Berita SMAGuru

What with English language education today: Questioning the traditional myths!

A couple of days ago I was invited to participate in an English language teacher discussion forum in Sidoarjo, East Java. In the break time, one teacher asked me whether I deploy British English (BrE) or American English (AmE) features in my English classes. I was actually shocked with the question. I was just thinking in today’s so-called globalized world of English language teaching, such question is still lingering in the mind of an English teacher in Indonesia.

This is however worth-discussing! The question reminds me to my past experience some time ago prior to understanding the changing myths of English language teaching to the reality. The fact that English is in the present spoken by the majority of non-native speakers worldwide is enough to explain why the myths of this language has now shifted and questioned. If we take a look at Braj Kachru’s concept of World Englishes (WEs) which later is completed by theories of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) written by Jennifer Jenkins and English as an International Language (EIL) set by Sandra Lee McKay, there lies several points to note.

I would begin by explaining the issue of English language learning and teaching goals that much characterized ELT in EFL countries. As I said earlier in this article, the past tenet among EFL teachers in teaching English is to direct the students to at least three passive goals – globalization, employment, and prestige. Why so? Globalization is named as the major reason why EFL learners learn English in their country and overseas due to world’s economic advancement. Being global means being able to communicate in English well both spoken and written, a fascinating proverb, in business, trade, culture, and the like. So no ways to neglect the learning of English today.

Put as the second ground for learning English, it is employment. A plethora of companies require job applicants to have good command of English language. This commonly is indicated by the mastery of TOEFL skills. When a job seeker has reached a minimum TOEFL score of 550 or so, he or she has saved one place for employment entry in the company. The last is prestige value. This much happens in Indonesian schooling, especially. Experts call this ‘English fever’. In fact, parents put more trust to send their children to an internationally-branded school that offers English language as a medium of instruction during the class and outside the class. This prestige is finally made as a ‘marketable point’ for school stakeholders to provide an ICP (International Class Program), mostly for science subject. I say these three goals as passive since students do not use English to actively communicate and promote what they have as the identity of individual, social, and national.

Native speaker fallacy may be good to be put as the second essential point that language professionals should also criticize now. Qualification in teaching is indeed a must. A good language teacher is not born, but made. If native English teachers who have no any teaching certificates are recruited in teacher education programs, I personally disregard this, as they would possibly serve nothing for learning progress.

The focus is on fairness and justice, I think. Many Indonesian local English teachers, for example, are now upgrading their teaching qualification to higher degree of study, be it S2 and S3. This should be seen as a plus point to recruit and prioritize them in term of position and salary in the teacher education programs regardless of their non-native status. So why not choosing the local to be in the first front of teaching English? The fallacy of native speaker is now challenged as English itself is owned by all – not only those coming from what Kachru’s said as ‘Inner Circle’ county!.

The use of students’ mother tongue in English classes, the third point, is also intriguing to note. Honestly speaking, EFL teachers still believe in the traditional concept of second language acquisition (SLA), that the more students are exposed to the target language (English), the more they are fluent. I am challenging this! What tool is used to know learners’ fluency in English as a world language today?

To me, SLA is (much) influenced by native-like competence that EFL learners should adopt. For instance, errors and mistakes made by EFL learners in SLA are said to be ‘deviant’, a problem. The idea of this is now shifted to be ‘a unique’. So, why not welcoming EFL learners to produce errors and mistakes since attempting to closely produce target language like native speaker is only a ‘dream’. Also, using students’ mother tongue would not ruin their attempt to learn the target language. There is a point to be noted in the practice of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) when mother tongue is restricted. For teachers, speaking English in the whole lesson in the class does not mean restricting space for mother tongue use!

At the end, there are actually tons of other points EFL teachers need to understand about the status of English language education today. This article however addresses only three main concern over the debates on English as a global language, hoping that readers (English teachers, in particular) could have new insights for their better teaching approaches, a teaching model which no longer refers to the norms of both BrE and AmE but brings the identity of ‘self’ from teachers and learners as individual, social and national.

Written by *M. Faruq Ubaidillah, S.Pd

*The writer is an English teacher at SMA Progresif Bumi Shalawat, Sidoarjo, East Java. Currently, he is writing research on narrative inquiry with regard to students’ experiences in writing mini-research at tertiary education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *