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Learning needs environment change

THIS is in response to the letter “Make it natural for students to learn the language” (NST, Oct 9).

When I was young, I always questioned my father on why I needed to go to school when nobody teaches the sun to rise every morning.

Nobody teaches the tree to grow but it still grows and its fruit feeds the hungry all over the world. Who teaches them to do things when they do not go to school?

My father’s response to these questions was that our environment and surroundings are the best teachers in the world.

Language is not something that teachers teach and students learn, but it is a natural development at every age.

As long as English is a second language, it is an option for people to learn the language and effectively use it.

It does not mean a student who “learns” the language will be able to “use” the language efficiently.

An experiment was done in which a baby was left with a herd of goats, with a nanny goat as its surrogate mother.

Throughout the child’s growth, researchers realised that the boy was bleating and communicating with the goats.

That is how language is picked up. This is how “natural” language is picked up.

There is no way to “make” the process natural.

The mere fact that you are “making” something makes it unnatural altogether.

The environment has to change for language proficiency to change in Malaysia. The first environmental change that needs to take place is that English is not a second language in Malaysia.

English should be the medium or language of communication with Bahasa Malaysia being our mother tongue.

Then, we can have Mandarin, Tamil and other languages as second languages or cultural languages. This makes it a natural process for everyone to use these languages at home.

As long as English is a second language, it is an option for people to learn the language and effectively use it.

The natural process of using English effectively is also deterred because learning it would be a choice. A natural learning curve starts with the question “why”.

Children start early by irritating parents with the question “Why do I have to school?” They are looking for reasoning. How many students know the reason for learning the language?

By students not knowing this, the natural learning process is disturbed. Why should I do something when I do not know what I am doing? Language comes with culture, history, fun and change.

And, this can be achieved through a language and literature integrated curriculum. This is because the literature component answers the why and the language part gets all technical aspects of the language sorted.

When they are exposed with this balance, naturally proficiency of English will increase because they know why they are doing something. Not everyone can be teachers and not everyone can teach.

It is not the training institutes that need to be checked. It is the fact that in Malaysia, everyone can be teachers. We have engineers, bio- technicians, doctors, etc, becoming teachers.

It doesn’t mean that just because you speak English, you can teach the language. Why is it that English teachers cannot become engineers or doctors?

The pride of the teaching profession has decreased because people are not doing things that come naturally to them.

So, when you have an English language teacher who was a trained physician, how is the natural process of learning going to happen for students?

When the deterioration of language happens, it comes with the deterioration of culture, moral, ethics and character because these are the elements that come with a language.

It was never a standalone subject to be learnt. Other unnatural elements need to change to regain normality. Improve language and everything culturally, morally, ethically will naturally be changed.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

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