Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Foreign Language Learning

In my younger days, English was taught to students when they entered Junior High School (these days they're even daycare centres that uses English for kids as young as 1,5 years old). Junior High School = 13-15 years of age. However, I had become interested in learning English from a much younger age, so at first my parents tried to teach me some simple words with the help of some basic English books, but then they decided to send me to an English course at the age of 10.

In the course, I wasn't taught "grammar" per se. In fact, the teachers weren't allowed to teach us grammar and to tell us why certain words change whereas others stayed the same. They wanted us to absorb the "grammatical patterns" on our own. I spent about 1,5 years studying in this course (twice a week, don't remember anymore how many hours per session but it couldn't have been longer than 1,5 hours).

Each class had to present a kind of play or they could just sing a song after the semester was done and in the end all of us students would sing together. If I remember correctly, after the first semester was done, all we did was sang a song because we didn't know enough vocabulary yet in order to produce a play. Then after the second semester we had a short play and after the third one, we had a longer play for the audience (mostly the kids' parents and family members). For the third one, I had quite long texts that I had to remember by heart, but that was really fun! :-D

Anyway, then I entered Junior High School and only then I started to learn grammar properly, but I didn't learn it "enough" to be able to teach anyone else because the tests were done in such a way that we only had to choose/write down the right answers.

Only after I entered High School did I learn how to understand grammar in a more complicated way. You see, our English teacher wanted us to be able to explain why we chose a certain form for a certain word. She made the tests such that if we only gave her the correct form WITHOUT giving her the right explanation, she'd reduce our points. I was SO SO SO frustrated by this approach because in the past, I always got excellent marks whereas in High School, I still got good enough grades in English but I couldn't reach the "excellent" level that I longed to reach. Why did I bother so much? Because I cared.

In Junior High School, I could get excellent marks at English tests simply by using my "instinct", but in High School I could no longer do that. So in Junior High School if a friend asked me why I wrote A instead of B, I didn't know how to explain it to her (it did happen a few times). Little did I know that what my High School English teacher did would really help pave my way into the future. Only after I graduated and started tutoring English to little kids, I realized how much I owed what I could do then to my High School English teacher. I kept all her notes (very very thorough notes that she wrote down on the blackboard for us) during the years that I tutor English to kids. Of course the education and lovely lecturers that I got at the university helped me, too, but my High School English teacher was the first one that made such a deep impact towards the way I learnt a foreign language.

Anyhow, thankfully enough a few years back I found her through Facebook and I had a chance to thank her personally for what she'd done, even though at that time I felt as though she were "torturing" me he he he he...


  1. That made me smile, you had a chance to thank her. I expect you put a huge smile on her face too.
    Sometimes it's only in later life we appreciate these things.
    My English teacher had an impact in my life too. She recognised my shyness in class and my unwillingness to contribute, even though most times I had so much to say. She continually asked my opinion, to the point I thought she was 'picking' on me. But then I realised, and especially now, she recognised my lack of confidence and she encouraged me to have a voice, when she realised how passionate I was about literature.
    And for the record, your grasp of English grammar puts fellow English men to shame, and I should know!

    1. Yeah, Nikki, I was glad to have found her so that I could tell her how much impact she made on my life before it was too late. :-D

      THANKS for sharing your story about your English teacher. You're right that sometimes we only appreciate things later in life...and sometimes shy people like us do need a kick on the butt, eh? HE HE HE...

  2. Looking back, I too am grateful for the "old school" teachers I had along the way. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs Catchpole, gave us a spelling test EVERY SINGLE MORNING. It was one of the best things a teacher has ever done for me!

    By the way - I am fairly sure you know more English grammar than I do! I didn't even know the proper rules for using the perfect tense until I started learning Finnish :)

    1. Ohhhh...spelling test every morning? Yeah, it must be good, 'coz English spelling is complicated. Unlike English, though, Indonesian spelling is similar to Finnish so it's not complicated enough to make us have to have spelling tests in sixth grade.

      Well, I've forgotten so much grammatical rules now that I haven't been using them he he he he...but yeah, knowing the basic does help in learning a new language. :-)