1.1 Background of the Study
English is a language spoken by people in English speaking countries or in international events among countries around the world. Ramelan (1992:2-3) stated that “English as an international language is used to communicate, to strengthen and to fasten relationship among all countries in the world in all fields, for example: in tourism, business, science and technology, etc. Considering the importance of English, people from various non-English speaking countries including Indonesia learn English.” Having proficiency in English, people will be able to face this over- changing world easily. So, it is not surprising if the number of people who are interested in learning English is getting increased from time to time.
In Indonesia, English has been taught as a foreign language. Ramelan (1992; 1) stated that “English has been taught in our country as the first foreign language since the proclamation in Indonesia on the 17th of August 1945.” It is taught as a compulsory subject in junior high school and senior high school and in universities or institutes for several terms. Even, it has been tried to be taught to the students of some elementary schools.
Many educational experts and the society do many efforts to make the teaching of English better and better. They also consider the urgent role of English in the world’s communication. To keep up with the world’s communication, Indonesian government has made a significant step in the English teaching by renewing the 1994 curriculum into 2004 Competency-Based Curriculum. This new curriculum enables students to have a better way and materials in studying English.
In the 2004 Competency-Based Curriculum, English teaching in junior high school covers four competences; they are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Those basic competences are integratedly taught because the main goal of teaching English is that students are able to develop their communicative skills in both written and spoken English. In addition, the language components – structure, vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation – are not separately taught. They are to support the development of those basic competences.
The students are expected to be able to communicate in English using correct structure. Structure or grammar is one of the basic components of language which must be learnt by students. It is very useful and important as Raja T. Nasr (1988:52) writes that grammar is a part of any language. Just as there is no language without sounds (at least no live or oral language) so, there is no language without grammar. Having knowledge of grammar will help people to comprehend what other people say or write. On the other hand, it is difficult for Indonesian students to use correct structure in English. This is mostly because the students are influenced by their mother tongue on the acquisition of the new structures. Smith and Kellerman (1986:1) called that as a cross linguistic influence because “it is about the interplay between earlier and later acquired languages.”
“It is now established beyond doubt that the first language can have a constraining role in the second language in the production of learners – that is to say that the perception of differences between first language and second language by learners may effectively prevent transfer of first language’s structures as Kean calls ‘short- sighted transfer’.”(Smith and Kellerman, 1986:2).
From the statement above, we may conclude that one of the Indonesian students’ problems in mastering English is that their mother tongue rules still influence them in using it.
Since having differences between their mother tongue from English languages, the students often find problems with grammar, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, and the like. Nevertheless, the students usually face difficulty in English grammar that is in arranging words into correct utterances or sentences. It means that grammar is one of the most important parts of English to communicate with others. When we communicate, both in written and spoken ways with other people, we should not only have a good vocabulary but also correct grammar. Therefore, without grammar, it is hard for people to understand what we say or write because grammar makes a string of words or utterances meaningful.
There are many rules in grammar that cannot be ignored. They are articles, parts of speech, sentence pattern, tense, etc. Part of the grammar that is considered to be most difficult to learn for Indonesian students is tenses. Simple present tense is the example. Frank (1972:66) states that “Simple present tense is used to express a habitual action with adverbs like usually, always, or often.” The use of simple present tense often makes students confused with its complexity, especially for the eight year students of junior high school. They usually have some problems in finding out the verb form of simple present tense. They often write “He walk to school everyday,” instead of “He walks to school everyday.” The third singular persons such as he, she, and it need suffix –s or –es for the verb. It shows that Indonesian students do not consider that in English there are verbs formed in singular or plural. In Indonesian language, singular or plural forms do not affect the verb form.
In this final project, I discuss students’ English skill in writing descriptive text using simple present tense. Writing a descriptive text should be clear, vivid, and concrete. If a student has made a mistake in using simple present tense, it means that he/she is not competent yet in making his/her text. It makes the reader confused and difficult to understand what the writer means. Therefore, through descriptive text, I would like to find out the students’ learning problems, to know the students’ achievement and difficulties in learning the simple present tense. Wishon and Burks (1980:379) stated that “descriptive writing is used to create a visual image of people, places, even units of time days, times of day or seasons.” Hopefully, it will help students in using the simple present tense.