Friday, February 05, 2010

Sir, May I Go Out?

"Sir, may I go out?" I think that is the first serious phrase that I could remember from the days when I was in standard one or so. Why so important? Because that was the key words for me to ask a permission from the teacher to go to toilet during english class.

English subject is part of the syllabus taught in school. It is a second language for me and my other malay friends. During my time english stream was no longer exist as a choice. My sister's era a few years back was the last batch. Came from non-english educated family background make it a little tough for me to master the language. In fact I was blank. In 'penilaian darjah lima' exam, I only managed a C for english.

Then during my secondary education days at a boarding school, I still lacking behind a few kilometers from my friends on the subject. In fact grammar is still my biggest problem until today. Not to mentioned my present tense, past tense & past continuous tense all mixed up without the right formula. I kind of 'bulldozed' my way through. Not really master the right rules or technics. Every now and then you can find the errors popping up at will. My SPM result also reflected poor performance for english subject.

My undergraduate days, even though in the USA, still did not make me well verse. Partly because at my University, Malaysian's students community were the largest among foreign students. End up I stay with my malay friends and talk and walk malay most of the time. How to improve my English like that?

I remember in my working life, in one of the high profile project, I was assigned to take up minutes of meeting. The project at the time was in a very critical stage. Thus the weekly minutes of meeting suddenly became a very important piece of document. The customer was quite fussy and very critical. "You are giving us a piece of junk!", I recalled one of the nasty remarks from Mrs Farida their project director, one fierce iron lady, about the minutes of meeting submitted to her.

Before that in a few occasions I have told my project manager that I'm not the right person to take up and write the minutes as my english was terrible, but was ignored. I told him that the arrangement can make thing worse in the already strained relationship with the customer. My project manager Mr Ho who graduated from UK, patiently guided me through. Taught me the right words to use, the correct annotation, grammar, spelling and all the stuff. Thank you Mr Ho for sticking with me. Perhaps he has no other team member to replace me at the time anyway, and wished not having to write the minutes himself. For that reason as well, my transfer request to other project was rejected a few times. It really gave me lots of pressure writing minutes of meeting week in week out.

One year later (after 50 volume of MoM or so) when the project stabilized or should I say towards the end of its life cycle, my wish to be transferred to other project was granted by him. On the day he broke the good news, I remembered he told me something that caught me by surprise. I'm not sure whether he told me the truth or just bluffing or just want to please me. "I think your english is quite good. Your sentences were creative in nature."

Thinking back, maybe my english is not too bad after all - writing, reading and speaking. But to be honest I still screw up in term of grammar and those tenses, and spelling sometime. But I think I can survive. In my line of works, I feel comfortable communicating and doing presentation in front of full audience. I enjoy reading TheSun free morning paper and TheMalayMail free afternoon paper distributed at Masjid Jamek LRT Station every working days. TheStar also remain my favourite paid newspaper that I seldom missed. Pitty to whom that cannot read english because the free paper circulation at the LRT will means nothing to them. I also can understand (without reading the sub-titles) all those english tv programs and news which I think took more than 50% of the daily airplay. Also I could 'ear pick' all those conversation in the LRT among the pack commuters, who mostly using broken english anyway.

So my kids, learn english, read english books, novels and newspaper. Speak, and don't be shy. Write in english. By the way, teaching science and maths in english, somehow help to improve english I think, or at least give the kids some 'broken english' skillset. And at university level, most books and reference materials are still hardcore in english.

Eventhough the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese, Thailands, the Frances, Germans, Spains, and others reach far excellence without english, still I feel no harm to master the bloody english language. I always admire the english of Pak Mat, and Mat Anom, very sharp and details. Maybe because they came from the 'english era' of the 60s & 70s, hmmm maybe.

What about my classmate Dr Nordin? His english also high power one. Oooo forgot he got PHD maaa. Anyway keep learning english as our second language as it give us tons of benefit. The EPL live commentator also in english right? Whats on this week? Chelsea vs Arsenal?



pakmat said...

salam tot..dan benar sekali, tot..pakmat dari English Medium..dari Primary One dah bermula 'a man and a pan' sahinggakan kini pun kekadang pakmat think in English dan menulis dalam Bahasa Melayu..tidaklah pula bermaana pakmat tidak terpesona dgn bahasa ibunda..pakmat meminati Bahasa Melayu dan kerap membaca tulisan-tulisan yg indah dr pelbagai sumber..bagi pkmat BM ada banyak kekuatan yg Inggeris tidak bolih tandingi..dari segi keseniannya..emosinya..dan kelembutannya.. BI tak mampu mempergambarkan keindahan..bagipakmat, untuk bermain kata-kata..BM adalah lebih berkesan..pakmat berblog dlm BI adalah atas pilihan sendiri setelah melihat betapa kurangnya bangsa kita berblog dlm BI..dan sekiranya tot mendapati blog pakmat berkesan, maka bagi pakmat, ianya satu kejayaan..terima kasih..

sot said...

TQ Pakmat for your thoughtful comment. There are formula out there to be good at basic english, which I skipped last time. Then come the talent and creativity to form a nice and meaningful sentences. Its like building a structure, the base must be strong to give quality finishing. Looks like I should open my kid's "Easy English" book, just to go back to basic. Moving forward, producing a better end product. Your blog 'Pak Mat' really make my day.

Achu Tra said...

Bro. SOT...B Inggeris nih meme peting...kebanyokkae "reading materials" di Uni pong dlm English..kalu kito tok reti Inggeris payoh ambo blogging dlm dialek Kelate sbb anok2...tokleh kecek kelate doh...BM & BI cikgu ajar dialek Kelate.. sekolah tok's a dialect that MUST be preserved...

sot said...

TQ Achu Tra. Betul jugak tu. Anak2 kita ni dah jadi generasi yg dibesarkan di luar Kelantan. Sampai satu ketika mungkin akan hilang identiti Kel di jiwa mereka. Anak2 ambo pun, saya & isteri communicate in dialek kelate, dan anak2 faham. Cuma bila mereka kecek kok kelate bunyi lain sikit....takpo la. Asalkan mereka gheti & faham kecek kelate.

yushida03 said...

BM (standard - versi johor/KL/selangor/ 'luar'), BI, Klate.. all are important in their own unique way.. nice entry bro.

sot said...

TQ bro yushida03. We live in a multiple role & multiple task environments. Mutiple skill & language or dialect hopefully can help.

ziarah76 said...

'language is not merely to be tought, but also to be cought.'

probakti 21 said...

Salam SOT,

We have had similar experience in learning and enquiring Engish.I started late after completing my "Darjah enam"in a Malay school.

My first English textbook "Look and Read " and "Who am I" prove to be very valuable to me.Since then I began to read books from the school library.
Every new word and phrase were taken down and compiled in my personal vocabulary book.Meaning were written in Malay with the help of a dictionary.

It was a nightmare once my English teacher (An Englishman )gave me a B++ for my composition (though he commented and gave suggestions in a two and half page,) It was in the fifth form then that he used to underline my sentences in red and remarked them as "this is std.six English"! These inspired and gave me new driving force to achieve better.

I believe that readings makes one to be perfect.

Someone had said,"One cannot live well until one has learned how to read well"

Thank you !

sot said...

TQ ziarah76. In daily dealing especially at works, communication play a big role. Sometime we have a lot to say but failed to speak it out, or people do not understand what we are trying to say. For example in my company eventhough 95% of the satff are malay but meeting normally conducts in English. So it give disadvantage to staff who cannot master the english. And make some who master the english looks good.

sot said...

Salam probakti21. Your experience to master the English language in school days can be a lesson to us all, especially the kids. I have a friend last time at school who sleep with dictionary all the time. He set a target to remember at least ten new words a day to enhance his vocabulary. Thats make it 300 new words a month, not bad right? But again some people know how to write or read but not so good in speaking. Some are good in speaking but failed in writing. But I think we should agree that to know and master the language other than your own language, is an advantage, sometime it is a necessity and no longer a luxury.

Mat Cendana said...

Salam Everyone,
Wow, I've been mentioned in this post - and it wasn't about anything bad that I've done!:-) I was writing a reply here when I realised that it was very long. So, I had written it as a new post at my `other blog' instead:
Ikraq: READ Beano & Dandy

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