Tuesday, May 17, 2011

And and Dan


The mastery of the English language is said to be declining in Malaysia. People had said this and that in explaining this phenomenon. I'm not really sure what kind of research or methods are they using in comparing the achievement of Malaysians in the English language compared with the then and now, but, currently, the talk of the town and media is the decline of the mastery of the English language among Malaysians, with Malays being the main concern. Strangely, 'main' in English is not the same with 'main' in Malay. Even though both were spelt in the same way, they sound entirely different. Main in Malay would mean play or not taken seriously or the inability to be serious when the need arises. 

Anyway, some had pointed out that English is being portrayed as a second language for Malaysians when in fact it is a foreign language for most Malaysians. It is not a second nature in the sense of usage and the need to use it in the daily lives, in terms of knowledge acquisitions or daily conversations. Not like others, I'm sure, most Malaysians didn't have the opportunity to have a real, living native speaker from Britain as their English teacher. What most had were Indian teachers that had heavy Indic accents and Chinese teachers with heavy Hokkien pronunciation that made learning a supposed to be a second nature to Malaysians, ended up being a totally foreign and hostile language to be learnt. Twenty years back, most had no need of learning the language like Malaysians living 6 to 7 years ago. These Malaysians have the urgency and the objective to learn and use English as a second language. They had to learn Maths and Science in English.

Some said that the British played a major part in the development of the English language in the then Malaya. Malays looked up to them and (or ‘dan’ in Malay), some of them actually had thought that  they were English in Malay clothing or an English wearing a Malay skin, or something like that. Some still do I think. So some drank and still drink alcoholic beverages to wet their tongues with something so synonym with the British, maybe when they were drunk enough, the hindrance of learning the language is no longer there and they can explore the language, unashamed and un-stunted.

Some say that in order to master the English language, one must be able to think like an English, which I think would shy away even more people in learning and mastering the language. Who would want to be something or someone they are not? Not many in this world who were born as natural pretenders. (Most were born as natural predators or like the Cuckoo birds). Something that has to do with inborn pride and honour or the natural dislike of becoming something that they are not, I think.

But none ever consider the effects of the doings or the activities of the native speakers have on the students of a second language. If many of the native speakers of an intended language to be learnt or the targeted language are seen as corrupters, invaders, manipulators, tormentors, oppressors and have a very strange interpretation or sense of justice and honour, can anyone has the tendency of learning such people's language?

This is the problem faced by English teachers in Malaysia nowadays. The motivation to learn English is simply not there. The students show high level of resentment to the language because of the current happenings in today's world done by the native speakers of English. Somehow these students have associated the language with the native speakers’ behaviours. They have failed to see the language as a language they learn as knowledge. They have lost the love of knowledge for English. One shouldn’t be surprised of this fact in seeing the native speakers of the language mercilessly invading and killing the helpless in their own motherland. Invading in an annoying, dominating manners. They were killing the innocents, not deadly criminals without any respect for dignity of the human race. Dominating and triumphing on the outmatched enemies without any sympathy towards the beaten foes.

In my own experience in learning English, from then and now, I had to turn to music, movies and comics in my journey of learning the English language. The teachers I had did try using my mother tongue in teaching English, but their mastery of the official and national language of  the country they were living in were very poor, so it only helped a little. The teachers did try their best but maybe they were not as good as a native speaker would or could have been.

As for the current generations of learners, the Internet is a very good media in acquiring English. Through the Internet we can communicate with native speakers from around the globe, provided that they are not also native in hate or suffered any kind of phobia. If they do, the experience in trying to contact these native speakers could be devastating to the keenness towards the language and indirectly, to its native speakers. 

So in an era of Islamophobic running loose in the Internet and the redundant fear caused by their own hands for daring to meddle in things they shouldn't have in the first place, it is hard to find a good native speaker that speaks in a plain and honest native English to be learnt by a learner of English. TV is good but interacting directly with these native speakers is crucial in grasping the true nature of the language. The essence of reality and spontaneous nature of conversation are important factors in helping a second language acquisition. There is a major difference in learning, in a sense of theory and using the knowledge in a practical sense.

In addressing the growing resentment towards English, some English teachers are trying to convince their students of English that not all English are bad. Not all English supported the evil and hideous ways of their governments, so it is not fair to judge them with such a blanketed opinion and judgement. Being man, in which diversity is the norm, each man and community differ from one another. Emphasizing the examples of well known English native speakers like Yusuf Islam, Marmaduke Pickthall (that even translated the Koran to English) and other well known figure of English native speakers that are not Islamophobic or allergic to Muslims, helps in changing the students’ views of the English native speakers and the language itself. The emerging nasyid singers from around the world are the best teaching aids needed by English teachers nowadays. But trust me, it is not easy.

Honestly, if possible, do end the invasions of other people's free countries and stop supporting selective tyranny while destroying the selected unfortunate few. It would be easier for the English teachers around the world to teach about the language and morality, the hidden agenda in knowledge acquisition. Happy belated teacher's day.

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