Language matters for learners

Pupils putting their English language proficiency to the test during a Newspaper In Education (NIE) activity. - File photo

Pupils putting their English language proficiency to the test during a Newspaper In Education (NIE) activity. – File photo

TO communicate effectively in the English language, students have to be linguistically competent and proficient in the language.

They need to be equipped with the linguistic repertoire to communicate effectively in the language.

Focal knowledge and tacit knowledge are important elements in learning a language.

Focal knowledge of a language can be taught in the classroom.

It equips the learner with the set of prescriptive rules and steps to be followed to produce language.

Tacit knowledge on the other hand, is a class of knowledge that is difficult to teach and communicate to the learner.

Tacit knowledge is the unwritten, unspoken and hidden vast storehouse of knowledge on language learning that is based on an individual’s emotions, experiences, insights, intuition and internalised information.

Tacit knowledge is a class of knowledge that is difficult to communicate.

The tacit knowledge is the knowledge that we have without knowing we know it.

The vast majority of our children come from the rural and remote areas in the country.

With their limited exposure to the language outside the language classroom, these children are severely impoverished in their English language competence and performance.

Though they may be linguistically competent in knowing the rules and order of the language, they may not be able to communicate effectively. Therefore it is a grave injustice expecting our children in primary and secondary schools to speak and write impeccable English, based solely on the teaching and learning of the language in school.

Children who successfully acquire the language come from English speaking homes or backgrounds. They have focal and tacit knowledge of the language because of their rich language environment.

It is virtually impossible to master any language without practice and usage of the language outside the classroom.

Malaysian University English Test (MUET) examiners find pre-university candidates grappling with the English language when they are tested on the speaking component.

The students are unable to share and articulate their thoughts on simple everyday issues.

They are not able to elaborate or expand on a given situation.

There is a lot of hesitation in their speaking presentation.

They lack confidence, fluency and accuracy in their delivery.

Therefore it is not surprising that most of our university graduates lack soft and communication skills in English during job interviews.

Learning the language needs active participation, interaction and exposure to the language.

The students should be given an environment where they can have the opportunity to practice the language in a wider and larger scale.

Short term measures and knee jerk reactions will not be able to fill this void that our students are facing in the teaching and learning of English in school.

Long term measures require the Education Ministry to consult the stakeholders – parents, teachers , Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia and education groups to review and revise their policies on English teaching and learning.

We need English language immersion programmes that can equip the learner with both focal and tacit knowledge.

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