Learning a second language is a two-way process!

your say December 06, 2017 01:00

Re: “A few tips on communication for native English speakers”, Have Your Say, November 29.

A Johnsen complains that letter-writers here try too hard to impress readers with their language instead of keeping it simple and easy-to-understand. I disagree. 

I am not a native-English speaker, but I grew up in a multicultural environment which facilitated English learning. The sound of the Singaporean English accent instantly reminds me of those days. 

Each English-language newspaper here has a large “learning” section. The Nation’s NJ Digital section offers great help and is extended with the “Hello English” mobile version. Thus much attention is paid to preventing readers “dropping out after one sentence”, while persuading them to make extra effort by, for example, downloading a bilingual dictionary to their smartphone.

Mr Johnsen’s suggested tips are all very well, but one must recognise the fact that education should be a “two-way” process – in contrast to the rote learning system (one-way) still popular in Thailand. When I do not know the meaning of a word and cannot deduce it from the context I use a dictionary. It cannot always be handed down on a silver platter; often some effort is needed from the individual. 

I agree with Mr Johnsen when he says a newspaper is a mass medium meant to inform and educate people. But that should always be a two-way process. Even the function to “inform” demands that readers make an effort to check information in reports, especially in this age of fake news. The need for “life-learning” in the 21st-century has made the good old silver platter obsolete: it’s all up to YOU.

I myself added the Thai language to my list a long time ago, and I’m still learning, so I can agree with respect to the difficulties of learning foreign languages.

Dirk Sumter