First of all, I want to clarify that English is not my first language, Bahasa Indonesia is. Many of you asked where and how I learned English and how I mastered it in short amount of time. I tell you what; I'm not that great in English, I'm just good at it (as many of you grammar-nazi out there sure could find some grammatical errors in this very post). But I'm gonna share it to you anyway, on where and how I learned English, my second language.
So it began when I was in seventh grade when I failed miserably in an English exam, which only covered SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE. Yes, I was that bad. I couldn't even tell the difference between the use of "s/es" on a verb. I remembered I wrote "she sing" as an answer. That occurrence led my mother to hire a private tutor for me. She said that she learned from her very own experience, that barrier for not being able to speak in English is real, especially in her line of work which was banking. My mom was REALLY bad in English, contrast to my dad. She didn't want me to repeat the same mistake she did, and that she also realized that, in the future, a proficiency in English is a must. So I began my tuition.
My tutor's name was Anneke. At first, she introduced me to English through books and books of fundamental grammar (Betty Schrampfer Azar's collection of books) and lots and lots of exercises. She also asked me to memorize 20 vocabs for each meeting. It bored me to death. A month passed by and I had zero progress. It concerned my mother, until she asked Ms. Anneke to change her methods of teaching. My mother knew that I couldn't learn in group and I also couldn't grow through exercises, because I would just simply forget them the next day.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." The key here is to be involved so that you can learn. That was exactly what Ms. Anneke doing. She involved me in my own learning. And to boost it up, I grew fond of English each and everyday. Better yet, I understood the importance of it. This didn't happen in my journey of learning Mandarin, of which I hate how complicated it is. My way of learning is : if I don't see the beauty, the essence and the importance of it in my life, I will not be great at it, hell, I won't even bother trying. This, my dear readers, applies also to Accounting, my undergraduate major. HA HA HA. Ok, back to the learning. Ms. Anneke then changed her methods; she analyzed my preferences and my hobbies. She started asking me to watch cartoons in English, to read bedtime stories, etc. No more grammar exercises, huray! Well, I did learn some grammar in practice just for school's purpose. On the other hand, I started to develop tendencies on watching American movies, reading English books and listening to American pop. In short, the methods Ms. Anneke planted in my learning synced with my likings and my new habits.
Months passed, and I was getting better and better each day. It was until eight grade when my English teacher literally asked me about the verb 2 of "ride". Yes, I exceeded her knowledge. On that point, I was no longer interested on what school taught me, but more to what the real English had to offer. I continued to learn, stepping up my game by reading heavier books (not in weight ya) and more complex movies. I also started writing, blog mostly (if you ever read my first blog, it was embarrassing, but I was learning, so yeah ...). I continued to grow, until I hit the point when I had to speak ..
It was my aunt, a Chinese-Indonesian by blood, but born and bred in London. I was visiting her house when she started to talk to me in BRITISH English. "Oh, I her yowr English is gudt Tell me mow about it blah blah blah." I was perplexed. "What the hell is she saying .." was all I could think of and it was frequent when I said, "Ehm sorry, come again?" It was embarrassing. I THOUGHT I WAS GOOD IN ENGLISH! At this point, Doctor Who came to the rescue.
Doctor Who. I remember watching the first season, when I was mesmerized by how they talked. "I want to be able to talk like them." So, I began to learn. I learned to speak English, in both British and American accent, continuously repeating on what they said on the show. Then, I began to develop an odd habit : speaking to myself, in English. Not just speaking like, "Oh hello you look radiant today!"; I was making a conversation, with myself! And I still do. It is crazy, but it works.
And the rest is history.
And I'm sure many of you wonder about my TOEFL's score. Nope, haven't taken any of those, the real one I mean. I am quite confident it won't be that high, considering I learned NOT from those kind of exercises. But it doesn't matter, I could always use my "feeling". I'll talk about it below.
So, here are my methods of learning English :
1. Through movies. First, I watched cartoons like Spongebob and Dora (yes, shut up). Then I began to watch teen movies like Totally Spies, Hannah Montana, etc. Then I stepped up to those blockbuster movies they showed in cinema. Finally, I watched documentaries and Oscar-calibre movies. How? First, you have to watch it with the subtitles on (your preferred language). If you find some vocabs you don't understand, you translate and memorise it. My advice is not to use translator like Google or any kind, but use English to English dictionary (I used the one that Oxford released); it will make you remember more and sometimes you find another 'unknown' vocab in the very description haha. Second, use English subtitles, so that you can incorporate your hearing and your memory. Last, no subtitles at all, so you lie solely on your hearing. And knowledge.
2. Through books. First, I read bedtime stories. Then I began to read simple articles like this one and also some young adult fictions. Then I continued to read newspapers and 'heavy' articles like the one Time publishes. Last, I read English Literature, like Jane Eyre, Hamlet and such. In doing all, you have to use your English to English dictionary as the key. If you don't like to read, you could read magazines. First, you read those gossips magazines (a very light and dumb read), then you read short stories published in the magazines of your choosing, then you read magazines that incorporate both heavy and light readings such as Reader's Digest. Then, you could read Time magazines.
3. Through songs. I am sure all of you like to hear song, especially those that came from the States. There's no stages here, you just gotta listen to it carefully (rap and EDM aren't recommended) and decipher each vocabularies and sentences. Again, use your English to English dictionary.
Unfortunately, by learning 'my way', you will experience these side effects YOUR ENTIRE LIFE :
1. Translating from English to your native language could be REALLY hard. And it's WAAAYYY easier the other way around.
2. Mixed accents, especially when you learned to speak by watching Doctor Who and Friends. I say stupid like "Styupit" not "Stupith" but basil like "beysel" not "basel".
3. You can't teach people. For example, when your friend ask you about something related to grammar, you can answer it right, but when they ask you to explain how and why, all you can say to them is "I don't know. It's my feeling." HAHAHA.
There you have it, my secret. The most important thing to learn English or any other stuffs is that you gotta love what you are learning. That way, it will be easier. Good luck!