Since it's still winter break here, I want to be able to make use of it by sharing my knowledge on how to be able to master English Language. Being a candidate for TESL course here made me see and realize that lots of us back home have got issues with mastering English language especially the Muslims in Malaysia who generally have Malay Language as our mother tongue. This is normal, we tend not to strive out of our comfort zone when we are in one. Not until the reality hit us at our faces. Well guys, reality is to be able to become a proficient speaker, English language is needed for us to spread our messages. For example, without English language, da'wah in Malaysia can only be reached towards the malays but with English language, the effort of da'wah can be extended to friends of other races who do not really prefer to communicate in Malay. Here I'll share 3 simple steps to master English.
First step: Pre-process
a) This is called pre-process because before we even start the 'process' of mastering English, we'll need to understand why do we want to learn this language. Why? Because humans need motivation especially with things we are not really sincere with. Example, why do we want to learn how to recite the Quran? Because with reciting Quran will bring us more knowledge and tranquility. Examples of aims - to be able to write English articles for muslim magazines, or to understand the talk or forum by excellent Muslim speakers like Dr Zakir etc etc. So, find out and write down our aim as motivation for us right now.
b) After knowing our aim(s), now we need to look at ourselves, what level are we in now. Write down these four skills (writing, speaking, reading, listening) and try to judge our capability. Give ourselves a rating from '1 until 10' with 10 being the best. Why do we do this? It's because if we know our capabilities, it'll be easier for us to work on area we are worst with and make us of skills we are good with. Example, if our reading skill is better than our speaking skill, then make us of reading skill to help improve speaking. Reading aloud a text is an example of this.
Second step: While-process
So now we've listed down our aim(s) and rating of our 4 skills in English. Here is where we can address our weak skills. This phase is called while-process because we are enrolling ourselves in a process to better our skills. Usually the biggest weakness we have is in speaking. This is because speaking is a different skill that requires 'at the moment' thinking and doing at the same time. So my suggestion is, to master speaking, we'll need to reach the state when speaking in English is something natural for us and does not require hard thinking. How to achieve this? It's easy!
a) Improving speaking and reading skills: Read English stuffs. Books, newspaper, articles, songs etc. Choose your area of interest and read on it. And read it ALOUD! Example when we read the star newspaper, read aloud the articles and pronounce each words with effort. Why do we do this? Because English is about a set of grammars and a little bit about habit. How do we become a master of our mother tongue? Because when we're a kid, we read stuffs in Malay language again and again and the words become like a habit in our head. By doing this, indirectly we'll learn the grammar implicitly and add up our vocabs if when we come across a new words, look up for its meaning in a dictionary. Do this everyday. It's the same like trying to memorise the Quran, recite all over again and we'll memorise it. If we read aloud English articles everyday, our tongue will get used to English way of speaking, we'll implicitly rehearsed English grammar (so choose articles with less broken grammar) and we can learn more vocabs.
b) Improving writing skills: Read good and well-structured articles. If we do this, we'll learn many examples of good articles. Example, reading a good speech, a good letter can give us an idea of examples of good articles we can follow. Read lots of well-composed stuffs. When we read articles written by good writer, we'll learn more phrases, sentences and way of writing too. So find interesting articles that are well composed, and read them, take notice of the way its written.
Secondly is to have many ideas. To become a good writer, we need many and many ideas so we know what to write at the right time. So reading again is the best way to gather more and more ideas. Iqra' is the first word revelated to Muhammad saw from Allah, hence this stress the importance of reading.
Thirdly, make use of a thesaurus when you're writing. Using same words again and again will make readers bored. Hence here comes the function of a thesaurus. Get a printed or an online version thesaurus. Everytime we write and come across difficulties to use the best word for the sentence, thesaurus can help a lot. I personally make use of thesaurus lots of time while writing any articles, moreover if I'm writing essays to be passed up. But make sure the use of word is in the right context by checking the meaning of the words first. This takes experience and time practicing.
c) Improving listening skills: To improve this skill, listen to lots of English songs, movies (without subtitle), radio etc. Movies at first can use subtitle but then slowly try to not look at subtitles while watching and figure if you can understand the dialogue. When listening to songs, sing along. Get inspiring songs like the ones by Maher Zain etc and sing along. InsyaAllah our listening and speaking skills will be smoother.
Well all of these suggestions are informal ones, for us to learn English in a way that is fun to us. In a way that does not require much effort and time. We do not need to learn grammar in an orthodox way, do all of these and insyaAllah we'll be able to learn the grammar implicitly.
Third step: After process
For the after process, now we've known ways to improve our English. Start doing them and practicing. In the after process is for us to find more motivation to help motivate our learning process. For example, get a bunch of friends to communicate in English with. This is the best way to improve fast. Or we can start blogging in English. Write articles in English and communicate with other blogger in English when commenting them. Whatever it is, find ways to practice your skills in real life situation. This is to make sure we realize there are ways for us to practice in real life situation and help us not to get bored practicing on our own. If you're shy enough to talk in English with real friends, find cyber friends. Chat, blog, comments etc. Anyhow we can think off. Maybe ordering food in English? Or you can start commenting in this blog in English too, I welcome that! ;)
Don't get demotivated! What ever it is, the most important thing is don't give up! Remember why we are doing this, we are doing this to become competent speakers, writers and defenders of Islam. To be able to spread the messages of Islam to others. To show people Muslims are good and knowledgable people. To revive the golden age of Islam again, insyaAllah. If people laughs at our mistakes, take it as a challenge to better ourselves. And make Dua' to Allah to help us learn and master English language.
I hope this helps us to get started learning and improving our English. I would like to quote Mehdi Hassan, a Muslim UK journalist who once said in his talk in Warwick that the muslim world lacks competent speakers. That's one of the biggest reason on why Islam is being 'demonised' and ridicule by the western in general.
So folks, what we need is not just knowledge, but also communicating skills. Be it speaking to the public, or writing blogs and articles about Islam etc. Do what we are able to. Right now, English is the lingua franca of this world, hence make use of it to spread the love of Islam in even better ways.