Unstoppably Spreading the Love of Extensive Reading

I’ve been living in Japan for 37 years. Prior to that I had been teaching English in America for 5 years. I’ve been doing Extensive Reading (ER) for at least 35 years. And I’ve been teaching in my current university for 31 years, in charge of the reading program for probably 35 years. So what my doing is not a new fad.

How I came to this field is sort of strange and unique. In undergraduate days, my major was elementary education and early childhood education and my minor was learning disabilities. Basically I was trained to be a reading specialist.

But then when I got out of the undergraduate, in the mid 1970s teaching jobs were very difficult to find but I got a teaching job in a maximum security prison in Southern Illinois, as a reading teacher.

In this particular prison, they started sending me the Spanish speakers, most of whom were Mexican and Puerto Rican speakers and they were prisoners. They were sent to me because they couldn’t read. Well, of course they could not read because English is not their first language.

So I started out by buying EFL (English for Foreign Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) books. I split off one of my reading classes and started to work with these Spanish speakers. And that made me back to graduate school and I really enjoyed that.

Prison was also a very interesting place but I don’t want to spend the rest if my lfe teaching there even it’s my job.

As a young man, I was always longing to travel and teach and be a writer, which is also a priority. In 1982 I moved to Japan, started teaching in a conversation school for several years and eventually got hired by an institution.

Back in the mid 1980s, many American universities opened Japan campuses. So I started teaching at the University of Pittsburgh campus. And I got hired by my own school (Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Japan).

He is now enthusiastically helping teachers around the world believe that they can make a difference. That is why teachers become teachers. To open new worlds for students and extensive reading can do that!

(As told by Prof. Marc Helgesen himself)

Teachers Who Changed My Life

It is May, which is the national education month in Indonesia. The second of May is celebrated as the national education day.

 

So I took time to ponder for a minute or two, trying to come up with the answer of the question:”Who are the teachers that changed your life?”

 

After some time, it’s hard for me to tell which teachers have the most impact on my life to date. All of them are influential in their own way. But I have to choose, here is the shortlist.

My parents

I may have hated my father and mother for teaching me mathematics until I shed tears. I flunked the math test and got an alarmingly low score in the academic report after I hid the answer sheet distributed earlier.

Mr. Subur Wardoyo

He introduced me to Oscar Wilde (the queer Irish versatile literary star), Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (that Jazz Age American writer), Ernest Hemingway (a drunken, sturdy built literary giant) and a lot more American writers I can aspire to. Mr Subur Wardoyo was just an amazing, easy-going, open-minded, the most liberal-viewed lecturer I had ever had on college. She taught me both in my undergraduate and graduate program. He is simply one of the best and this year we – my college pals and I – lost him. You’ll be really missed, pak Subur.

 

Mr. Sapardi Djoko Damono

Yes, that renowned Indonesian poet! He taught me Literary Sociology and I chose it as the topic of my thesis. I was a bit slow in the writing process. I almost gave up but a voice kept screaming inside my head:”You’ve gotta finish what you’ve already begun!!!” So I rekindled my spirit and made it. He made me realize that learning is not a sprint; instead it’s a marathon. A long long marathon.

 

Mr. Warsono

I still remember him teaching Writing III class in my junior year and how he instilled the passion of writing into me. And the soft-spoken lecturer was just legendary, thanks to his moustache and smooth cursive longhand on the blackboard. I guess one of the most anticipated classes in a whole year was his class. What made me even love him more is the fact that I managed to earn a great final score at the end of the sixth semester, which boosted my confidence and without him, I would never become the writer I am now.

 

Ms. Indri

She is my Math teacher in high school. So outspoken, so mean verbally, so un-ladylike. She kicked, she was foul-mouthed, she was just what she really is. No pretense.

 

She taught us math like she never cared about what we would speak behind her back in breaks. Who didn’t? She threw bits of chalk at us when we were too slow to submit our answer sheets. She smashed the eraser when a student stood frozen, unable to figure out the answer of a math problem written on the blackboard.

 

As an anti-math student, I hated her so much. But I had no choice but to deal with her like every other day. Math was a subject I never liked and she made me like it.

 

So I tried my best to survive in her class in fear of getting physically humiliated (being pinched for example) and boom!!! I hit my all-time highest math score: 8.

 

There were nights I could not go to bed early because I still could not believe I made it. I was stunned by my own math talent. I therefore realize that nothing is impossible if I study. I may not be a genius but I know I am not useless looser. I can work hard and stay focused and claim the results.

 

Though she looked so frightening, Ms. Indri sometimes threw us some jokes with a flat-faced facial expression that made you wonder whether she was in fury or just was being crazy.

 

Ms. Tri Alfa Inayati

I still remember, as a fourth grader of elementary school, I heard a compliment about my cursive longhand. “You should be ashamed. You’re a girl and your handwriting is less neat than Akhlis’,” she said to a girl in the class.

 

I felt sorry for hear. But my heart could not contain my joy upon overhearing this remark. Cruel to her. Flattering to me.

 

Since then I polished my longhand and had ever since been often designated the secretary of class.

 

I appreciate her for making me realize I was that rare species of boys in class with clear, tidy cursive longhand. I cannot thank her more. Because now I write like every day and make money off writing.

 

How about you? Do you have your own list of teachers who have changed your life? (*/)

 

 

Dr. James Bacchus: From a Journo To a World Politician

Some parts of his life is a typical story of baby boomers, a generation before mine. Dr. James Bacchus was the first person in his family to get a college degree. He got a full academic scholarship from Vanderbilt University and later received a fellowship to attend graduate school and study history at Yale University. And then he went to Law School at Florida State University while he was a young aide to the Governor of Florida.

“Having the opportunity to go to college changed my life and opened up a whole world of opportunities for me,” he said.

His time at Vanderbilt University opened his mind to a world in which there are many ways to think, believe and live. “It also made me realize that despite all the many different ways, all that unites us is more than all that divides us. And many of my travels to different countries, I have been reaffirmed in that belief.”

He was 14 years old when working as a journalist in a little newspaper in Florida. He learned a lot. At 18, he became a journalist for a much bigger newspaper in Orlando.

He worked there during summers and vacations while he was an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University. And he continued to work for them until he left Vanderbilt before he went in the army.

“And then after I got out of the army, I went to Yale University. In the summers when I was assisting in Yale, so I began covering statewide politics in Florida in the age of 20. I was a correspondence reporter at 22 and in my journalism career, I got to know a very idealistic Florida politician named Rubin Askew,” Bacchus reminisced.

He later became Askew’s youngest aide. “[T]hat gave me opportunities to serve after he finished his tenure as governor, he became the U.S. trade representative. I went to Washington to become his assistant and that is how I became involved in trade.”

This is the point when his story is atypical of baby boomers. Bacchus’ career has ever since flourished. He is now a distinguished professor of global affairs and director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity at the University of Central Florida. Prior to that, he was a founding judge and former chairman, and a key part of Appelate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO). (*/)

Losing Mentors

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They’re like Papa to me. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I am in grief. It took me around an entire month to discover the fact that one of my mentors I look up to passed away. Blame it on my digital news diet.

I was just googling and suddenly I stumbled upon a flyer showing condolence of Nukman Luthfie’s passing. Still in utter disbelief, I googled once again, trying to make sure it wasn’t hoax or a hideous joke that some irresponsible person was uploading on to Twitter.

I took to Instagram and found that his Instagram account was updated on the end of January 2019. This was a little bit unusual because he was always updating frequently. He was a social media maven and digital pundit of the country, so it was a bit suspicious when he stopped uploading fresh content for a too long time.

So I found condolence remarks on his passing here and there on Twitter and Instagram, two social media services he was actively engaged in.

Stroke killed him, which is quite a shock. He looked robust at 52 and didn’t show any signs of major health deterioration. Certainly, I was a little concerned to see him snacking on fried cassava and coffee as early breakfast but he just looked okay and highly functional.

He was impressively helpful. I recall the time when I asked for his willingness to get included in my referer list. I was about to submit a form as a social media speaker and because he was someone in the social media realm and he knew me well, I thought he was the best person to ask for reference. And he said yes immediately. What touched my heart even more is that he still remembered where I used to work and asked what I was up to at the time. Very cordial and sweet.

The other mentor I just also lost earlier this month is Subur Wardoyo. A lecturer teaching English at Universitas Negeri Semarang (the undergraduate program of English Literature) and Universitas Diponegoro Semarang (the graduate program of Literature). Always proud of being a graduate of New York University, Pak Subur – as far as I am concerned – was a nonpolitical personality. He didn’t seem disturbed by office politics around him. He got very unapologetically practical, focused, blunt and frank. I still remember how shrewd his tip was as we were assigned to write an essay on a particular American literary work years ago when I was still in my graduate years, which lasted 3 painful years. “You can just tactfully change and rephrase sentences you’ve made for the previous assignment if you want to. But don’t be too obvious. Be smart,” said he back then as long as my memory serves right.

He’d always been that helpful literary fairy for us. So resourceful and generous with the final scores, something that I remorsefully failed to do when I was a lecturer myself in the past. He understood that most of those American novels are unusually thick (that tomb-stone-sized Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” for example), so he provided some hacks to get the learning objectives done. Knowing that we would never manage to chew that all in a short time (well, being a literary program students here doesn’t mean you have to be a bookworm with a lightning speed of reading), he screened us the movie, he read us the key scenes and provided key pointers that led to what really matters in the literary works in question. That way, we could be prepared well to get our assignments done on time.

I cannot tell how much I miss them both. They’re such influential figures in my academic and professional pursuit altogether. (*/)

[Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.]

Learning Foreign Languages Is Very Romantic

“WHY English?”
I asked Prof. Shinichiro Torikai of Rikkyo University, Japan. We met last Friday and sat down together. An impromptu interview ensued and this question popped out. Just like that.

He replied:”Even today I love English because learning a language is like a romance. It is very romantic.” Though I am not clear as to why he said so, he continued. “I can meet more people and I can talk to them. They can talk to me. I can make many friends. For example, though I cannot speak Indonesian, I can speak English here and still make friends here, right?” He stated one of the best examples of being able to speak English. He just cannot stop learning and teaching English.

He only spent five days in Indonesia, which was barely enough to explore Jakarta, not to mention Indonesia! At his advanced age, I supposed he has visited Indonesia once or several times before. But he said this was the very first experience.

I’ve been always seeing Japanese folks as a very adventurous tribe. They travel a lot regardless of their age. They are keen and shrewd and meticulous and industrious as humans can possibly be.

On this trip to Indonesia, he was with his college-age son. Then I had a hunch he was married later in his life, which was quite normal and accepted in Japan. His son is enjoying the country and wants to go to college here (while some of Indonesians are eager to go to Japanese colleges and universities).

When I touched on several places to visit in the Indonesian archipelago, he mentioned about Bali. “It’s quite famous in Japan. A beautiful island with an indegenous people living on it. They have their original culture and language.

As an English learner and sometimes teacher, I too got curious about what he was trying to share with people in Indonesia. The scholar teaching at the 97-year-old private university in the downtown Tokyo said he shared his experience as an academician in regards with Teaching English as Second and Foreign Language in Japan, a country very well known for its strong and deeply rooted cultural identity. So strong the people find it hard to even absorb the most prevalent global phenomenon: English as the world’s lingua franca. As we all may know, Japanese people are not that into English learning. They simply think they won’t bother learning the so-called global language because Japanese alone would suffice in communication.

On one hand, this strong cultural identity is desired because it is so much easier for a nation to stay together. No wonder, Japanese people are relatively homogenous in comparison with Indonesia which consists of hundreds of distinct tribes scattered throughout the archipelago.

When I came to his lecture, Prof. Shinichiro was highlighting the difficulty of learning how to write Latin alphabets. Making shapes of letter as simple as B and D in small and upper case can be troublesome for Japanese learners as their first language does not reqire writing this type of alphabet. Indonesians like me do have an advantage that we speak and write Indonesian that adopts Latin alphabets. This fact allows us to transition more smoothly and efficiently to English communication mode. Several other challenges still remain but they are not as large as what Japanese learners have to deal with. Even Prof. Shinichiro praised Indonesian students’ English proficiency. “It (read: English teaching) is very successful. The students are very active and outgoing,” he commented.

So this is what encourages the professor to devise any possible ways to solve this issue. They have to be creative to teach the lessons without even frustrating students. In the 21st century, problems of English learning in Japan is becoming more complex than ever before. It’s not enough for students to master main skills such as writing, reading, speaking, and listening but they also now have to have a grasp of communicative skills, he argued.

“There has been now more emphasis on communication, not only reading, writing, etc. We used to teach reading a lot but now we teach more skills like speaking, presentation skills, listening. We try to foster these multiple skills so they can communicate better.” All this is aimed at opening more doors of opportunity for students to the world so they can have more options of career even outside their home country. This is what he refers to as English Education Reforms. (*/)

Building a Bridge between Academic World and Industries

Being highly educated does not necessarily guarantee that one lands a job easily. In fact, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) as of February 2018 the unemployment percentage of those with university background is 6.31%, which is higher than that of elementary school graduates (2.67%) and junior high school graduates (5.18%). As stated by Statistics Indonesia, the percentage of university graduates hired by employers is only around 12%. Left unsolved, the problem will affect the nation’s future.

What is the root cause? And how does Sampoerna School System contribute to solving this national issue?

To address this, Marshall Schott (Chief Academic Officer of Sampoerna School System) talked with Desi Anwar of CNN Indonesia. Schott has had vast experience in higher education field. He has worked in the field for 18 years, at the University of Houston and Lonestar College prior to having joined Putra Sampoerna Foundation since 2015 to handle its strategies and operations.

What is your take on education in Indonesia which still requires a lot of improvement, in terms of human resource quality and low absorption rate of university graduates to constantly-changing curricula?

We see the administration has recognized the importance of education reform to support economic development which as consulting firm McKinsey puts it will be one of the 10 biggest economies in the world. Increasing the proportion of education budget to 20% of the Indonesian Budget (APBN) also signs such recognition.

Meanwhile, in reality there is a mismatch between curricula and current needs of job market.

What the government is suggested in order education reform to be realized is to build a quality framework among education, business and industry; improving relevance between curricula and job market; and improving teacher quality.

How is the role of teacher evolving now when knowledge is easily accessible?

Teachers have multiple and complex roles which can be unbundled. In the technology age, they play a role of facilitator – they no longer serve as the sole source of knowledge.

How do you prepare Indonesian children unfamiliar with this facilitating role of teacher?
We do this by running National Educator Conference every other year. Our focus in the conference is the importance of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts Mathematics) education. Thanks to USAID grant, we designed a program to attract teachers from all over Indonesia and showed them how to apply technology in classes in a more attractive and effective manner.

What can really affect Indonesian education?

We propose decentralization and deregulation of higher education. Ministry of National Education is expected to empower institutions with larger authority to improve educational autonomy. When this is achieved, creativity and innovation in solving the nation’s problems will also improve. The applied standard would not only be one. The standard may vary according to circumstances of each university.

With limited resources, there needs to be differentiation between an institution and another. As for institutions educating people with mid-level skills (for instance polytechnics), a different standard from institutions focusing on research, technology, commercialization and world-class leadership applies.

What is ideal education in the 21st century? And what is the true meaning of learning?

Currently the mastery of subjects is no longer adequate. Creative and innovative economy requires various other skills such as 3C (Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication). Interdisciplinary teaching also helps deveop required skills in creative economy.

Because Sampoerna School System applies a different method from other schools, our classes also look different. In classrooms, students may move if needed depending on a particular project they are working on on a particular day. Teachers play roles of facilitators and guides, providing information to explore. Students are educated to become loife-long learners. Regardless of circumstances, they can still survive in the increasingly-dynamic world, kudos to transferrable skills.

What materials do students need to learn at Sampoerna University?

Interdisciplinary materials with vast foundation become our core materials. What makes us distinct is the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) compulsory classes as 80% of the future jobs will need this competence.

How is the assessment?

Assessment is done continually and cummulative by nature. Final examinations are a part of entire assessment, instead of being the only one factor to determine graduation.

What is assessed is material mastery, task completion, communication skill, determination and participation. Here there must be balance between soft skills and students’ personality growth.

How is all of this taught?

We teach this to use abstract concepts in various contexts. Students must be able to apply various knowledge to varied circumstances.

What type of investment is prioritized considering the limited resources?

With such limited resources, we focus on things that affect students learning results such as technology and infrastructure (classrooms, teachers and learning resources).

Should teachers also upgrade their competence?

This also has been a global challenge. All teachers in this 21st century must improve their quality. I have seen younger teachers are more adaptive in applying technology in classes.

Is it possible to spread such education method throughout the archipelago?

We reach out to remote areas and forge collaborations with teachers and local leaders to apply modern teaching methodology and Cambridge framework which has great quality content.

We are involved in partnerships at elementary schools in areas in Sumatra, East Java and Papua. It is a business partnership between companies and public. Along with these, industries and business are expected to be closer to education.

What is required by employers these days?

Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that almost 40% of university graduates are unemployed or half-unemployed after 12 months since graduation as there are gaps between curricula and demands of employers.

Sampoerna School System has held two forums in partnership with businesses and industries within the recent six months and discovered that employers are now in dire need of workers with high proficiency of English. Multinational companies need people with adequate English proficiency to work across boundaries, with good communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills, as well as leadership. All these soft skills are different from subjects and skills and thus cannot be taught in classes.

Indonesia has lost jobs to foreign workers who have better English proficiency owing to low competitive edge. Is the current Indonesian generation better?

Potential, talent and motivation are there already. To optimize it all, we apply STEAM system. However, we need to understand that Indonesia is so large that it is a huge challenge to reach them out. Due to that, there must be business and public partnerships in providing scholarships.

Based on the data of Ministry of Finance Indonesia’s, the country is short of 30,000 engineers every year but there is only less than 20% of Indonesian students learn STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). Armed with STEAM, we do not have to worry about our children being unemployed after graduation.

We are delighted with some initiatives from the administration since 2015 which give us hope. One of them is education internationalization in the country. It is achieved by observing best practices in other countries. Therefore, we will arrive at development acceleration. (*/)

GarageScript in Partnership with Mozila Indonesia Community Launches Its First Free Coding Course in Indonesia

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GARAGESCRIPT sounds new to us in Indonesia. I, too, was unfamiliar with this startup until I came to their course at Mozilla Community Space in Jakarta, sat down and talked to two of young men from the startup to get to know more. It is simply put a nonprofit startup from San Jose, California, which opens free courses to anyone wanting to learn coding. There is no requirement that one should be a computer science graduate or master some basic knowledge. Even if you have no idea what coding really is but as long as you have the motivation to learn, you are welcome in the course because it starts from the most fundamental materials.

The startup began operating in 2 years ago. “It all started from our founder, Song Zheng, who wanted to teach his girlfriend (now his wife) Yoojin how to code,” Alvin told me in one brief interview along with his colleague, Jeffry. Song realized he could do more than just helping his beloved person. He could help more people out there to learn coding skills. The high unemployment rate in the US where he lives also partially motivated him to found GarageScript. Alvin mentioned that Song only wants to see more people smile after they can bring happiness to people they love at home by getting better-paid jobs.

Jakarta was in fact not in their plan. They planned to build networks in Malaysia. But a twist of fate led them to Indonesia. “There seemed to be a bureaucracy problem. A friend offered us to start here and then we shifted our focus on Jakarta,” Alvin said. Now they also have organically grown a community in Lippo Karawaci, Tangerang, where they hold regular daily meetups.

In GarageScript, students are free to learn at their own pace without having to be under pressure. Some people are fast learners but the rest are slower. For super fast learners, GarageScript provides a 3-month bootcamp which is set to be a key milestone as a new engineer. As the bootcamp ends, it means they are expected to keep learning and honing and updating their skills as the progress of technology is so rapid these days.

They give free coding courses at public libraries with the peer-to-peer approach. And because they want the course to be accessible for anyone, they thought weekends are the best time. “We volunteer teaching JavaScript at Santa Clara Northside Branch Library every Saturday for two hours,” he explained.

As the tech world needs more and more engineers, GarageScript seems to be willing to help people who need more lucrative jobs to try shifting to the tech job market. And being a software engineer is one of the prerequisites to earn more.

Instead of only about getting more and more from the free course, these students who have mastered the materials, they are encouraged to teach what they have learned to other people.

Though GarageScript is a startup, it grew initially as a community. You can see its community spirit implanted in their culture when Jeffrey told me that in the meetups, every member is asked to take turns to lead the meetup every week. And this proves their attitude towards their work. It is more about growing together, instead of competing against each other.

“We plan to open regular courses at Mozilla Indonesia Community Space on working days. We started with projects which can be achieved by our students and once they are competent enough, they can be asked to contribute to next projects,” Alvin added.

No lesson taught here goes wasted as they learn by doing (read: building projects). Results of their hard work will be used to help others learn the same way.

“Now our goal is to build a sustainable community in Jakarta so our efforts will continue here. And once they are skillful enough, they can teach others,”  Jeffry quipped.

As they can’t stay forever here, they want to make sure the seed of community is planted in the proper nursery room. And he seems to have found an apt place. (*/)

 

Brand VS Passion dalam Dunia Pendidikan

Penulis nonfiksi terkenal dari Kanada Malcolm Gladwell pernah secara terbuka mengkritik fenomena penyembahan brand dalam dunia pendidikan. Orang berbondong-bondong untuk mendaftarkan diri ke universitas-universitas bergengsi di seantero negeri karena ingin mendapatkan gelar dari universitas itu. Dengan begitu saat seseorang ditanya,”Lulusan kampus mana?”, ia tidak akan malu atau ragu.

Dengan komersialisasi dunia pendidikan yang semakin santer sekarang ini, kampus-kampus juga makin tidak mirip lembaga pendidikan tetapi korporasi dan bisnis yang mencari untung. Mereka meningkatkan kualitas mereka dalam berbagai lini dengan tujuan salah satunya yakni meningkatkan level brand mereka di mata masyarakat.

Gladwell mengatakan fenomena itu konyol karena pada dasarnya ini mirip dengan fenomena brand dan kualitas di pasar komoditas apapun. Brand kadang menjadi jaminan mutu tetapi tidak berarti barang yang dijual tanpa brand tersebut memiliki kualitas yang lebih rendah. Kadang ada kasus saat kita bisa menemukan brand hanya sebagai suatu alat pengungkit dan pembenar pemberian biaya yang tinggi terhadap suatu barang atau jasa.

Masih menurut Gladwell, jika sebuah universitas (atau lembaga pendidikan apapun) dilihat sebagai sebuah brand yang bisa dijual, kita bisa lihat universitas-universitas menjadi terdikotomi menjadi kelompok papan atas, menengah dan bawah. Dan ini menciptakan masalah baru, yaitu orang menjadi lebih fokus untuk mengejar brand kampus tertentu daripada mendapatkan ilmu yang sesuai passion mereka.

Jadi, Gladwell mengajukan sebuah gagasan segar bahwa idealnya kita harus mulai melihat sebuah lembaga pendidikan dengan kacamata passion di dalam diri seseorang. Alih-alih sibuk mencari berbagai cara untuk masuk ke dalam sebuah universitas idaman, seseorang bisa mengubah orientasi berpikirnya saat hendak memilih kampus dengan mengutamakan passion. Gladwell mencontohkan daripada membabi buta belajar untuk masuk ke universitas X, mengapa seseorang tidak belajar keras karena ingin diajar oleh profesor Y yang dianggap sebagai pionir atau pakar terbaik di bidang yang ingin seseorang tekuni. Itu perlu karena tidak semua program studi atau jurusan dalam sebuah universitas yang di mata orang memiliki brand bagus juga pada saat yang sama memiliki kualitas pendidikan yang sama bagusnya dengan prodi atau jurusan yang sama di universitas lainnya yang brandnya tidak setinggi itu. Dengan kata lain, saat seseorang memilih jalur pendidikan untuk masa depannya, ia tidak memilih berdasarkan brand tetapi gairah dan kecintaannya pada ilmu yang akan ditekuninya.

Cara pandang baru yang diajukan Gladwell ini memang belum populer. Jangankan di Indonesia, di Amerika Serikat saja paradigma kolot bahwa brand adalah segalanya masih bisa ditemui secara luas. Adalah sebuah kebanggaan bagi banyak orang untuk bisa memamerkan bahwa ia lulusan universitas ini atau itu. Tetapi lebih jarang orang yang bangga jika ia berhasil masuk ke sebuah jurusan tempat ia bisa diajar atau berguru langsung dan intensif kepada seorang pakar atau orang terbaik di bidang yang ia sedang tekuni.

Jadi, kita bisa bertanya pada diri kita sendiri, apakah kita belajar untuk mengejar brand agar kita bisa pamer lebih mudah atau mau mengejar ilmu agar kita bisa berkarya lebih produktif? (*)

Bahasa Menunjukkan Usia?

14708085_10209054307732232_3047029084795165360_oSudah seperti sebuah ketentuan alam bahwa anak muda dan orang tua berbeda cara dalam memakai bahasa. Dan perbedaan itu selalu membuat risau sebagian orang tua yang terus menerus gelisah dengan merebaknya bahasa gaul yang mereka deskripsikan sebagai “perusak” bahasa. Mereka sangat pusing dengan kata-kata seperti ‘baper’ (bawa perasaan), ‘gengges’ (ganggu), ‘mager’ (malas gerak) dan masih banyak lagi.

Isu klasik. Bukan berarti masalah ketidakdisiplinan berbahasa itu harus disepelekan tapi juga jangan sampai terlalu dipusingkan. Begitu dipusingkan sampai seolah menjadi sebuah bencana nasional. Semua anak-anak muda itu toh satu hari nanti akan beranak pinak. Dan saat itu datang, perilaku berbahasa mereka akan beradaptasi juga dengan makin matangnya usia.

Perbedaan bahasa antara anak muda dan orang tua juga memang seharusnya ada, kalau Anda meminta pendapat saya. Apa pasal? Karena bahasa itu sekaya dan seberagam manusia yang menggunakannya. Jadi konyol sekali kalau upaya menyeragamkan ragam bahasa di segala lini kehidupan itu mesti dilakukan. Absurd!

Dan omong-omong soal bahasa dan usia, di bulan Oktober yang juga bulan bahasa (karena di bulan inilah bahasa Indonesia diakui secara tertulis sebagai bahasa pemersatu bangsa dalam Sumpah Pemuda) ini, saya baru sadar saya sudah masuk golongan tua. Tempo hari novelis Leila S. Chudori berceletuk,”Membedakan generasi kata anak saya itu mudah.” Ia terkekeh barang sedetik dua detik. Saya menunggu punch line-nya. Lanjutnya,”Lihatlah status Facebook atau Twitternya. Kalau ditulis dengan bahasa yang baik dan benar, tidak pakai singkatan, itu artinya tua.”

Mereka yang cenderung menulis dengan cara begitu tertib, ujar Leila, usianya sudah mapan dan matang. “Di atas empat puluh tahun lah,” ucapnya ringan tapi sejurus menohok saya juga. Mereka ini generasi yang merasa belum pas kalau tidak menulis apapun di media sosial dengan baik dan benar, imbuhnya.

Dalam benak, saya menyanggah mentah-mentah. Argumen itu mungkin benar tapi perlu diperjelas bahwa usia yang dimaksud bukan usia kronologis tetapi umur linguistik seorang penutur bahasa. Makin banyak ia memakai bahasa slang semacam itu, semakin kita yakin bahwa usia kebahasaannya masih jauh dari kematangan. Dengan demikian, menurut saya seorang anak SMA bisa memiliki usia kebahasaan yang setara dengan seorang pria usia 50-an yang memahami dan menggunakan istilah-istilah slang kontemporer hampir di segala situasi dan kondisi. Sebaliknya, seorang anak SMP sekalipun jika ia sudah mampu memahami dan menggunakan dengan apik sesuai kondisi dan situasi bahasa yang baik dan benar akan memiliki usia kebahasaan yang sama dengan seorang profesor. Orang-orang berusia kebahasaan yang lebih matang ini mungkin tahu makna kata-kata dalam bahasa slang tapi memilih untuk menggunakannya sebagai pengetahuan semata, tidak diamalkan dalam perilaku berbahasa sehari-hari.

Kedewasaan berbahasa itu sejatinya bisa diraih siapa saja, dari yang masih belia sampai usia senja. Syaratnya cuma satu: banyak mengkonsumsi (membaca, mendengar) bahan bacaan berkualitas.

‘Gila’, Rahasia Belajar Bahasa

Saya selalu berkata tidak ada rahasia dalam belajar bahasa. Kalaupun ada, rahasianya ialah cuma latihan terus menerus, tiap saat, tanpa kenal tempat. Kalau mau lebih bagus bicara, bicaralah dengan bahasa yang diinginkan sesering mungkin. Demikian juga dengan aspek kemampuan bahasa lain seperti menyimak, menulis, tata bahasa, dan sebagainya.

Untuk mengasah kemampuan berbicara, memang disarankan untuk memiliki rekan latihan agar kita terdorong aktif berbicara dan terlibat dalam percakapan nyata tapi bagaimana dengan mereka yang tidak punya lawan bicara?

Seorang teman menguasai sebuah bahasa asing karena lingkungan keluarganya yang mendukung. Ia berbicara dengan semua anggota keluarganya dalam bahasa itu sembari sesekali menggunakan bahasa Indonesia.

Namun, saya tidak seberuntung dia yang semua keluarganya mampu berbahasa asing dengan kelancaran tinggi. Akhirnya saya pun harus puas dengan cara belajar bahasa yang ‘gila’: berbicara dengan diri saya sendiri.

Dulu saya pikir ini cara belajar bahasa yang tidak lazim tapi begitu saya pagi ini membaca kisah Emily, seorang gadis cilik berusia dua tahun dari New Haven, saya tak lagi merasa cara belajar itu aneh. Bahkan cara itu memang metode yang alami dan efektif.

Jadi begini cerita Emily. Ia adalah subjek penelitian yang bertajuk “Narratives from the Crib” di awal tahun 1980-an. Untuk mengukur perkembangan kemampuan berbahasanya, percakapan Emily bersama orang tuanya direkam untuk diteliti. Namun, dalam perkembangannya, ditemukan bahwa Emily juga aktif berbicara sebelum tidur. Ilmuwan pun juga merekamnya. Saat dibandingkan, ternyata percakapan Emily saat berbicara dengan orang tuanya dan saat berbicara dengan dirinya sendiri di malam hari sangat berbeda. Monolog Emily jelang tidur justru menunjukkan tingkat kemampuan berbahasa yang lebih bagus dan rumit dibandingkan dengan dialognya dengan orang dewasa yang sering meremehkan kemampuannya berkomunikasi sehingga mendungukan diri mereka agar ‘setara’ dengan kemampuan berbahasa Emily yang mereka pikir masih rendah. Tapi mereka salah.

Lebih lanjut, ditemukan bahwa tingkat penguasaan kosakata dan tata bahasa Emily lebih bagus saat ia berbicara dengan dirinya sendiri. Ia mampu merancang kalimat panjang dalam bentuk narasi atau cerita yang bermakna, sesuatu yang dianggap orang dewasa musykil dilakukan anak dua tahun.

Karena itu, jangan takut dianggap gila kalau berbicara sendiri tanpa ada orang lain sebagai lawan dalam rangka melatih kecakapan berbahasa. Lebih baik ‘gila’ daripada selamanya tidak bisa.