Written by Ferdy Maengkom, VDMS Alumnus from State University of Manado (UNIMA), Kupang.

Why English matters

The English language has become the most widely used language in the world despite being number two in the List of Languages by Total Number of Speakers (both native and second language speakers) after Chinese in top position (source: ethnologue.org). English is listed as the official language in International organizations such as The European Free Trade Association, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and even Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). English is also the standard communication used in Aviation and Seafaring.

Often we see that a working knowledge of English is one of the mandatory requirements in both academic and professional environments. There is English proficiency requirement in almost all scholarship offers, for example: the LPDP scholarship sets a 500 and 550 TOEFL ITP standard score for the national and international postgraduate program respectively. The same requirement, if not higher, applies for international scholarship programs like the Australian Awards Scholarships, USAID Fullbright, New Zealand ASEAN Scholarship, Chevening, Erasmus+. The most common English proficiency standard for master programs in English speaking countries is IELTS 6.5 (no bands below 6).  We can go on, but the point is clear. Yes, being able to use English as means of communication is highly important, and learning to use English fluently is mandatory.

English as a habit

There is no denying that the English language has been a close part of our daily activities. But, one question still remains: why is it sometimes difficult to learn English? Especially to the point of efficiency that can meet the abovementioned standards of TOEFL and IELTS. Learning a language, which is not necessarily applicable only with English but with other foreign languages as well, takes determination and extensive effort. To acquire a language we must make it a habit.

Children-like learning

When we were young children, we initially learned to use language from others by first mimicking the sound we heard and later understood the usage as we developed the sound into more sophisticated meaningful words.  Then we learned that specific words were the basis of an even more complex combination called phrases and sentences. The initial process of learning a language took years until we efficiently comprehended and produced what we call our first language. Do we need to repeat the process to acquire a second language? The answer is not necessarily.

Classroom learning is not the only option

We often connect the learning process with a classroom, so it is not surprising if going to a language course/center it is the first thing that comes to mind as a solution to learn a second language or as linguistic term put it “L2”. While going to a language school may be a good idea, there are actually many other ways to learn a language. Acquiring English as our L2 is definitely easier. Because the wide use of English, whether we realize it or not, we have been exposed to English in the games that we play, the articles we read, the popular music we listen to, and the most recent blockbuster movies we watch. In more technical usages, we find ingredients list, procedures of operation, and description of a product often, if not always, written in English. We can easily be exposed to English language everywhere not only in written literature but also in media such as television and radio.

Diving into the language

The answer that we need on how to learn English more efficiently is by exposing ourselves to it as frequently as possible. The more, the better. Social Media of any kind is a good start. By using Twitter or Facebook we can feed our timeline by following English media account like BBC English, British Council, and Cambridge ESOL. We can also try the android or IOS application such as Learn English Podcasts, Hello English, and Memrise. Those who are more into live chatting can try the Hello talk or even the game with live chat menu, like Clash of Clans or other similar games. The idea is to make English part of our daily communication, because by doing that we can easily pick up the vocabulary and learn how to properly use them.

A2A E – Newsletter Vol. 53 | VIII | 2016

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