English, like any other languages, consists of four separate skills that are linked to each other in some way. These four skills are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Any English proficiency tests such as MUET, IELTS, or TOEFL will test the students on each of these four skills.
So, when you say that your English is bad, are you seriously saying that you have no proficiency in any of the four skills? For a typical Malaysian student, I don’t think that’s the case. For those who went through the basic school curriculum, at the very least, you should be able to read in English, write in English, and listen to English.
Why? Because you have had years of practice in those three skills. In class, you read the texts given by your teacher in English, you listened to your teacher speaking in English, and you wrote your assignments or homework in English. You have been doing that for quite some time now, right? By right, you should be able to at least use those skills to understand and to convey meaning.
When you say “My English is bad”, it is very likely that you are referring to your English speaking, which constitutes only one out of the four skills in English language proficiency. It is likely that out of all four, speaking is the skill which received the least practice. Even though you used English in your listening, reading, and writing, perhaps you don’t speak English as much as you should in class.
What’s my point? I would like for Malaysian students not to generalize their problem and make it worse than it actually is. The way they describe the problem might be the problem in and of itself. When they say things like “My English is bad”, that expression put their entire English skill in an all-or-none scenario – either you have it or you don’t.
But English skill is not like that. Each of the four skills aforementioned has a spectrum of its own, and in calculating your proficiency, the average of all four spectrums is taken. You can see that clearly manifested when you take your English proficiency test; it averages you out.
Even if on average, you are not doing as well, it doesn’t mean that your English skill is bad. Perhaps that is how you feel, but that is not the case in reality. Be careful about allowing emotions to paint the picture of reality for you. Most of the time, emotions will get it wrong. Even when it’s right, it might be exaggerating.
If you look closer, you might realize that although you don’t do well on average, perhaps you are doing well in some aspects of the overall skill. Perhaps you are good in your listening, or in your reading, or in your writing, or in your speaking, or in a combination of them. If you are good in one of the four skills, that is a good start. At least you are 1/4 proficient in English already.
So you see, you might not be that bad at it after all.
To learn more on how you can improve your English speaking (one of the skills mentioned in this blog post) and how you can improve your confidence in speaking, do join us for our next SPEAK UP! English Speaking Seminar in July 2016.
We are going to Pahang and Johor!
Details can be found here.