Teach English in Chajintai Muchang - Tongliao Shi

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Let me start this essay by first letting the reader know that I am a 32 years old Malay male living in Malaysia with little experience traveling or living abroad. Now with that out of the way, my native language is obviously the Malay language with English being close second. Why close second you would ask? That's because I learn the English almost at the same time I learn Malay. I would learn my first Malay word as early as 2 but I would learn my first English word when I was 3. I remember when I was 4, bright eyed and curious, looking at the night sky above wondering, what are those sparkling things in the sky. My curiosity naturally led me to ask my mother a bunch of questions about astronomy. Her response? Perplexion. My mother was an English teacher herself. Throughout her career, she goes from being an English teacher at a public school, to a government officer in the Education Ministry then to a senior lecturer teaching English at a public university and finally to a department chief at that same university. She has no interests at all in astronomy. So she did the next best thing, she bought me a book on astronomy, except, it’s all in English! Imagine, me 4 years old reading a book about astronomy with all of its astrophysics and quantum physics jargon, in English! Skip to 28 years later, my curiosity in astronomy has dimmed slightly but my fascination of the English language remains strong. It’s interesting how the mind of a child works. At a very young age, human child is capable of absorbing language at astonishing rate and not just one language but multiple languages too, case and point (pointing to myself). According to research performed by one Dr. Sandra Kuhlman, Ph.D in Neurobiology at Carnegie Mellon University. Children's ability to absorb language is attributed to what she called; "Gatekeeper Circuits", a group of brain’s cortical network that assists the regulation and creation of neural connections. In layman's term, they decide whether or not to rewire the brain in response to experience. Sounds handy right? Well technically, even as we aged we still have this ability, this ‘Gatekeeper Circuit’. As kids, we are curious about the world around us and that opened up the gate, we become receptive to new experience and information, absorbing things at astonishing rate, being young is being impressionable after all. As we grow older however and our experience solidify itself, shaping us to become the person we are today, it becomes increasingly hard to absorb new knowledge and in this case languages. Much like human bones will solidify as we grow older, putting a halt to our ability to grow, the same comparison can be made with the Gatekeeper Circuit. Fortunately, I believe that our mind is more malleable than our physical body. I believe that if we as teachers could inspire in our adult students, the same wonder and curiosity they had when they were younger, that we might be able to open up the Gatekeeper Circuit once more to allow for rapid absorption of the lessons being taught in every class. Children’s language absorption rate has a critical period where they could learn a language like a native. This critical period is said to be between 4 to 7 years old. For English teachers this was the ideal time to hammer in as many English words into the young students. Drilling seems to be the best method here, repetition of words is how young children learns their native language from words repetition that they heard from their parents. My 4 years old nephew now enrolled at the local kindergarten, develop a peculiar way of speaking, a mix between his native language of Malay and English (thanks to the influence of his grandmother who was a senior lecturer in English, his mom who is a communication support staff liaising with overseas branch and his uncle, me, who is now working towards Degree in TESL). One of the peculiar habit of speaking he had developed was claiming certain things as his. Instead of saying “Ini saya punya” which is a Malay sentence that literally translate to ‘this is mine’ he would outright instead say: “This is mine!”, in English. Eventually he brought this habit over to his kindergarten and I could see the influence in our neighborhood kids. We were invited to a neighboring kid’s birthday (who also happen to be a kindergarten friend of my nephew) and imagine my surprise when the kid said: “This is mine!” while pointing to his birthday cake. Apparently my nephew’s ‘drilling’ of the sentence caught on. This proves that children would also be influence by their environment, their kindergarten and those they associated with. Children are impressionable thanks to the Gatekeeper Circuit that I have discussed in the earlier paragraphs and while this may mean they may be influenced by bad behaviors and negative factors it is also a great moment of opportune to impart positive attribute such as language skills to them.