"How do we learn a language ?" is both a very interesting and a very complex question. It has fascinated people for centuries to find an answer to that question, but so far only competing theories have come up. In 1965, Noam Chomsky invented the theory of a Universal Grammar underlying the structures of all languages and that babies were born with innate knowledge of this Universal Grammar. In the 1970s did researchers start to look at the acquisition of second languages as well as the first language acquisition.
In my class, when the students sit properly and do the work that is give, I will praise them. I will write ‘Good” in their exercise book when they have answered the questions correctly. I usually praise the naughty boys, when they behave in class, they like it when they are praised. One student says thank you, sir, because I have praised him for behaving in class. A few of my students, who were very quiet, asked me about the work I had given. Students being quiet all the time for no reason are not a good behaviour in a language class. I usually ask these students something, but they gave a blank stare. When they asked me something, I gave a positive response.
In relation to my behaviour and the students’ behaviour, B. F. Skinner, an American psychologist best known for his work in behaviourism, proposed behaviourism as the basis for language development in a book published in 1957. The core of behaviorism is learning through reinforcement. The reinforcement takes different forms. For example, if a parent says to the child, "Can you say mommy?" and the child responds accordingly, the parent provides positive reinforcement. If the child uses language to make demands, such as asking for a cookie, and the demand is granted, the child receives positive reinforcement for using language.
Leadership by example ? I did that by speaking simple and good English sentences. Sometimes code switching is unevitable, or I need a translator to say something to the silent students. When they copy what I have written on the black board, they copy the margins as well. I make sure the sentences they copy are correct, I avoid any cursive handwriting, be it between two letters. They will learn by copying. I know they can learn English well, they have the ability to do it. Their native language will not interfere with the English they are learning. So far I have not seen them arranging the English word cards using the syntax of their mother tongue.In relation to vocabulary, I have heard some students addressing me as ‘engkau’ and that was irritating. In their mother tongue, this word is acceptable.In English as well, the pronoun ‘you’ is used for the person we are talking with.
Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and cognitive scientist, believes children are born with innate knowledge of the rules governing language. His research during the late 20th century also suggests that the rules are universal among the known human languages. For example, Japanese and English seem very different, but both languages include verbs and in both languages verbs take an object. The difference is where the object of the verb is placed in the sentence. According to Chomsky, the reason children learn language so quickly is because they already know its rules.
Students must know, learning Bahasa Malaysia and English will benefit them in the future. They must know the reason to practise English and to get a good grade. My part is to prepare the best lesson plans so they can learn and practise English. I hope they can spell the name of shapes on their own, rather than filling in the blanks such as s_ u a _ _ for ‘square’