Oleh: musmuliadi | Februari 28, 2009

Common poblems faced by students

Problems with learning English commonly experienced by Indonesian students.
After a great deal of time spent teaching in Indonesia and talking to other teachers, it is clear that it is possible to identify a number of challenges specific to Indonesian language learners. While this brief article is clearly generalising about a huge, diverse nation, there do seem to be common difficulties, mostly resulting from interference from their first language and from the education system which they have been through. This article will highlight some of these challenges in the hope that awareness among both teachers and students benefit students studying English in the future.
First, the Indonesian education system (or at least the system which today’s teenage and adult language learners passed through) tends to produce students with preconceived notions of ways to be taught. Often this means passive learners expecting to absorb information from the teacher, who is the center of a class, an authority figure, and someone who must not be questioned. Language learning is most effective in an environment where active students feel free to participate, get involved and ask questions; an environment where students know that making mistakes is the best way to learn, and where making a mistake does not result in loss of face.
While this article is not intended to criticise the education system in Indonesia, it does seem that the content of a great deal of Indonesian schools’ English language curriculum is based on the teaching of theoretical knowledge as opposed to developing functional, communicative language skills. Often this means that the Indonesian ESL student is able to produce complex grammatical forms, but has little awareness of the actual meaning of the language they are producing. Upon prompting, a student would be able to write a correct sentence using, for instance, the present perfect continuous tense, but when questioned as to the real usage and the meaning of the grammatical form, many high school graduates are stumped.
Then there are the problems resulting from L1 (first language) interference. In terms of pronunciation, many Indonesians have trouble pronouncing consonant clusters (3 or more consonants together is a word), as these clusters do not occur in Bahasa Indonesia. The rolling of the letter ‘r’ is another common issue, but not one which causes any kind of strain for the listener. In general, pronunciation is not a huge problem for Indonesians, especially when compared to learners from Asian countries with tonal languages such as China and Vietnam.
Bahasa Indonesia does not have tenses as such, and a simplified method of talking about different points in time is often attempted in English (for example, ‘yesterday I go’). The concept of tenses, especially the more complex perfect tenses, is often difficult to grasp for Indonesian students. Similarly, Indonesian English students often have trouble creating sentences with correct word order, again caused by the word order patterns in their first language (for example, ‘the tree big’). Finally, most Indonesian words are spelled phonetically, creating problems with learning the inconsistent, almost random way in which many English words are spelled.
While the few problems mentioned above do create barriers for Indonesians, they are relatively easy to overcome. Good teachers with an awareness of these difficulties can adjust the way they teach and the materials they use to suit Indonesians. Courses can be created which have Indonesian students in mind, rather than generic courses designed for European learners. Again generalising, it can also be said that, given the right environment and encouragement, Indonesians soon become active, communicative students. Indonesians are hard working, dedicated, enthusiastic and, in general, a pleasure to teach.
One school which recognises the importance of tailoring language education to suit Indonesians is ‘Aim for English’ http://www.aimjakarta.com, a pioneering Jakarta-based language centre. Their incredible facilities, custom-designed courses and experienced teachers all combine to provide the very best language education for Indonesians.


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