As a university student, I can vouch for the fact that a good teacher will contribute towards producing a good student.
English is an international language. Therefore, there is no question of its significance.
Learning and mastering English is not easy, especially for those whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia and who are raised in an atmosphere where all communication is in BM.
This group naturally does not have an interest in learning English.
This is where the teachers come in. They should apply various types of skills to make the learning of English interesting.
In Malaysia, most subjects are taught only for the purpose of passing examinations. For the English subject, the stress is on writing rather than speaking skills. To master English, one should be good in both writing and speaking.
Unfortunately, what I see now is that some students are good in writing -- for instance, they can write good essays -- but when it comes to speaking, they fail.
It might be due to lack of self-confidence. I believe that it is better for someone to speak English with incorrect grammar than not speak it at all. The listener could help correct the grammar and help the speaker improve. Practice makes perfect.
Freedom of speech should be applied in learning sessions. For instance, they should try to relate the learning process to current issues in the country. They should allow students to voice their opinions and views whether they are right or wrong. Just let the students speak as much as they can in English.
Teachers can start using newspapers to polish up students' skills. Ask students to bring newspapers and choose any article they like. This way, students will be more focused and pay more attention.
Then, ask them to highlight any word that they do not understand and try to look up the meaning in the dictionary. This will definitely widen their vocabulary.
This method had really helped me improve my English when I was in school.
The government's move to employ English teachers from overseas is a great idea. It will definitely help local teachers and students to be exposed to native English language speakers.
But at the end of the day, it is the students themselves who need to want to learn English because of the benefits it will bring them.
NOR MAHIRA MAHMOD, Rawang, Selangor firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The NST Home Letters to Editor 2011/08/23