Sunday, May 21, 2006

No thank you.

Somebody commented on my English the other day. He said, ‘not bad for a malay’. Which is not bad. Sometimes I get, ‘not bad for a local graduate’, sometimes ‘not bad for a non-KL chick’. Not bad at all. I don’t get offended easily, nor do I get flattered easily. A ‘not bad’ compliment with a generic ‘not bad’ insult is usually taken well in my stride.

And a day after that, I went teaching English for four four-year olds. Of course, with a not-bad English, I don’t dare teach English to anybody taller than me. That sort of stops at 5-year olds. Now in the class last Saturday, there was one malay girl. Cute like a button and chubby like a teddy bear. She seems like a bright kid. But for some reasons, the cute little button of a teddy bear was not responsive at all. She sat underneath the table just twiddling with her thumbs. After a few minutes she would leave the classroom and spend some minutes in the bathroom. Everything that I asked her to do, she would just politely decline with a ‘no, thank you’. Are you tired? No thank you. Colour the box red. No thank you. How old are you? No thank you. Is this yours (she left her undies on the floor)? No thank you.

And it got me worried. I think the reason why she is going ‘no thank you’ all the time is simply because she doesn’t understand a word I said. And not being able to understand, she is unable to participate and that makes her bored. And so she is not learning anything. Apparently the girl only gets a dose of English, two hours a week.

It gets me worried because my own kids get exposure to English only from Channel 63. And like the Button’s mom (she's working on an MBA), I am too busy to teach my kids too. I plan to send my kids to school when they turn four. And it totally kills me to imagine them sitting under the table, bored and probably feeling low too because the other kids look down on them. ‘She cant speak English, teacher, she doesn’t understand’ like what my other students said about Button. The poor kid. My poor babies too.

It wasn’t so difficult in my time.

We didn’t use English at home. My father spoke ‘not bad’ English, but he didn’t use it at home. My mom’s English was limited to yes-no-thankyou. I learnt English from the tv. Back then there were Sesame Street, The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact. And once a week, we would all go to town and my sister and I were let loose in a book store and we all got to choose one book each for ourselves. We bought mostly Ladybird books because the pictures were absolutely beautiful. And then we both had to read the books out loud to my father and he would correct our pronunciation. Then we read again, this time quietly and with a pencil we would underline all the difficult words. We had this huge Kamus Dwi-Bahasa DBP and we would then search for the meanings and wrote them all down in the book. And then we read again, this time to understand the story. And my mom would then give us comprehensive or spelling tests. I could never spell scissors right (here now is okay because it is auto-corrected). And even before I started school, I was already an avid fan of Enid Blyton. Oh and how I so wanted to solve mysteries like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

Back then, Maths and Science were still taught in Bahasa. So even if you are language-challenged, you can still do well in school and perhaps survive through the university too.

It is different now. What if the Button, Dot and Sun get bored in Science and Maths lessons too because of language problems? How are they ever going to survive through primary school? Oh no oh no!

When Dot first arrived, I told Yamtuan how we should start familiarising her with English as early as possible. But Yamtuan said no, he argued that both our parents speak Bahasa all the time and we turned out okay too. On my own, I tried to use English around the kids but I discovered that babytalking them in English irritated my own ears too. And so in the end, I use Bahasa. And my Dot’s English vocabulary is limited to some nouns like cats, dogs, lizard, wash, etc and of course the all purpose word, ‘NO’ too. She cant make whole sentences and if I try telling her something in English, she always answers ‘no thank you’.

Oh no thank you no thank you! What do I do what do I do!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are hilarious as usual mate. I speak english all the time to the kids since they need to understand and be understood in school. Evan Bun is speaking English all the time.

But mum has been giving me hell about not teaching them Malay, what can I say LOL!

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nowadays ppl are glorifying english left-right-center..well,it's good as it is after all the lingua franca.

but occasionally i do get irritated with kids (urban ones, of course) who speak english and nothing else, and when they balik kampung, cakap melayu berterabur..dah tak reti nak berbahasa melayu lah pulak..especially with the grandparents..

then again, that is just me..i don't impose it on others, of course. kang nanti tak pasal2 pulak kena bantai kat blog si odd ni..


8:03 PM  
Blogger anedra said...

funnylah you oody..and since when does the busiest woman in the planet have time to go teaching lil kids english?? what do you NOT do??

dont worry about dot and sun. they'll catch up. and so what if they dont speak good english? the french dont, neither do the english actually..and they're doing fine. but that's just me lah..and my england aint that good either! ;p

11:53 PM  
Blogger Nazrah said...

oh my oh my...

i get bashed real hard bcuz aishah can't speak BM save for some nogori speak...nef wud get royally miffed definitely...hehe singapore girl tak sedar asal usul...

i am just preparing her for school here. but poor girl gets teased a lot kat kampung.

am not glorifying the queen's english, and my sense of loyalty to BM is pretty much up there if i may say so myself.

i just gotta buck up n teach aishah to be effectively multilingual in due time.

hanyu pinyin is next in her repertoire.tu pun kalau aku rajin haha.

apa-apa hal maaaaak jugak kena.

1:18 AM  
Blogger born-again drama queen said...

oi nazrahku, aku tak kutuk hang tau..think aisyah is doing just fine..

ni cakap pasal 5 orang sepupu papat kat kl nuh..cakap kelantan pun tak reti dah.

sedih..budu pun diaorang tak leh bau..

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bahasa melayu ka, cina ka, tamil ka, orang putih ka, orang purple ka yang penting sehat. Education is important they learn of course.
balik kampong kalau orang tak faham what language are you talking about... use sign language la... tak pon carik transletter. its not the parents fault not teaching the kids bahasa ibunda but kids being kids.. they used whatever language that they prefer and hear daily...!don't they?

2:59 AM  
Blogger OOD said...

i give Bahasa lessons too. For English children, my rate is higher lah. Sayugia untuk ibu bapa English children, saya ada menawarkan kursus Ulangkaji Bahasa Malaysia versi Jawi. Ada berani?

oooohhh... i sometimes get malays apologising for their bahasa, sorry my bahasa is broken. Haw haw haw... But that must be better than me because bahasa malaysia saya broken, my english kokak and my arabic is limited to kaifahaluki, ana bikhair, naam naam.

Worry not, sapa2 nak bantai you kena langkah i dulu! And that 's not very difficult.

aiyohhhhh makan dalam beb! Too busy to teach my kids but can find time if i get paid? Ooooooohh, owch! No wonder the monkeys are fatter than my kids?


the other day Dot told the abah to buy her some manggo. We are not sure whether it was mango english or manggo nogori. Dot speaks yamtuan's english, hmmm...

Oi Nefertiti,
i know a kelantanese girl, who's now a datin, who went 'eeeeeuwww' at the budu i was making kicap of. And she asked, 'what is THAT' and when i told her it was ehem, her staple food, budu, she mintak rasa a bit and then went eeeeeeuuuwwww again. She was brought up in Kota Bharu!!

kesian tok nenek kan? Dia kata kambing, cucu kata sheep. Ada satu lagu penah dengaq?
"baba kambing hitam ada kah bulu? Ya tuan ya tuan tiga beg penuh, etc... "
to the tune of what else, baba black sheep. i thought the malay version is hilarious!
Confuse confucius!

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ood, sungguh melampau laa kalau doh kecek slang budu, tapi tok leh bau budu. cis!
mak datin tu boleh blah le...

*that's nef getting emo over budu*

7:14 PM  
Blogger drbubbles said...

kid: no, thank you.
ood: see you tomorrow.. baru teringat 321 contact , electric company...ish ish.ish.ish..

7:11 PM  
Blogger Led said...

ur blog's english also not bad...

11:11 AM  
Blogger OOD said...

bila nak turun? Kita makan pasta with budu sauce. Nak pulang buku ni!

dr isk: yes no alright?

ingat o-oh changgo?

hehe.. i try present best far. can lah hoh? ;o)

10:48 AM  
Blogger Ely said...

i swear i thot i comment on this a few days ago!

like i said earlier, u nvr fail to make me smile when i come to visit this blog.

love u!

9:00 AM  
Blogger anasalwa said...

You must have a special connection anything with wings.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous wtl said...

dah lama tak dengar 321 contact and electric company. those were the days. :)

3:49 AM  
Blogger Unc|e 2@h|d said...

Trust me, having your children to speak, play, think in english isn't that great either. It was just two weeks ago that a makcik asked my wife whether she married a non-malay. and me looking more chinese than a baba-nyonya doesn't help either. You see, my daughter speaks english, even to makcik2 and pakcik2. and most of them don't appreciate four-year olds to not being able to communicate in their mother tongue. My daughter can speak malay, no, not malay but more indon actually only to my parents, her cousins and her uncles/aunties. That was becos i got an indon maid. before that, every time balikkampung, she'd be playing by herself sbb she and her cousns didn't understand each other. she lost a good three years of bonding with her cousins....

One more thing, it is quite expensive, this english tongue me.

So, i would say, let the kids speak malay. bila dah besar skit, ajar la english, bukannya susah sangat...kita boleh, derang lagi la boleh...

12:29 AM  

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