Friday, November 11, 2005

Linguistically challenged

I am a failure.

I wasted 11 years of my life.

I want them back.

One teensy-weensy phone call in Malay was more than I could handle. I stuttered so badly that even a stutterer with a name like Lelulelouise Lewis would sound positively clear next to me. I managed to get my message across but had the person on the other end of the call been an examiner for the SPM oral paper, I would never have passed my SPM.

I am still amazed that I somehow got a Grade 1.

But still, this means that I wasted 11 years of my life in school, struggling with a language that many dedicated teachers over the years tried hard to teach me. Oh, how they tried. But although I got the basics of grammar and a simple vocabulary that should get me by in the markets (wet, not stock), it is still mostly foreign to me.

Best of all, it was the language of instruction for all subjects when I was in school so my comprehension of practically every subject was probably about 30%. I still don't know how I made it through school.

Some other countries' public school systems offer ESL classes to "linguistically challenged" students who don't come from an English-speaking family.

Why didn't anyone offer MSL classes when I was in school? My 3 years in kindergarten where we learnt the ABCs (which I'd mastered long before thanks to my clued-in parents), 123s and other basics did not prepare me for the sudden barrage of Malay-medium teaching, all day long, when primary school began. It took me a term before I even began to understand the teacher. Thank God, she was a nice, understanding teacher who took a liking to me and explained every sentence in English before making me write it down and say it Malay. Otherwise I'd probably have reached Form 5 still writing my karangans in English.

Yep, it's a wonder that I managed to graduate from the public school system. But I still feel like a failure after this morning's phone call.

1 comment:

su-jin said...

I think for most of us, it's meant to be that way. I can speak Malay fairly well (plus some added slang) but I almost flunk my Bahasa in SPM. In my primary school days, I spent 6 years speaking malay only, even to most of my chinese friends.

I think I might have passed it due to the fact the Oral examiner was my dad's ex-pupil.

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