Wednesday, 29 August 2012

If You Don't Use it You Lose It! English,Your Window to the World (Wadah Siswa 1/2012)

My first article in Wadah Siswa/Issue 1/2012. Happy reading :)

Learning to speak English well may be the best thing you can do to improve your life. It is not just a subject you need to learn in school but it is an international language you need to master simply because it is the most widely spoken language in the world. That’s right. Do you know that at least 2.2 billion people speak the language? It is also used as the mother tongue and the official language in at least 70 counties around the world, 95% of scientific articles are in English and it is the official language used in the United Nations and the Olympics (Crystal, D English as a Global Language, Google Books, p4, p65 an d These facts alone show that the English Language is a language you cannot ignore. You have to master it in order to amass a lot of information and knowledge especially in science and technology. You just cannot afford to ignore this language.  English is your window to the world. In Malaysia, English is the second language after Bahasa Melayu. Our education system places a lot of importance on the language in order to become a successful nation. It is also a compulsory subject to learn in primary and secondary schools. Getting a good grade in English is no longer considered a bonus or an advantage but it is a must! If you can speak and write well in English, it opens many doors to better opportunities in life. Let us look at the opportunities:
  • Get access to knowledge -What are you interested in? Sports? Music? Gadgets? Entertainment? We live in an information age but unfortunately most of this information or knowledge is in English. Just look around you. Today’s media such as the internet, television and newspapers can provide you with unlimited access to knowledge about your interests but you must have a good command of the language to be able to access them. There are over a billion web pages that are in English for you to gather unlimited information on any topic. A person who has knowledge has an advantage over the other.  The saying ‘knowledge is power’ is true but you need to master English first in order to get access to knowledge. Can you imagine how much learning one language can do to your life?
  • Communicate with people - English is the language of communication. More and more people are learning the language especially in China. China has recently decided to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of learning English to its citizens. They do not have a choice because with the booming economy China is experiencing now, business and trade transactions require English as a medium of communication. After all, English is the language diplomats form different countries use to communicate with each other and the language used for almost all international competitions such as the Olympics.  If you can converse well in English, you can speak confidently and talk about your ideas and opinions to others around the world. You can travel easily and communicate with people on the streets or ask for help.  
  • Give your career a push- Don’t just dream of that good job in a business or technology company! Start learning English now! Once you have a good level of proficiency, you will it easy to write yourself a good resume, gain technical knowledge or be a world-class businessman or businesswoman. You can also upgrade your skills by learning computer skills that are mainly in English. This will definitely push you career prospects once you jump into the world of career.
  • Enjoy literature and the arts- With a respectable command of English, you will be able to enjoy reading great books by famous authors such as Charles Dickens and the more modern author such as J.K Rowling of the Harry Porter series. Reading a book is not the same as watching a movie. Many details are left out in a movie but you will find a good book a good read. In addition, there is a wide choice of movies to watch particularly American movies. A strong command in English will also help you understand and enjoy songs better because you understand the words.

How do you learn English?
Here are some simple tips:

  • Get rid of that shyness!
You are being shy for the wrong reason. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- people may laugh at you sometimes for mispronouncing a word of two but that is the way to learn. Mistakes are really opportunities for you to improve yourselves. Think of it this way- how can we ever learn English or any other language for that matter if we don’t make mistakes? Even Thomas Elva Edison had to make approximately 1000 mistakes before he could come up with the electrical bulb we are using now! He was not sacred of making mistakes. In the same way, do not be afraid to make mistakes while learning English. Your teachers will help you in class and you should make the most of your English lessons in school.

  • Invest in a good dictionary
Get a current dictionary and not one that you have had for years because the list of words increases all the time. A good dictionary is preferably an English-to- English dictionary but there is nothing wrong in getting a bilingual dictionary if it helps. If you can afford it, get an electronic dictionary which is light and handy to be brought to class. Having a reliable dictionary will help you deal with difficult words and look at good sample sentences on how to use the words.

  • Read, read, read!
Reading is the key to acquiring English besides speaking. You need to develop a love for reading all types of materials in English from newspapers to novels. Newspapers are the cheapest source of reading material costing only about RM1.50. Find the section you like most such as sports and start reading. It is not hard to do. It is hard when you read something you do not like.

  • Keep a journal
Make a difference in your student life. Keep a journal or diary in English. You can record your personal thoughts, reflections and events regularly. This will increase your contact with English outside school hours. On top of that, keeping a journal will motivate you to write your inner thoughts and feelings without any inhibitions.

  • Listen to good speakers of English
They could be your own English teacher, classmates, a news reader on television and radio, an actress or a broadcaster. The main thing is to be exposed to good models of the language as much as possible. One way you can learn English is to watch the English news on your favourite TV channel. It is not expensive at all.

  • Use the language
How many English words do you speak in a day? Ask yourself this question every day and make an effort to speak in English daily. You can do this by having simple conversations with your friends and classmates in the classroom, at the canteen or during sports practice sessions in the field. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it!

  • Be patient
Learning a second language is not the same as learning a first language such as Bahasa Melayu. You must be patient in learning the rules of grammar and the fours skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Take it one step at a time. The saying goes that ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ Hence, be open-minded and be ready to learn.

           English is easy to learn. You can do it!

The Thinking Teacher

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