Are you one of those who has spent months or even years in Indonesia, but still cannot carry on a decent conversation in Bahasa Indonesia?
When you see other foreigners having seamless discussions in Indonesian, do you become envious and say to yourself, "Language learning is just not my thing. Foreign languages don't come naturally to me."?
If this is you, then put an end to your defeatist attitude immediately!
If you're not attaining fluency as rapidly as those around you, don't start questioning your ability. Instead, ask yourself, "What do others understand about language learning that I don't understand? What's the secret to their success that I'm not aware of?"
The answer is really quite simple :
Successful language learners understand what it actually means to be fluent in a language.
Language ‘fluency’ is defined as "being able to communicate quickly or easily in a given language." If you can talk to people confidently about normal things, at a normal speed, and understand their replies without them having to adjust to you as a beginner, then it would be reasonable to say that you've achieved language "fluency."
But, sadly, many learners confuse language FLUENCY with language PROFICIENCY . . . and they're NOT the same thing.
Language 'proficiency' has nothing to do with 'fluency.' It has nothing to do with how easily you can use the language and hold a conversation with others. Language 'proficiency' refers to the "academic" aspect of language - understanding the rules of the language, knowing proper sentence structure, being able to use correct grammar, speaking with proper pronunciation, developing a large store of vocabulary, etc.
If you've always thought that FLUENCY AND PROFICIENCY are the same thing, think again. As language educators, we can assure you that there is a distinction. It's possible to be fluent without being highly proficient, and it's also possible to be highly proficient without being fluent.
At Language Studies Indonesia (LSI), we have many "very fluent" students who can converse freely and easily in Bahasa Indonesia. They're NOT necessarily "highly proficient" in the language - they may make some grammatical errors, they may mix up their sentence structures a bit, and they may mispronounce a few words - BUT THEY ARE 'FLUENT.' They can understand others and others can understand them. They can express their most complex thoughts in Bahasa Indonesia (grammatical errors notwithstanding) and their message is understood by others. That's 'fluency.'
We have other students who are "highly proficient" in Bahasa Indonesia but have virtually no "fluency" at all. These students have spent many hours learning all the grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary, practicing proper pronunciation, and they can form perfect sentences on a classroom test. But in the real world, their analytical approach just doesn't work. In day-to-day conversations where others are speaking quickly, they have no time for analysis. They can't understand what's being said to them, and they certainly can respond spontaneously on the spot.
So the point is this :
If you've always thought that language FLUENCY and language PROFICIENCY are the same thing, then we've just identified your problem in developing your 'fluency.'
You need to make a distinction between 'fluency' and 'proficiency,' and recognize that 'fluency' and 'proficiency' are separate goals. And you also need to understand that you achieve these goals in different ways.
Proficiency is usually developed in the classroom and is best practiced through reading and writing. Young school children may be fluent in a language but not highly proficient, as they lack the foundational knowledge and vocabulary that comes with understanding the depths of the language. That's why we send them to school. Likewise, your language classes will provide you with the rudimentary foundation you need to expand your proficiency and pave the way for you to develop your 'fluency.' But . . . FLUENCY is developed OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM.
Fluency is impossible to attain without engaging in dialogues with fluent speakers of the language.
So here we go again . . . stating what we've said time and time again, in article after article:
Nobody can can make you fluent in Bahasa Indonesia. Only YOU can do that.
Even if you have a brilliant teacher who delivers brilliant lessons, it will all come to nothing if you don't get out there and USE the language you've learned. It's only by putting your newly-learned language skills to immediate use outside the classroom that the language will "stick" and become fully entrenched in your mind.
To clarify the point :
LSI students learn Indonesian Greetings in their very first lesson. A student who is truly committed to developing her/his fluency will walk out of that very first lesson and never again greet anyone in any language other than Indonesian.
A few lessons later, LSI students learn 'Directions'. A student who is genuinely dedicated to developing his fluency will leave that class and never again give her/his driver directions in any language other than Indonesia.
By putting their language to Immediate use outside the classroom, all language learned by these students sticks with them forever . . . and they develop 'fluency' at lightning speed!
Conversely, students who attend their Bahasa Indonesia classes but do NOT put their language to immediate use, generally complain they have "no natural ability with language" within a month or two of enrolling.
So, what do you say now?
Are you suffering from a lack of ability to become fluent in Bahasa Indonesia? Or is it just a lack of conviction?
Knowing what you know now, you'll soon find out :)
Selamat belajar, happy studying.