Jerry Gebhard states there are two ways of teaching English; EFL and ESL.
EFl (English as a Foreign Language) is teaching English to people who live in places where English is not the first language. For instance, Indonesia, Austria, Japan, etc.
ESL (English as a Second Language) is teaching English to people who speak other languages as their first language, but live in places where English is the first language. For example; a Chinese man who lives in USA.
These two ways are resulted in different goals as well.
In EFL setting, the primary goal for learners in learning English is to enable them to pass English exams. Whilst, in ESL setting, the aim is more to literacy. How a learner trains himself/herself to speak like a native speaker of English, so that he/she can assimilate into the stream of English-speaking-population.
Teaching English in Indonesia is definitely fit with EFL. English is not Indonesian’s first language. Therefore, the prime goal for people to learn English is to be able to pass English exams (as compulsory thing to do in all schools).
The challenge is, naturally, different too. If Indonesian students go to study abroad, to European countries, Australia or USA, they (like it or not) are obliged to use English everyday. If not, they might not survive, not only in social life but also in university.
Now, Indonesian students who learn English in Indonesia have their own personal goals. Having English as one of the subjects taught in schools (since elementary level) does not make students feel obliged to be good in English. What for? They live in Indonesia, they speak Indonesian in their daily life. They might speak English once in a while in class, in English course or social media. The need to learn English more would usually come when they need to submit English Test score such as TOEFL or IELTS.
The thing is worsened by the fact that the English teaching in Indonesia still carried by traditional method. One of the most famous pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Indonesia applied translation method in conveying English. Everyday the students have to memorize bunch of utterances along with the Indonesian translation. Does it work? It does. However, the alumni speak a really rigid English, if not weird, sometimes (as all the materials were memorized and not be put in context).
In public schools, English teachers tend to push students to memorize set of grammar rules, or tenses. They believed that once students know this rule, they’ll be able to use English correctly. Does it work? Zero.
These English experiences that students had since they met English for the first time, often resulted in traumatic experiences in learning English. Students might know all the 16 tenses all their teachers taught them their whole life, yet, they never become fluent English speaker. They still confuse to put words and phrases, not really sure of putting the right tenses. In their adult age, when they need English preparation to face TOEFL or IELTS tests, they would go nervous and decide to start learning English (again) from the beginning. It is said that “better late than never”. However, having English course from the beginners level in adult age, and only have limited time due to the English test score submission is one hell of a challenge.
People with more money would send their children to study in English course since young age. But then, what would happen to those whose wealth is probably not enough even to pay their monthly bills? Then, the only solution is to learn English by yourself. Creating your own sources and exposure.
Here are some suggestions I usually feed my students.
If you want to speak English, do these following things:
Create an “English environment” on your own
Remember when I told you, that in ESL setting, a learner must speak English to survive? Do that. Pretend that your surrounding is all in English atmosphere. So, you listen to English songs and recording, you read also in English. Don’t say that you don’t have the sources. You do ! Listening to English songs and watching movies are two things most people do these days. As for reading, pick some reading stuff that simple for you. Browse some English comics or short stories. Even if you don’t understand the whole story, that’s okay. You can always guess the meaning of each vocabulary in context.
Find someone or some people to practice English with
For me, this is a must. Language is to be spoken, not to be memorized. Find someone or some people you can talk to. Ask them to be your partner in speaking English. It will be better if you can find someone whose English is better than yours. In that way, you can learn more and ask questions. Join an English club, if any. If you can’t find any club, create your own. You would never know what other people might know better than you.
Now, you have partner to speak with. You read and listen and watch all in English. Don’t stop there. You need to learn more. Once you’re done reading short stories and comics, start read heavier reading, such as articles or novels. Language is an evolving science. It is dynamic. It changed all the time. You might be surprised to know how the phrases we usually had five years ago might not be used any more today.
Apart from the EFL or ESL, as an English learner, we must always upgrade ourselves. Motivation is another thing we must bear in mind when we learn English. What do you need English for? Studying abroad? going overseas? becoming a teacher? to talk to foreigner? Whatever that is, learning is something you can’t avoid.
Learn more, be better.