English is an international language, it is very useful and important, with English we can communicate over the world. In Indonesia English is a foreign language, but it is very popular, it is taught in all levels educations stages. In many years, teaching foreign language to children was seen as something additional to the normal curriculum of the school system. Increasingly, educators have come to recognize the importance of starting foreign language learning at an early age.
Teaching English for young learners will very completely different with teaching English for adult. Young learners are unique. They are different with adult, they have very different needs, interest and abilities from adult and more enthusiastic than adult in language activity. In Indonesia, interest in teaching English to young learners has been steadily growing in recent years. Many parents believe that by studying English from early stage their children will get a better future. Because of that the Indonesia Ministry of Education has begun to respond by introducing English as a foreign language in elementary school, even in kindergarten. We had an observation to know more how English as a foreign language was taught for young learners, in Tadika Puri Kindergarten, Yogyakarta. This article will explain about how the teachers teach English as foreign language to young learners and what the problem in teaching English to young learners.
B. About Tadika Puri and class activities
Tadika Puri is one of Kindergarten in Yogyakarta. It is located at Babadan Street 01, Gedong Kuning, Yogyakarta. Tadika Puri foundation consists of Kindergarten and play group, Kindergaten for 4-6 years old and play group for 2-4 years old. There are two classes of Kindergarten and one class of play group, each class consists of 10 students with one teacher/instructor. English lesson was taught twice a week on Wednesday and Thursday.
Class activities begin at 08.00 o’clock. There are some activities in the class, like singing, counting, and asking questions. After greeting and praying, for the beginning and warming up teacher ask students sing some songs together.
Afterward, the teacher told the students that they would discuss about flowers. First, the teacher asked the students about the name of flower, mention in Indonesia and translate in English. And then, they spelt it together. In taking attendance the teacher called the students randomly and taught them how to answer it with the sentence all of those activities present in English. After 30 minutes, the main class activities begun. The teacher provides some pictures of flowers with unmatched name. And then the students should make them match. After that the teacher put her students into three groups to do different activities in rotation. If the students have done her/his job, they must try to do the next activities so that the students did all of the activities. After finishing their activities, they got brunch.
C. How Teach English as a Foreign Language for Young Learners
Like Lynne Cameron said: “learning a foreign language is different from learning the first language, even for children at the young end of our age range. It is different because the first language is already a huge system that a child has in place; because in comparison, the child will encounter such a small amount of the foreign language, and because it is foreign-often the language belongs to people in a distant and strange culture” (Cameron, 2001; 241).
According to the statement, we know that children learn the foreign language based on the vocabulary and discourse. Using foreign language as a discourse it might work for promote learning. And the vocabulary is important aspect because it is an element that links four skills in English. So the English teacher must understand of young learners’ development, needs and characteristics.
Actually in Tadika Puri kindergarten the lesson is taught very fun and interesting. There are two teachers in the classroom. While the first teacher leads the class activities the second teacher sits on the back to keep the students’ attention. It is a great strategy, so as a teacher they can create a good environment, manage their class room and make sure the students’ attention. Teachers in Tadika Puri kindergarten also use suitable media for teaching English, they use pictures and chants (song) those media is effective to attract the students’ attention. By illustrating the words in a picture is more interesting than other media. Using picture, the students will feel relax but still serious when teaching learning process. Picture can make the students remember the words easily. Beside, picture can encourage the students’ spirit to learn English. Naturally children enjoy learning and singing song. Based on our observation it works very well with the Tadika Puri’s students, most of students are very active and interested in singing a song, by song they also know many of vocabularies such as the name of days, months, flowers, etc. The teachers also encourage the students to participate while listen to the song by singing along and moving their bodies. We think this action give the students’ meanings to what they hear, build up their confidence, and create a fun environment.
D. Some Problems in Teaching Young Learners
It is very common when we are teaching young learners we will find some problems. In Tadika Puri Kindergarten, we find that teaching English to young learners is not as easy as expected, although teaching English to young learners seem simple because we just teach children, and we can easily manage them. Actually we find three problems based on our observation. Like the different attention among the student, the limited media, and the lack of teachers knowledge. Each of these will be discussed and will realize that whether students and teacher has important role.
1. The different attention among the students
As we know that children is an active learners. “Piaget’s” concern was with how young children function in the world that surrounds them, and how this influences their mental development. The child is seen continually interacting with the word around her/him, solving problems that are presented by the environment. (As a cited in Lynne Cameron, 2001:2)
We can see from Piaget statements and idea is a child as young leaner are active learners. They learn by doing, and like to have fun, they are curious about the world around them. In Tadika Puri we found 2 kinds student with incisive different attention. When class begin with sing a song, there was a student that too active, sing a song loudly, clapping his/her hands noisily, and he often make his friends did not focus on the teacher instructions, because sometimes he made his friends pay attention to him. In the contrary, there was a student that looked so bored and didn’t pay attention to his teacher. He looked busy doing something beyond the teachers’ instruction; or just keep silent when the teacher invited the students to sing together. So we can conclude that there are 2 kinds of students, and it is potentially being a problem that disturbing class activities.
a. Students with high attention.
b. Students that have lack of attention.
2. Limited media used
Limited media used, is the second problem was found in our observation. Tadika Puri Kindergarten is one of the good Kindergartens. Actually in the room, there were many kinds of media such as education toys wood beams, posters, miniature toys etc, but when teaching, the teachers only use a pictured paper.
In the beginning, the teacher warming up class with sings a song together. It happens almost 30 minutes; sing some songs together, and the main activities teacher uses the pictured paper with unmatched flowers picture and its name.
Here, we can see that song and picture are used as media in the teaching learning process; it’s very useful and appropriate in teaching English to young learners because they love sing and curious about picture. But in Tadika Puri the teacher in main activities just uses the pictured paper, for coloring, make shapes and matching the pictures. According to Oxford learner’s pocket dictionary (2000; 322) picture means, painting, drawing, etc that shows a scene, a person/thing. So we can use others media, like posters, flash cards, puzzles, etc. It’s needed to use variation media to attack students interesting, so they don’t easy get bored.
3. The lack of teachers’ ability and knowledge
Of course teaching young leaner is different from teaching adult, we need to consider many things before teach item. Although they were children, but not only need the simple material but also need more. Children can always do more than we think they can (Cameron, 2001; xii). So, if the teacher teaches them something, in their mind they already establish that material with their own way. Actually, the children have huge and positive potential, if the teacher does not support their need, their potential will not develop. In teaching, the teacher should make the students active. If the students are active and enjoy themselves, they would acquire the lesson that be taught quickly.
Actually in Tadika Puri there are 2 teachers, but just one of them mastered the English material and the other teacher only help to keep the students pay attention to the lesson. As an English teacher, they should acquire English well, so they can give the students the right lesson and do not teach the same materials/songs every day. So, a good teacher should be able to create a learning environment that supports and addresses the students’ development, needs and characteristic. Teacher also must consider their particular emotional, social and physical needs. It means the teachers’ foreign language should knowledgeable, understand and able in managing children. Because teacher is a model in the class, so the teacher should be educated.
Based our observation we can conclude that teaching English for young learners is not simple matter, many things influence these activities, as a good teacher we must creatively create classroom management, materials etc. Many media that can be used, but songs and pictures are the most effective and enjoyable media, by using picture we can teach vocabulary easily. But it is important to choose a picture for which the students already know most of the vocabularies they need to describe it. And about chants (songs) like Lynne Cameron said that “Chants provides meaningful writing practice as they can be carefully copied out and illustrated” (Teaching Language to Young Learners: 65). As a creative teacher, we can use the same songs again in different lesson to motivate the students and to build students’ confidence. If the students familiar with what they listen and say, they will feel more secure about learning English.
And to solve the problems, as a teacher we must consider that children bring to language learning their curiosity and eagerness to make sense of the world. They will receive the most demanding tasks with enthusiasm and willingness. So teacher of young learners should provide techniques to reach the learners’ motivational level and confidence. When the students get bored, the teacher has to be inventive in selecting interesting activities, and must provide a great variety of them. When children need help to learn language, teacher should apply his strategies enjoyable, meaningful and full of practice.
For choosing the right media the teachers should be aware. Actually many media can be used, but it must be remembered that teaching young learners is different from teaching adults; so choose the effective and interesting one to make our students are interest and active. Because when the students are active, engaged, and enjoying themselves, their ability to learn and master new vocabularies and linguistic functions is much higher than if they are simply learning by memorization or drills.
About the lack of teachers’ ability and knowledge, it can be minimized by a good education that given to probationary teacher. The school also expected to have high requirement for the teacher to teach there. And above all teachers to young learners are expected to have ability to teach their students by imitating the L1 environment. They have to teach language in context. They also have to create an English speaking environment in their class and try to make English more fun through pictures, songs and chants, storytelling, drama, and games. Teaching a lesson is not just about ‘telling’ students what they need to know, effective lessons are those that cause the students to think. And it is challenging to learn foreign language, and teachers must teach in a way that increases the students’ interest and enthusiasm. And just the educated teacher who can do that.
Cameron, Lynne. 2001. Teaching Language to Young Learners. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harmanto, Bambang. 2011. Best Practices in Teaching of English for Young Learners in Indonesia. Retrieved January 10, 2012 from http://bambangunmuhpo.blogspot.com/2011/10/best-practices-for-eyl-teaching.html
Hornby, A. S. 1985. Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary Fifth English Oxford. New York: Oxford University Press.