My Experience In Learning Second and Foreign Languages
Many people learn foreign or second languages for several purposes. In many countries, it is a must for students. In my countries learning English is officially a must, and for Muslim people learning Arabic is ethically a must as well.
In Indonesia English is one of obligated subjects in school, even in an Islamic school. In my village it becomes crazier nowadays. Most students in kindergarten must learn English as like students in elementary school. It is not allowed actually, but many school administrators do not obey the curriculum. They tend to fulfill the need of the students’ parents. Most parents think having children who can speak a foreign language is a pride.
Whereas, the local language is not easy to learn. In my hometown people speak Madura. Many people can not speak Madura properly included me. I learned it when I was in elementary and junior high school, and more intensive in the Islamic school. Students of Islamic school must have good understanding of the local culture. They should speak Madura properly. I forgot some words of this language when I moved to another town because I use Indonesian and Java language more.
It was about a year ago the new ministry of education developed a new curriculum that is called curriculum 2013. In this curriculum, students of elementary school may not learn any foreign language. They must muster their own language (Indonesian) well before study another language. However, not all people agree with this change. It means that most parents want their children can speak foreign language, especially English. They think it is important for their future, for their study. The fact, many teachers and lecturers suggest student to read foreign books. To do this, students must be able to read English texts.
I started learning English when I was in the third grade of elementary school when I moved to another school in another town Jenggawah elementary school, but it was no longer. I went back to my village and continue in my former school. In this school there was not English lesson. To keep in touch with English I read the workbooks that I got from Jenggawah elementary school. It was only one chapter. Finally, when I was in the sixth grade I got an English book, but there was no teacher to teach English. I tried to learn by myself. I still remember, I understood the using of “The”. It was my own understanding.
My brother who had studied in junior high school told me that he got English lesson. It made me more passionate to continue study in junior high school. I thought I would be able to speak English fluently like native speaker just by studying several months in junior high school. I really wanted it. I brought dictionary every day. I read English texts every day. I tried to get in touch with English, though it was so hard even almost impossible for a student in a village like me. I studied without any enough educational facilities. Moreover, the English teacher was giving me less practice. She just explained the grammar rules like explaining philosophy or biology.
I memorized all the grammar rules that I got from books and my teacher, but it did not give me significant improvement. I changed the way I learned English from reading to translating, to memorizing words, to reading aloud, to writing and so on. I even use certain English words when writing everything, even when I wrote a note about the Indonesian language lesson.
One day one of my friends told me that he had a friend who could speak English fluently, though she was still a third year student in junior high school. It inspired me. Then I made a target to be like her next two years. I was struggling, but I found no significant improvement.
After graduation, I continued studying in vocational school (Electrical school) in 2002 in another town Jember, and I stayed in an Islamic boarding school. A miracle came in the second year. My senior and his friend from Muhammadiyah University came to teach English for free. I and nine of my friends were interested in that program. Then we moved to a special room, a room special for English area. We made an agreement to speak English for 24 hours in that area. Someone who broke the rule would get punished. We kept silent in the first day, talking like mute people.
However, it took no longer we were running the program I realized that I had been able to speak English with my friends. It was a surprise. It was approximately two weeks only. Then, I became more spirit to master English. I even bought a tape recorder to practice listening skill. Unfortunately, it was no longer running because we were busy with our own stuff. We prepared for our graduations. Then, I forgot English and could not speak anymore.
In 2008 I continued studying in a university. I took English teaching program. I thought it was a good place to learn English. Unfortunately, I could not keep in touch with English in this university. I could not speak and write English after studying for three months. I decided to move to another program, but the administrator did not allow me. He said it was too late.
I continued studying English without enough facilities. I went to one library to another, even to the library in another town just to get enough resources. Fortunately, at the beginning of 2012 my father bought me a laptop. I thank so much to him as I had been more than five years struggling to be a writer without any computer. I just wrote with pen or pencil.
It was the beginning I got internet connection in my own room, not in public internet service anymore. I made more friends through Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Blog, Google Plus with people from other countries. I got a good friend from Russia. She was a private English teacher for about six years. I was so lucky. She was free every day, except in the afternoon. We made a video call almost every day, even for about a half day.
This practice gave me significant improvement. I could speak more fluent. I was so happy. I tried to get more and more friends from other countries and practiced English. I also wrote in English. I made some blogs. I practiced English almost every day. I spoke and wrote English more and more. Even I decided to do online business. I joined some affiliate programs.
Unfortunately, I got trouble with my study in university. It made me could not focus on improving my speaking and my writing skill. I found the fact that it was not easy to find a job with good salary. My friends who had graduated from university and became teachers, their salaries were only about $ 5 a month. It was so terrible, but I didn’t want to give up.
I told one of my lecturers about my passion to become a writer, but she looked down on it. It hurt me. She questioned me what the advantages of becoming a writer. Fortunately, I had many friends in writers association. They were my second family who always supported me to keep writing.
In the middle of 2012 I left that university before graduation and teaching in another town. It was about 200 kilometers away from my hometown. I got good salary. It was about $ 60. I got free accommodation and three times meals a day. But, it was in a remote area. I didn’t get good internet connection. It needed an expensive quota to get good internet speed. It meant I should use most of my salary for internet connection only.
After a year I resigned from that school and came to a village which was known as English village. I was teaching in English Course special for speaking. I got free accommodation and about $ 100 salary without any meal. I spoke English almost all the time because it was full day English program. I stayed with the students. I accompanied them to speak English. Most of the students were university students, even master degree students, doctor, nurse, pilot, etc.
However, I resigned again after four months. It was so stressful job because without any management. I became a teacher, manager, cleaning service, security, and so on. Oh my God! But, it gave me so many experiences. My English was getting better though had not achieved the standard yet.
That was my story. I got a lot of ideas to learn second and foreign languages. I have known a lot of mistakes and known the good way. Then, I will try to learn other languages with good methods based on my experiences. One of those good ways is that when I learned Javanese language with my cousin. I just spoke directly with him and asked him to use Indonesian language when I didn’t understand certain words. It was only about two weeks I could speak Javanese.
I get the reason why it takes longer to master English in school, it is because the students learning about the language (language as subject of study). They don’t only learn how to use the language (language as a tool of social). They must learn all skills at once with less practice. Without any practice, it is almost impossible to master second or foreign languages.
I can speak Madura, Javanese, Indonesian, and English now. But, I can only write use Indonesian and imperfect English. Practice makes my skill get better while grammar understanding helps me how to learn. Now I plan to study Spanish and German.