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Monday, 10 June 2013

Where there’s a will, there’s a way


THERE have been calls for the Government to allow the use of English as a medium of instruction in schools again. As there are Chinese and Tamil primary schools alongside national schools, Malaysians should have the freedom for another option. Presently, English as a medium of instruction is already available but only in private and international schools. Only a small percentage of Malaysians can afford to go to such schools.

I HAD my early education at a Chinese primary school in Bidor, Perak. Upon completing my Standard Six examination in the school, I moved on to the Government English Secondary School in Tapah, where I completed a year of Remove Class before going on to Form One.

I had my upper secondary education at Ipoh’s St Michael’s Institution (SMK St Michael Ipoh) and then pursued my tertiary studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia and later at Universiti Malaya.

I taught Mathematics and Physics in secondary schools for many years before being promoted to school prinicpal. I have now retired

Since I was in a Chinese school during my primary school years, I wasn’t at all good in the English language.

However, in Remove Class, I knew that I had to brush up on the language if I were to move up and do well in my studies.

To improve my English, one of the first things I did as a teen, was to keep a diary to record the daily happenings in my life.

My daily jottings also included my thoughts on events and activities both at school and at home.

We used to live in a shophouse. My father used its front portion to run his his Chinese medicine shop. There was a counter from where he conducted his business and surrounding it, were shelves of medicine that we referred to as the “medicine house” in Chinese.

We also had a “money room” but contrary to what most people might think, we did not stash bundles of cash and coins there. In fact, it was a cubicle at the back of our shophouse where my father would count the day’s takings, keep his books and carry out some administrative tasks.

Looking back, learning English has been a long and arduous journey for me — I often mixed up my tenses, misspelt words and even used the wrong words when I wrote and spoke; in fact, in many instances, I would directly translate from Chinese to English!

I cannot help but be amused by what I wrote then — thinking in good Chinese and writing in bad English! It seemed like a comedy of errors.

The image on the right is a page from my diary when I was in Remove Class. It was a Thursday, the 11th day of the first month in 1962. It reads as follows:

The Chinese New Year come nearly. To-day my mother asked us to clean the house. It was a hard work, because we must wash the ground, clean the kitten, door, bedroom, sitting place and money room. We started the work at 10.00am. First we clean the door, than the money room, medicine house, kitten, bed room. We washed the ground. 

All my brothers and sister were worked very hard. At about 2.00pm, we stoped our work and ate something. Then we continued our work. Everybody work with hard and happly. At about 4.30pm we have finished our work. To-day, we all felt very happly.

From the diary jottings above, it is obvious that my English then was “below average”.

However, my reason for attaching this page from my diary, is to urge English language learners not to be discouraged. It is through sheer perseverance that I overcame the challenges before me.

I was passionate about learning English and as the saying goes: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

By LIONG KAM CHONG, Seremban, Negri Sembilan, The Star