"When they were young we tell them to be quiet because they talk too much. We'd say "Diam, diam, diam!" (quiet). Now that they are in school, we tell them to open their mouth, talk in English. Do you think they want to listen to us now?"
"You must tell your children to talk as much as they want, never mind that their chatterings drive you up the wall. Build their confidence in public speaking. One day they'd thank you for your kind deed."
Ahhh... one of the greatest challenges of being a language teacher is facing a group of students who can't or won't speak in the target language. It's worse in secondary schools as teenagers deal with self-esteem and peer pressure. Force them to speak and they'll clam up. Encourage them and they might want to cooperate. It takes a lot of coaxing to get the average and weak students to speak English.
"It's like flying a kite. One moment you let go slowly, give them a lot of encouragement to speak. Then you pull the string, make them learn all the rules and sentence structures before you loosen the string again."
"If the kite still refuses to fly, then you'd have to check for weaknesses, go to higher ground, or find stronger wind to get it into the air. Find out the problems, try new techniques and methods to spur their interests. "
"Whatever you do, never give up on the precious kite. Don't put it aside and forget it. Don't throw it away just because it can't fly in your hands."
Language teachers seldom give emphasis on the speaking skill, citing that it's difficult and time-consuming, so most Malaysian students are generally weak in speaking English. More time is spent on reading and writing.
"They won't speak English on their own. I give up!"
"They know the language but they refuse to speak English."
"I don't have enough time. I have to teach them to read and write too."
"The teachers next door complain that my students make too much noise. What do you expect when classes are separated by wooden partitions and not walls? How to be quiet and speak at the same time?"
"Aiyahhh... work smart, not work hard. Why waste your energy trying to make them speak and end up having a sore throat? Give them written work every day when you enter class. Then by the end of the year, their exercise books will be full of pages and pages of well-written essays, copied from the board. The principal will be happy, the education officers will be happy, and the parents will be happy to have such a hardworking teacher teaching their children. Never mind that the students can't even speak a proper sentence in English, hahahaa."
And what do the students say when you ask them?
"I'm scared of making mistakes when speaking."
"I'm shy and my friends say I show-off."
"I can't remember the right words to use."
"I don't undertand difficult words."
"I don't know enough English words to say it in a sentence."
"I'm a Malay laaa.."