Environment vital in learning a language – education veteran


KOTA KINABALU: The learning environment is also vital in the learning of a second language, besides the students’ interest and teaching method, said education veteran Datuk Chau Tet On.

“A majority of our local students cannot master a second language, say English, simply because they do not have the environment or opportunity to practise or use that language,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Apart from English lessons in schools, learning the language also depended on the interest of the student, whether the student reads supplementary books, newspapers, magazines and so on.

He pointed out that students who went overseas to study naturally learnt other secondary languages such as Cantonese, Japanese or English as they were forced to communicate in other languages.

The seven English periods of 40 to 45 minutes each is insufficient, Chau said.

“We encourage students to form language clubs, take part in speech and debate contests or sing English songs.”

While learning English grammar or writing is important, Chau said students should be provided with an environment to converse in English.

During his secondary school years, Chau said he knew how to read and write in English, but not speak in the language. He eventually learned to master the language as he started teaching.

He further said the work environment also played a role in this issue, as a person who entered a bumiputra firm would not have much opportunity to converse in English and vice versa.

Chau was responding to the order from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to the English Language Curriculum Division to have a relook at the learning of the language in schools to ensure students can master English as a second language.

Muhyiddin said mastery of the English Language was important because it was the main language in international communication and the economy.