Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reasons why English is not being mastered by Malaysians!

When I started my primary schooling at Jelutong English School [2] in Georgetown, Penang Island back in 1965, the schooling system here in Malaysia was still in a sense having that Colonial British atmosphere to it. 

Although Malaysia was then just 2 years old coming to be formed officially on the 16th of September, 1963, there was no rush to replace the British education system based on the English Language which was prevalent at those times with Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia as it was later called as. 

I studied with my fellow Malaysians from all ethnicities and faiths here back then under a generally accepted English medium primary school. We were taught in English and Malay and were also allowed to learn and master other languages such as Mandarin, Tamil or Arabic as additional subjects.

My attempt at learning Tamil as an additional subject evaporated into thin air when the large sized Tamil teacher slammed her large wooden blackboard ruler very hard and loudly onto the surface of the teacher's table upon entering the noisy class!

I dashed off with my bag and books shocked and surprised at such an alarming entrance by that humongous teacher! Scared to bits of that giant sized Tamil teacher, I vowed to never enter her Tamil class again!

I kept to my vow right up to the 6th year when I entered secondary school! No way was I that brave to rejoin her Tamil class! No sirree!

As a result, I can't read or write in the Tamil language but I have mastered English & Malay to such an extent that I scored 'Almost Native Speaker' level of English when I took the British Council's English Assessment Test. I scored Band 8 which was almost the Native Speaker of English level.

I can't assume that everyone would have a natural inclination or ability to master English the way that I did but can only guess that it must have to do with each individual's internal desire and aspirations.

I knew my situation. That I was a poor boy born to parents who were not educated due to their own circumstances back then where education was only the privilege of wealthier people.

Thus I had to educate myself in any way that was possible for me back in the 1960's. If you watch the old black & white films of the late P.Ramlee you would have an idea of the poverty of the leading character which he featured in films like 'Anak ku Sazali' and others.

If you look at the way some people here in Malaysia speak English, it would sound funny. The person concerned would often have a special accent according to his or her ethnicity and their spoken English would sound Malay if the speaker was one. Chinese, Indian or whatever accordingly.

Why is that so? Well, I can only deduce that while they intend to speak English as they want to, their brain isn't thinking in English as well.

So we get all these funny sounding English interspersed with a twinge of the mother tongue of the speaker. Let me see if I can find on You Tube clips like that?

Well, this sharing by an expatriate English teacher has her audience laughing hysterically with her delivery!

A taste of the local Malaysians speaking in 'English'! Enjoy! :D

Now, sit back, loosen your belt and watch a local Malaysian Deputy Public Prosecutor make a fool of himself by speaking in his Malay version of English! This was the 'Teoh Beng Hock' death inquest.

Your honor, I rest my case. :P

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