Bacalah. Jangan risau, ia tidak akan membuatkan anda terkencing kerana ketakutan. Percayalah. =)
It has been a while since I last wrote in English. I'm not even entirely sure what to write in this post. Just feel like writing in English.
Talking about English, I have had quite a rough and interesting ride learning this language. I bet nearly everyone of you out there started to get to know this language when you were in the kindergarten. Eh? Learning A,B and C, and how to spell easy words like ball, cat and so forth. And then it gets more advanced once you stepped into the primary education. But still English is tolerable. Once you are in sekolah menengah though, when you have to write essays not less than, what, 250 words? Then English has become an annoying makcik.
English wasn't particularly my favourite subject to tell you truth. Yes, I wanted to be able to speak like orang putih so much to speak. But learning English is a different story altogether. Learning English can be as fun as going through the Congo splash ride in Sunway Lagoon, or it can be as boring as following your mum to yet another of her friend's kenduri kahwinkan anak.
Those who come from family who treats English as their mother tongue, they are from a different species. For them, English is just like eating kacang goreng. Sometimes though, rather annoyingly, they do look down upon those who can't speak properly. What a shame. Next time, lets ask them to speak in perfect Malay and you, sit down and enjoy looking at them stuttering and speaking British-like Malay. Wahaha.
But lets put those people aside. They are a different breed of homo-sapiens after all. I'm talking about people like myself, or those who were raised in kampung, where Bahasa Melayu is our preferred means of communication with others. Yes, I speak Malay for most of the times, even when I was in London for 3 years. But that doesn't mean I can't speak or write English properly.
This is when it gets interesting. I started reading English books when I was in STAR. Thanks to Jo, my buddy, he introduced me to R.L. Stine's and Christoper Pike's. Yes, at those times, even Pike's horror teen novels seemed cool and trendy to read. It wasn't long after that I realised how rubbish they were. At the same time, I started to read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter after Peqnas, my junior of one year, persuaded me to read it. The Prisoner of Azkaban was my first encounter with Rowling. I quickly fell in love with Hermione Granger (Ha!) and Ronald Weasley (Oops!). Since then, my English literary collections were not the same again. I started to read Grisham's, Archer's, Dan Brown's and to name a few. Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel is my all time favourite.
I thought my English was OK when I was in STAR. I was, well, wrong. When I went to KY for my A-Levels, my English, compared to my peers, was pathetic. I remember vividly I was humiliated in the History class, when I pronounced 'bomb' as 'bom,' as in roti boom. The whole class were laughing hysterically. Since then, I vowed to myself that I need to and must improve my English. Fast. I would be going to the oversea after all. So what did I do? Quite a lot. And one of them, interestingly, was to go through a passage or article with the online dictionary, where you can listen to the computer pronouncing a certain word in a perfect English manner. Perfect. Just what I was looking for.
And Alhamdulillah, my efforts did not go into vain. Even my English Literature teacher, a bald guy named Fellender eventually said I was improving. A lot. My peers who once laughed at my face for my kampung-ish English, did concede that my English has improved for the better. Victory!
I still have difficulties when I need to speak in English spontaneously. You know, like explaining stuff, complex stuff to people when they asked me questions. But once I've kick-started, the rest is quite easy. Trust me, all you need is confidence. I've had numerous experiences with people who spoke tunggang tebalik English, yet because of their high self-confidence and I-Don't-Care-What-You-Think kinda attitude, they managed to impress others.
And I do have difficulties writing in English. Sometimes I had to resort to Mr. Google Translate or Miss Online Dictionary (although they can be useless sometimes!) to come to my rescue. But the satisfaction of writing in English is, well, inexplicable. You know you won't be writing much in that orang putih language. Yet when you do, it's sorta an achievement. Chuckle.
Why do I tell you all these? Because I know English scares the hell out of you, most of you out there. It should not, honestly. I know it feels, to be ridiculed, to be looked at rather disapprovingly, just because you can't speak English like Rowan Atkinson. Ok probably not him, but you got the message right? Because I've been there, in those shoes. I know it's very demotivating. After all, you are in MALAYsia eh? Why need to speak English meh? Malay is the national language!
Yet, English has become the lingua franca, whether you like it or not. It's true that if you can speak English confidently, you can go far in your career. Be it unfair, but that's the reality. If you still think that you don't need English, fine. Talk to the hand. You can survive here in Malaysia. But once you stepped out of the border, sorry, do you speak English, ma'am? I've got to know a few Singaporean chaps when I was in London and their English.. How do I put it, err, like.. Phua Chu Kang and JRR Tolkien! That's how I compare my English with theirs! They were damn good! And of course, I took the opportunity to 'exploit' them! Wahaha.. I learned a lot from my Singaporean friends. Singaporeans are not that evil after all. Grin.
I'd reckoned, it would be a challenge for any English teacher to make the subject more interesting and fun to learn. Especially when they are teaching Malay students, who quite understandably, don't really appreciate English. But English is the way to go (besides Mandarin) nowadays. If you want to compete globally, you have to know to speak English. No need to be fluent or perfect. But enough for you to 'sell' yourself. It's not so much of being able to speak good English. Rather, it's about being able to convey the message in English effectively. If our Singaporean neighbor can do it, why can't us? I'm yet to see the fruits of our government's efforts in enhancing English amongst the Malaysians. It's time for us to be more serious about it.
And my message is simple. If I can do it, why can't you..? Yes, I'm not yet there. There are a lot of things that I need to improve. I'm yet to muster the confidence to speak in the public in English. Well when I had to, I did it pretty well. But not as good as when I spoke in Malay. Same goes with my writing. If I give this article to my Singaporean to go through, I bet they will come back to me with loads of comments and red underlines. Haha.. I'm still learning and alhamdulillah, I can see the progress. And I tell you, I have journeyed far from where I left. I won't be who I am today if not because of those baby steps I took. It's time for you to take similar steps. Trust my guts; YOU can do it. Smile.
All the best!