Monday, June 9


"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.."


  1. hello cik aliya

    besides reading or watching english movies,what's the other alternative to improve our english speaking?? any tips on how to improve english pronounciation?

  2. hi aliya,

    I think ntv7 8.00 clock news is good in improving our english, my favourite newscaster is Sheahnee nazira lee abdullah,I think she just recently converted.

  3. Well, you need to be a good listener as well as a good speaker. Try listening to and singing English songs, reciting English poems, acting in English plays and drama, as well as speaking English whenever and wherever you can, never mind about what people around us say or think.
    Remember the NST commercial? That's a good one to remind us about the importance of being able to speak good English.

  4. Corrections :Sheahnee lee Iman abdullah

  5. Salam Aliya,
    Been following this blog ever since I found it via - I'm not sure which link. Anyway, I find your thoughts to be quite interesting. You can write both in Malay and English quite well.

    Just to share my experience on studying English - I went to sekolah agama where the whole population (except some of the teachers) were Malays. I have trouble improving my English when no one wanted to converse with me in English.

    In sekolah agama, when your English is slightly better than anyone else, you'd end up taking parts in all the English-related events. It was fun, but there were pressures from my peers, of course. One of my English teacher was a priest and I received comments and even warnings from friends asking me to be careful with him (as if he could actually converted me into christianity just because I was quite close to him - you know, borrow books, asking his this and that, for he was the only teacher who cares about my Englih, my writings and such).

    How do I improve my English? I watch cartoon (even until now, with my kids), educational programmes such as Sesame Street, Electric Company (those days); besides reading English books, and find a friend who would converse with me and willing to defy the unspoken rules of all Malays should not show off by speaking English.

    That friend of mine is now pursuing her Ph.D in Texas and I'm happy with what I am doing.

    I guess, to learn any language, we cannot deny the fact that we have to read, write, listen and understand all three.

    Just sharing my thoughts. Thanks and keep on writing!

  6. Assalamualaikum Nisah,
    Thanks for droppping in. Yes, I've came across your books and your blog too, hehehe. Good works. I believe that anyone can be good in any language, if we have the right attitude.
    Previously, I've always found it amusing that Malays would choose to speak to me in Malay (even school teachers who knew I teach English)while non-Malays chose to converse in English. Now as I'm a Muslimah in tudung, everyone talks to me in Malay except my non-Malay friends, hahahaa..
    Frakly speaking, the Malay tag of 'a show-off' if you speak in English should be discarded or ignored (you did the right thing). It actually discourages people from improving their English speaking skills.

  7. English is my fav language after Arabic. I used to get good results & use the language all the time when i was in school (MGS). I wasnt afraid using broken English though. I think that it doesnt really matter as long as other people can understand.

    And i love reading English-English dictionary. You can have everything all in one (idioms, proverbs, atlas, etc.) It's a must for my everyday rutine.. :)