KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Local students, especially those in rural areas need to overcome their diffidence if they are to improve their proficiency in English, according to a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) programme participant.
Georgia Decker, 23, from New York, said there was a need for them to frequently speak English to familiarise themselves with the language and build up confidence level.
“When I first came to the school, many of the students were quite ‘malu’ (shy). The majority of them have decent proficiency in English but the main barrier is their level of confidence.
“Many of them have a pretty decent vocabulary but they haven’t had the chance to practise with local speakers. They’re shy and that’s why it’s important for them to break through it,” said Decker of her experience.
Decker, who was attached for 10 months with the SMK Balai Besar in Dungun, Terengganu, spoke to Bernama after receiving a certificate of appreciation for having participated in the programme at the Malaysia Fulbright ETA Showcase 2016 here today.
She was among some 100 ETAs who received the certificates from Education Director-General Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof. They began their stints in schools in Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, Sabah and Sarawak in January.
Decker said she was happy to have been able to assist English teachers at the school and, along the way, boost the command of English among her students via classroom and outdoor activities.
Ethan Jacob Goldbach, 25, from Pennsylvania, spent two years as ETA at SMK Kuala Besut, also in Terengganu, as he “likes the experience too much”.
“I just love the school, students, local food, climate, and the wonderful people there who always make me feel welcome,” he said.
Contrary to his initial apprehension about differences over religion and culture, Goldbach said it proved to be unfounded as the locals accepted him with opens arms.
Meanwhile, Khair commended the ETA programme and participants who had improved the command of English among rural students.
“We’ve seen a myriad of activities carried out by participating schools, ranging from casually-structured sessions to robust and carefully planned enrichment programmes,” he said.
The Fulbright ETA programme places fresh American college graduates in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers, and become cultural ambassadors for the United States along the way. — Bernama