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English in My Life

Updated on June 11, 2010
Photo by courtesy of Denny Saloon
Photo by courtesy of Denny Saloon

Like to many of you, English is not my mother tongue. It is a foreign language to me. When I was a little girl, I was always amazed by kids in a film having a chit-chat in a language that I didn’t understand at all what they were talking about, and yet, I sometimes acted as if I was one of them. Probably, that feeling had driven me having excitement in learning English even though at that time I had no idea whether the film was in English or in another foreign language.

It was my late father who introduced me by chance to English words. He loved reading. For that, in his spare time he went downtown to buy some used-books from street vendors. Someday, my father came home and brought some used books where I found an English book of fairy tales among others. I couldn’t read even its title, for sure, since I was at second grade of my primary school, but I found some interesting pictures in it and some keywords on the outer column of each page. So, I chose a picture and asked my father to read the story about it. I sat down side by side with him and he began to read a full sentence in a deep voice and then gave me its translation. Once in a while he got stuck in the meaning of a word, and so he opened English – Indonesian dictionary in order to figure it out. That was my first English reading session as well as my first experience to know how to use dictionary. Ever since, reading English become our regular agenda whenever my father was at home.

I was too big for fairy tales actually, but I didn’t mind and I loved them, instead. My favorite one was A Little Red Coat Girl. I asked my father to read it over and over again until I could memorize the sound of many words of the story. Since my father was a field trainer in military, he had quite often to go on duty for couple days or even weeks. When he was away and I missed him, I always took the fairy tale book and read my favorite story in my little voice until I got tired and fell asleep. My father caught me in the act for many times and then he considered that it would be better for me (maybe for him too!) to let me read over the fairy tales on my own rather than he did it for me. You are completely right if you think that I did a lot of mistakes in my reading at that time, but I wasn’t aware of that and so I didn’t feel bothered.

My second English session was a formal curriculum of English class in Junior High School. My teacher, a lovely lady, carried it out in an interesting way. We, the students, would heard her voice singing: “children show your fingers,.......” before we saw her entering our classroom, and then she showed up raising her hands: ”.. .how many do you have?”. Then we counted our right hand fingers in a song:”one, two, three, four, five fingers....”, and continued to our left hand fingers:”...six, seven, eight, nine, ten fingers. Five fingers on my right, five fingers on my left, we all clap hand together,”. That was our first song, and then the class began. It was for twice of 2 hours a week, as I remembered.

I got my third English session when I was in Senior High School. I did have English class and it was fine, but I found that Germany class much more influenced my English, instead. In class, our Germany teacher always gave us a quick test by giving some students Germany words and they should respond him with the meaning of the words in English. On purpose of preparing myself for the test, everyday I picked up 5 Germany words to be memorized and look for their meaning in English. To make me easy in doing so, at the beginning I chose Germany words alike English ones and through the session I worked on vocabulary building of both Germany and English. Oh...well, I was just a student on average and so, you know...., in terms of vocabulary building, when I tried to memorize 5 words on the first day, I lost about 2 words on the next day as I added other 5 new words.

The following session of my English learning is the last and a never ending session. That is about practising my ability in English. I got my best practice in reading thanks to my acquaintance with British Council Library as my friend once asked me to join her to accompany her mother to that library. Later on I became a member of the library and so I had an access to all reading materials there. Sometimes I found in my readings a very impressive way to say something in a statement. When I met this kind of a statement, I usually made a copy of the statement, learnt its grammatical structure, and gave myself a try to build another statement in that structure.

My best practice in listening derived from my experience as a movie-goer. That was a long time ago when I got an opportunity to go to the Netherlands for couple months. Someday my Dutch colleague and I went to watch an English speaking movie which was on the play. We entered the room, soon the movie was started and it got me into surprise: “, how can I get clues to the whole story of the movie whereas the subtitle’s in Dutch.?” Usually, I followed the story of the movie through reading subtitles on the lower part of the screen, and unfortunately in this case, I just knew a few Dutch words. So, I abondaned the subtitles and focused myself on the conversation during the play in order to catch the story in detail. That was the most exhausting watching movie I ever had, and changed my habit of enjoying English speaking movie ever after.

All those experiences which I have been through are worth my while, for sure, and I really feel fortunate to get all of them. Nevertheless, I would say that, to my opinion, best of the best practices in exercising your English is to stay for a while within native English speaking community wherein you could figure out whether your English is grammatically correct and culturally accepted.


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