Malaysian English Language Educators Net

Archive for the ‘M. Issues’


September 23, 2013 By: supyan Category: M. Issues

  • Is CALL a study?
  • Is CALL a discipline?
  • Is CALL a method?
  • Is CALL a software? Or is CALL a courseware?
  • Is CALL a platform?
  • Is CALL a concept? What is the philosophy behind CALL?
  • Does CALL mean anything that is related to computer?
  • What are the characteristics of CALL? What qualifies something to be named CALL?


English – Second, second, or foreign language?

October 09, 2010 By: supyan Category: M. Issues

For non-native English language speakers in Malaysia, learning English as a second language is a great challenge. It is quite interesting to observe how English is learned in Malaysia. Before Malaysia’s Independence in 1957, the English language was considered as important as the national language, i.e. the Malay language. Most educated Malaysians were bilingual.

English remained as a Second language in Malaysia until 1975 when a new language policy was introduced in early 70s that the medium of instruction in all schools should be carried out in the Malay language. As a result, English became a subject course instead of being used across all subjects.

Following this turning point, a requirement for students to pass the English examination paper was also dropped off, and yet students could continue their education at high school level even if they failed their English paper.

For the next 20 years, English was perceived as a foreign language rather than a second language to the Malay language. Hence, the status of English language in Malaysia has declined since then. Later in response to economic recession in 1997 in Malaysia, the Malaysian government took a few drastic actions to reform the economy in Malaysia.

The needs for more graduates and k-workers who could speak English well and who are able to work in multinational companies were listed as important strategies. To meet such needs, the government reversed the English language policy in schools. Beginning 2003, the medium of instruction for Math and Science subjects started to be taught in English. It is no longer second to Bahasa Melayu but Second. The term “Second” carries a connotative meaning, i.e., important and survival.

Recently, due to continuous strong protest against the use of English as a medium of instruction in Mathematics and Science by many prominent individuals and NGOs, the government reverted the policy that the teaching of Mathematics and Science will be in Bahasa Melayu beginning 2012. Here, English will become a second language again. To some students in rural or remote areas, English may be a third or foreign language.

English is considered “Second” when the target language is the language is needed in particular contexts. It means that a person has to master the language in order to survive in the given context. Therefore, a Malaysian who speaks the Malay language as his/her mother tongue has to master the English language in order to survive in an English speaking country or community or organization or company. He may have to speak English like native English speakers. In some private colleges and companies in Malaysia, English is “Second” to the students and workers respectively.

English is considered “second” when the target language is an added advantage to a person whose English is not his/her mother tongue. In other words, English is second to his/her mother tongue. He/she can still survive in a country or community or organization or company even if he doesn’t speak English like native.

English is considered “foreign” when the target language is not a must in any country or community or organization or company. In government agencies, English is foreign to most government servants.

In a nutshell, English may be “Second”, “second” or “foreign” to an individual, depending on the need and demand of it in his/her particular contexts. It doesn’t mean that a country is the only determinant in this issue.

Teaching English using other languages?

October 09, 2010 By: supyan Category: M. Issues

Is it appropriate to teach English using other languages?

The best way to teach English is in English itself, not in Bahasa Melayu or any other mother tongue. The best way to master the language is to hear and see the target language as well as to make use of the target language everyday.

As teachers, we can’t expect our students to understand everything in English if they don’t speak English as their first language. What moView postre important is that they are exposed to the target language. They hear more words in that target language everyday. They use the target language everyday. If we subscribe to Monitor Theory in Second Language Acquisition, we should accept the fact that the best way to master a second language is through acquisition; language learning will complement the acquisition.

When we talk about language acquisition, we must “immerse” the students in the language; we should provide an “English” speaking environment so that these students will continuously gain rich inputs in the target language.

Obviously, the ideal thing to do is to let the students live a country where English is spoken as a mother tongue. Common observations show that those who stay in English speaking countries can master the target language faster and better. What if the students can’t afford to live in English speaking countries? Of course, the best thing to do is to create or provide that English speaking environment for them in this country. Therefore, teaching English in English is the best. The moment we teach English in other languages, we actually teach our students to be dependent learners. If fact, if we continue to teach English in other languages, we don’t TEACH them ENGLISH but we TEACH them ABOUT ENGLISH.

In language learning, there is a “silent period’ for some students. They hear the target language but are not ready to respond or produce the target language outputs. We can’t expect everyone to master the language immediately. Language acquisition is always developmental. So is language learning. Thus, continuous teaching English in English and providing rich inputs in English through fun, meaningful, and non-threatening activities will help them to acquire the target language gradually. Their linguistic competence will be improved as time passes by although their target language performance may not refect their proficiency at the beginning stage.

Does it mean we can’t use our mother tongue at all when we teach English? Yes we can but rarely.

How best to master a second language?

October 07, 2010 By: supyan Category: M. Issues

Watch this excellent video!

An Eqyptian young man who is proficient in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language,  said that if you want to master the Malay language  (or any other second language),  you have to immerse yourself in the community of the Malay speakers, live with them,  and eat their food. He said he speaks Malay very well, with Kelantanese dialet,  because he takes ‘budu’ or bilis sauce (fermented fish), a local sauce produced only in Kelantan.If you don’t understand Malay, especially Kelantanese dialect, please ask your friends  who speak Malay, to translate the conversation.

Question 1.  Can these principles be applied to those who want to master English as a second language, Arabic, Japan, Korean, Russian, German etc?

Question 2. Can we still master the target language in our own own environment, community, or home country  without going the countries where the taget language is spoken?

Pedagogy vs Andragogy

October 07, 2010 By: supyan Category: M. Issues

Pedagogy generally means the science of teaching. It focuses on methods and approaches that are based on principles, which are derived from theories.

Andragogy is the arts of teaching adult learners.  The approach is influenced by some basic teaching principles (pedagogical principles) and characteristics of adult learners.

To claim that ‘pedagogy is about teaching young children‘ and ‘andragogy is about teaching adults‘ is erroneous and misleading. It should not be  an issue of dichotomy. One is not necessarily better that than the other but one should complement each other.

To classify characteristics of pedagogy and andragogy as the following is also misleading.

Some people claimed that in “pedagogy”

  • Learners are called “students.”
  • Dependent learning style.
  • Objectives are predetermined and inflexible
  • It is assumed that the learners are inexperienced and/or uninformed.
  • Passive training methods, such as lecture, are used.
  • Trainer controls timing and pace.
  • Participants contribute little to the experience.
  • Learning is content-centered.
  • Trainer is seen as the primary resource who provides ideas and examples.Some other people claimed the characteristics of Andragogy are
  • Learners are called “participants” or “learners.”
  • Independent learning style.
  • Objectives are flexible.
  • It is assumed that the learners have experience to contribute.
  • Active training methods are used.
  • Learners influence timing and pace.
  • Participant involvement is vital.
  • Learning is real-life problem-centered.
  • Participants are seen as primary resources for ideas and examples.Hypothetically, these characteristics MAY BE TRUE but practically, they are not TRUE ALL THE TIME. It all depends on teachers’ competence and how teachers carry out their teaching.

These characteristics should not be seen as a set divine principles. Teachers should not adopt the above characteristics blindly or rigidly when they conduct their teaching either with young learners and adult learners. In fact, teachers should be able to rationalize specific principles they use in their teaching rather than to follow the so-called “classification of pedagogy and andragogy”. In brief, andragogy can be categorized as a subset of pedagogy.

However, knowing some characteristics of adult learners would help teachers to adjust their approaches in teaching, and therefore, making their teaching more effective.

Knowles’ theory of andragogy can be stated with six assumptions related to motivation of adult learning:

1. Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)

2. Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).

3. Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).

4. Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).

5. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation).

6. Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators (Motivation).

The term has been used by some to allow discussion of contrast between self-directed and ‘taught’ education