It is a good thing that there are now English courses available for learners to express themselves using English in. They can speak things, tell stories, describe people and objects, conduct discussions, sing songs, deliver speeches, have debates, etc. But the problem of students’ lacking a chance to use English now solved does not end here. Other problems occur. They are not used to speaking English. They get nervous. They feel shy. They lose mood. They get bored. They speak against their will. And they are afraid of making mistakes.
It is actually not enough for learners to depend on English institutions to learn English. And given the fact that English is still a foreign language in our country and the language environment is not conducive for its exposure, it takes learners themselves more to practice their English than it does their environment. And as a large proportion of language learning goes on outside of the classroom and is therefore not subject to the teacher’s intervention (Horwitz 1983), good learners will find their own way, making their own opportunities for practice in using the language… outside the classroom, and therefore taking charge of their own learning (Rubin and Thompson 1982).
There are many ways that can be recommended to compensate for the fact that the language environment is not conducive as there is a wide cultural distance (Hamied 1997) in that learners learn the language in their own home country and city, not in the US, for example. And because, according to John Dewey, one learns best by “doing”, by active experimentation, proposed here can be what’s called self-recording (Antoni 1999). Mendez (2010) doesn’t explicitly name it so, but suggests the same idea.
The idea is that learners record their voice talking about something of their choice: English-course topic, school-subject topic, current topic, feeling of something, etc. They can tell about, narrate, describe, explain, argue, or give a speech on that something for as long as they can and want to. Then they listen to it, paying attention to their language, intonation, tone, pronunciation, etc. They jot down odds and mistakes they made. Then they record that again, this time making it better by self-correcting all that they have said wrong. Then they listen to the recording again. It goes on like this time and again until they think it is perfect, in fact so perfect they want to talk about something else now.
There are many advantages offered by this technique. Firstly, it is very accessible. Technically speaking, mobile phones having recording features are everywhere in the learners’ possession. And this self-recording is very effective as learners will find out how they actually speak and know their own mistakes. Learning is best and most effective when learners can learn from their own mistakes and odds that they realize and fix by themselves. At a time when this convenience of mobile phones was non-existent as available were only recorders and microphones, Karen Price (in Rivers 1987: 161) says, “A natural extension of the widespread use of tape recording to let students hear their own performance… is an effective way for students to obtain immediate feedback on their nonverbal as well as verbal behavior.”
Another advantage is that learners will feel at ease speaking. They will feel relaxed. And lastly, they will learn to perform different functions of speaking such as describing, narrating, explaining, arguing, etc. If they manage to do this on a regular basis, they will be able to perform better and better in the long run over a period of time. After all, learning does take some time.
As for the teacher, he can play his role in that he can help the learners correct their mistakes and comment on their performances anytime necessary. Brown and Yule (1983: 105) says, “If the student records a number of performances on the same tape (now mobile phones—ed) over a period of weeks and months, the teacher can check over those performances and gain an impression of whether the student has improved or not. He can, moreover, illustrate any improvement to the student himself.”
Antoni, F. (1999, July). “Self-Recording as a Means of Promoting Independent Learning in Increasing Speaking Skills: Self-Access Study.” Paper presented at an international conference, Jakarta.
Brown, G. & Yule, G. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge University Press.
Goodman, K. 1986. What’s Whole in Whole Language? New Hampshire: Heinemann.
Hamied, F. A. 1997. “Faktor pembelajaran dan pemerolehan bahasa: kerangka dan realita.” A paper presented at PELBBA 11, Unika Atmajaya.
Horwitz, E. K. 1983. Beliefs about Language Learning Inventory. Unpublished research instrument. University of Texas at Austin.
Mendez, E. (2010). How to Set Up Oral Homework: A Case of Limited Technology. English Teaching Forum. Volume 48 No. 3.
Rivers, W. M. (ed.). 1987. Interactive Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
Rubin, J. & Thompson, I. 1982. How to Be A More Successful Language Learner. Heinle and Heinle.