To begin with, language is a tool of communication to transfer information. It has obviously distinguished mankind from the rest of the animal world (Barber, Beal, and Shaw:2012). Learning a language is a matter of language acquisition. When we learn a language, it means we make an attempt to acquire a language. That is why you need to know how humans acquire languages.
Language can be acquired by two ways, viz. spontaneous learning and guided learning (Kleine:1986). Since English is not our mother tongue, we need to take a great deal of effort to master it. Therefore English is acquired by guided learning for native Indonesians.
English is a lingua franca in a lot of countries which means English has become a global language nowadays. What is a global language? Crystal (2012:3) describes, that a language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country. Lingua franca can be described as a language for day-to-day public communication in a country whose official language is not English. ‘Sorry’, ‘thank you’, ‘bye’, etc. are commonly used everyday almost all over the world. It is an evident reality that through entertainment a language can influence local culture. Therefore you can also easily find ,quite a few English loanwords in our official language. Wherever you go, even in the countryside, you can easily find English signs and advertisements. Whenever you enter a restaurant, even a roadside shop, there will be an English menu.
According to Crystal (2012:7), a language becoming a global language has little to do with the number of speakers. It is much more to do with who those speakers are. In terms of importance, English holds the first rank in the world rather than Chinese,which has more than a billion people who speak it . Taking the fact into account that English is a global language proves that English is worth studying. In addition, mastering English can even improve your chances of finding better employment.
So, we need to find out the obstacles and barriers in learning English. Because how do we solve the problems if we do not know the reasons? Here are the obstacles in learning English:
- The influence of mother tongue
English is a foreign language for native Indonesians. Mostly, native Indonesians are exposed to one or even two of their own languages at the same time, considering Indonesian citizens are made up from thousands of ethnic groups, each with their own languages. They tend to speak and write these languages by using the Indonesian type of structure.However, English and Indonesian have differences in structure and grammar. In linguistics, we call it relative dominance. It can be coped with practice. Practice makes perfect.
“I’m afraid my friends will make fun of me.”, “I feel insecure to speak English.”, and such kind of insecurities can become barriers for yourself to develop your English skills. Worse still, our culture tends to be cynical towards English because the survival of our language (Bahasa Indonesia) is threatened by the increase in popularity of English. You might want to practice your English skills in English class to keep it alive but it might make a ripple in your circle. People may feel resentful and angry because you speak English and they think that you are trying to look smarter and cocky by speaking English. Indeed, public opinion deems that English is cooler than Indonesian and therefore rank and file are prone to worship foreigners usually Westerners.
- Lack of determination
Taunt, scorn, and insecurity can hinder your progress in learning a language. Lack of determination can also discourage you to develop your skills in it. To keep the motivation going, you can join speech competitions, spelling bees, or debate competitions. You do not need to be the competitor or participant, because you can be only part of the audience or spectators, just to stay motivated.
By observing how the debate competition is being conducted, you will find out several styles of debate, such as British Parliamentary Style, Australia-Asia Parliamentary Style, and Australian Parliamentary Style. Making a debate forum in your leisure time with your teachers and your friends is really an encouraging activity. You have to set a goal to determine yourself. Seriously, blow by blow, step by step, you will be fluent in speaking English and you must take a note that there is no royal road to learning.
The English language is considered to be the foreign language. The term foreign language is used to denote a language acquired in a milieu where it is normally not in use (i.e. usually through instruction), and which, when acquired, is not used by the learner in routine situations (Kleine, 1986:19). We envisage English as a foreign language because we belong to expanding circle country.
Practice your English as much as you can and keep your hand in. Why do you need to practice your skill every day? Because a person can allow his knowledge of English to rust due to lack of practice. Have you ever felt like being bored of studying English? Did you try to improve your English and you just ended up with nothing? Get a little dose of English wherever you are! Here are some tips to improve your English significantly.
1. Try tongue twisters.
A sentence or phrase that is intended to be difficult to say, especially when repeated quickly and often (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). It looks similar but distinct and helps to exercise your articulate muscle. For example:
David’s daughter didn’t dance, but David’s dad did.
Arthur had a mother
And he didn’t want another.
And of the brothers, neither
Wanted sisters either.
The last thing on this earth
They wanted was a birth.
So Arthur’s mother Heather
Got them both together,
And told them all good brothers
Should learn to share their mothers.
Just to mention a few. You can browse it online for more tongue twisters.
2. Think always in English.
You can try to count your allowance, or your groceries when you go shopping in English, describe the situation you are in, and your surroundings. It aims to familiarize yourself with English.
3. Change all your settings on your phone, Facebook, or another accounts into English.
It’s worth trying to set your own language into English. It helps you to contextualize the meaning of the sentence.
4. Try to do the crossword puzzle game everyday.
It helps you to wrack your brain and increase your vocabulary building. You can download crossword puzzle game or play online free.
5. Always have a dictionary at hand.
By dint of today’s modern technological advancement, you do not have to bring manual dictionary in your pocket. Because you can now download dictionary mobile application from official sites. Make sure that you download it from a trusted website since illegal downloading has no guarantee on your dictionary.
6. Crack the book.
Reading is very essential for learners to learn any language, including English. You can read online news to increase your vocabulary and to keep up with recent news as well. You will benefit from doing it.
7. Get a penpal.
By having a penpal, you can share experiences, stories, and make friends. If you or your friend have difficulties in learning English, you can discuss it together and keep giving feedback to each other. You can also do a webcam to practice your speaking skill. A native English speaker is preferred.
8. Write your diary in English.
I used to write my diary in English. Keep writing your diary/agenda/journal even though you write it in Broken English. You can use circumlocution to describe things or your feelings. It will help you to solidify your vocabularyand improve your English skills.
9. Watch English movies.
There are numerous English speaking movies in filming realm. By watching English movies, you can understand spoken English, how English works in daily life, and improve your listening skill as well.
10. Accept constructive criticism.
This is the uppermost tip I have to introduce to you. Striving for perfection is futile without being open to advice. The better you are at doing this, the better you are confident in yourself. This kind of art does not only improve your English proficiency but also improves your emotional competency. As for unconstructive criticism? Just let it go.
So, “I’m always on the go” isn’t an excuse. You can try the aforementioned tips even if you are squeezed for time. Against all the odds, you can make the most of your time. Even though you try them in a small dose, you can gradually improve your English skills. Every little bit helps!
That’s enough for now. Hopefully my sprinkling of knowledge can help others to improve the English proficiency of Indonesian students.
Barbel, Charles. Beal, C. Joan. and Shaw, Phillip.A. (2012). The English language. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Crystal, David. (2012). English as a global language. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Hancock, Mark. (2003). English Pronunciation in Use. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Kleine, Wolfgang. (1986). Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
This revised essay won as the first winner in National English Competition 2013 held by toeflindonesia.com