In Indonesia, there are a large number of English language schools offering various teaching methods. With the myriad methods available, many people are often confused about how to choose which learning approach to suit them best.
The Point spoke to Arief Rachman, an education expert and renowned English lecturer at Jakarta State University (UNJ) who has long been involved with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to learn more about learning English.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: What do you think is the best method for learning English?
A: With the various teaching methods available, it is most important for learners to enjoy the learning process. Regardless of the teaching style, flexibility is what every learner needs. I believe that the old conservative and rigid learning approach is no longer effective. Instead, teaching methods should adopt an interactive learning element.
Q: How can the interactive learning element play a role in the learning method?
A: The most important aspect in learning a language is to enjoy the learning process. Knowing English means you have a communication skill that can open doors, not only to understanding other cultures, but also to better career opportunities. Such facts have created societal beliefs that English is must have knowledge that everyone needs. Therefore, a supportive learning method is needed. Both teacher and student need to engage in comfortable and fun ways of interacting in order to ease the learning process. Teachers should act more like partners rather than superiors. This will provide a fun atmosphere and flexibility in language learning.
Q: How flexible is a right teaching method?
A: Let me give you examples. When I first studied English, I was taught that the answer to ‘how are you?’ was ‘fine’. This is true, but students need to be aware that there are a number of ways to answer the question, such as by saying ‘so-so’ or ‘I’m ok.’ Similarly, there are many ways of asking ‘how are you?’ such as ‘how’s everything?’ and ‘what’s up?’. These are some of the words that are commonly found in daily spoken English in addition to the occasional more formal language. Students need to have the self-confidence not only to grasp the language in theoretical terms but also to practice and use the language so that they can fully internalize what they learn. Class size can also determine learning outcomes.
Q: Speaking of class size, what is the ideal number of students in an English class?
A: The number of students can play a great role in determining the success of language learning. Many English learning centers have good curricula but are not successful because they put too many students in a class. To achieve optimum conditions for learning English, I would say that having a maximum of 5 students in one class is recommended. But again, it depends on the group of students. Sometimes a 7-student class can produce better individual progress than a-4 student class. We need to remember that each student has a different learning pace.
Born on June 19, 1942 in Malang, Arief Rachman earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in education. He is a lecturer in the Faculty of Language and Letters, in the English Department at the State University of Jakarta and an adjunct lecturer in the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Indonesia.
By Aulia Rachmat, published in The Point Daily, March 29, 2007.