaking English. It's not quite a standard English, but understandable. At least by myself. Now I'm improving my English by doing crossword puzzle. What is the answer for untouched-smaller version of the harpsichord (8 letters)?

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