Is it appropriate to teach English using other languages?
The best way to teach English is in English itself, not in Bahasa Melayu or any other mother tongue. The best way to master the language is to hear and see the target language as well as to make use of the target language everyday.
As teachers, we can’t expect our students to understand everything in English if they don’t speak English as their first language. What more important is that they are exposed to the target language. They hear more words in that target language everyday. They use the target language everyday. If we subscribe to Monitor Theory in Second Language Acquisition, we should accept the fact that the best way to master a second language is through acquisition; language learning will complement the acquisition.
When we talk about language acquisition, we must “immerse” the students in the language; we should provide an “English” speaking environment so that these students will continuously gain rich inputs in the target language.
Obviously, the ideal thing to do is to let the students live a country where English is spoken as a mother tongue. Common observations show that those who stay in English speaking countries can master the target language faster and better. What if the students can’t afford to live in English speaking countries? Of course, the best thing to do is to create or provide that English speaking environment for them in this country. Therefore, teaching English in English is the best. The moment we teach English in other languages, we actually teach our students to be dependent learners. If fact, if we continue to teach English in other languages, we don’t TEACH them ENGLISH but we TEACH them ABOUT ENGLISH.
In language learning, there is a “silent period’ for some students. They hear the target language but are not ready to respond or produce the target language outputs. We can’t expect everyone to master the language immediately. Language acquisition is always developmental. So is language learning. Thus, continuous teaching English in English and providing rich inputs in English through fun, meaningful, and non-threatening activities will help them to acquire the target language gradually. Their linguistic competence will be improved as time passes by although their target language performance may not refect their proficiency at the beginning stage.
Does it mean we can’t use our mother tongue at all when we teach English? Yes we can but rarely.