I was grown in a small village where 90% of the community speaks Javanese and English is just as one compulsory subject in school. The Malay words pronunciations were always sounds so Javanese, let alone when we speak in English :)
I was then gained my secondary education in one of the Islamic school in Klang, which at that time, English was also something very discordant to the ear. I remember every time we tried to communicate in English, we'll get the look as if we were using vulgar words publicly. And it didn't just happen to me, but to most of the students there with the same effort. I often heard deprecation towards those who were known to use English as their daily communication language (which trust me you can count that with your fingers) as "Arrogant person" and "Poyo or macam bagus".
I only remember 3 of my English teachers back in my school time. One from my primary school (Teacher Hjh Salwa, the one who made me love English so much), and the rest were from my secondary school (Teacher Haslina Ali and Teacher Nailis Sulha). I owe them huge favors as they had taught me this 'foreign' language and brought this language to my life. Not that I don't appreciate the other teachers. Of course I do. But the problem with our school back then was lack of teachers and we always had to face substituted teachers and there were times where we had to wait for weeks (sometimes up to a month) just for one teacher! So yes, we didn't really have the opportunity to learn English in a proper way.
During matriculation, it didn't affect much as what I could recall, but one thing I encountered was my low self-esteem against those who came from well known boarding schools and convent/methodist based schools as most of them could speak flawlessly (at least to my ears.Hehe)...
Then came my campus life.... My English at that time, I can consider as still very poor. I just got band 4 for MUET, and I didn't have much practice in speaking my whole life. Hence, I had almost zero confident to speak in English publicly. One fact you need to know is in University of Malaya, we are seen as '1Malaysia' and the competition is always so obviously stiff. If you are in Science Faculty or other faculties which the majority of the students there are not Malay, and you don't really speak English, other races would not really like to approach you. Easier word, they may look down on you. We may not bother to have no Chinese or Indian friends but I think it'd bother me enough if I was seen as a non productive Malay. Bigger issue, I was holding a title as a Muslim....
Luckily, my course only had 38 students and only 4 of us were Malay. Others were all Chinese. So I took that as a challenge for me to practice more in speaking. But I was so busy with many programs and activities (campus and NGOs) so I didn't spent much time with my course-mates - a big loss to me.
Yet, the biggest problem to me was during the examination time. Alhamdulillah, I didn't have problems reading lecture notes and reference books which were all in English. But the problem was during the time I want to construct sentences to answer the exam questions. I would take more time just to construct words although I understand the questions and definitely knew the answers! This is a very common problem everyone with poor English background would encounter. And I was one of those! I was hoping that I could learn English one more time just like we did during school time, but to my dismay, UM doesn't offer English subject in/for Science Faculty... Although I graduated with quite a good result but not in the Dean list, I always know I could do better if I don't have problem with English!
I started to learn English earnestly during my undergraduate time. But honestly it wasn't that easy when you learn without a teacher! My best affordable teachers were always one of my best friend and Mr. World Wide Web... I used to read dictionary like I read novel! :D I wanted to take extra class for English but during that time I faced many constraints, one of those was money...
And up till now, I'm still improving my English. Believe it or not, sometimes when I am writing my thesis and I got grammar issue, I'd spend my time googling and peeking through English Learning website instead of continuing my writing....
By reading my blog, you must have noticed a lot of mistakes in my writings. Some of the mistakes are even the simple and silly ones. Hehe. Let me tell you something. The first challenge in learning is to build self confidence (and fight the inferiority). When we know we are so lack in something, there's no way we want to show it to others, right? But in learning languages, we have no choice but to practice and practice.... So here, my blog is one of the tool for me to sharpen my english and writing skills. I can't be shy for the mistakes that I make, as I am learning from those mistakes.
And yes, I may not have a lot of chance to improve my grammar (that one I think I need to seek a proper teacher. Hehe), but at least, I could shorten the time of constructing words, improving my vocabulary and therefore, learn to communicate better.
So that is my long history of my silliness in English.
And by experiencing all that, I don't ever want my children to face the same difficulties like I do. My parents have been the most encouraging person to us in learning English. My dad especially.... But considering many factors, I now know how to introduce English language to my children in better way so that they are comfortable with the language.
My English is not excellent. But That doesn't mean my children can't learn from me. And by teaching my children, I am actually learning too. We are now in a modern era where English should not be a problem to anyone. We live in Shah Alam where kids can speak English proficiently. I sometimes feel ashame when I hear a kid who is 20 years younger than me could speak way better than me. :p So just imagine my children time the next 5 years. If they can't master English, they may face a lot of difficulties especially along their education line.
I remember my SIL once asked me why we plan to use English as our main communication language among family members? She even said "Macam poyo aje lah"... I was just smiling to her and gave my reasons. But now as she already has a kid, I can see she is also trying to introduce English language to her kid. I am glad she did that and change that negative mentality before its too late.
I don't say it's compulsory to use English as our main language at home. But it's not wrong though. And that doesn't mean we belittle our mother language. Alhamdulillah my son can now understand both English and Malay quite well. And we plan to teach him Arabic when the time is suitable :)
There is never too late in learning... But I think the easiest way is to start introducing whatever kind of education we desire from an early age... And my hubby and I have decided to use English as our main language for our kids as we have considered our life experiences as our benchmark. We never blame our surroundings, parents, teachers, etc. We are instead learning from them and somehow we really appreciate our history as that make us never want to stop learning :)
P/S: A very common perception is when we try very hard to educate ourselves or our generation with 'foreign' languages, we are seen as the modernist who'd forgotten our origin. I think it should be the other way around. Because we are so proud of being Malay and most importantly, a Muslim, therefore we want to be at par with all the successful people, whatever it takes.
P/S/S: Some say why bother to blog in English. Some people hate to read it. And better don't fool yourself by showing how many mistakes you can make... I would say: Well, my Malay is not that good either. Most of us have problem with Malay too. So if you are so afraid of destroying English, why don't you feel the same about your mother language? -Just being sarcastic. Hehehe....