I remember when I was just 17 years old and waiting for my SPM results. I decided to look for a job to fill in my time. I didn't like the kinds that my friends were all employed as, such as being a sales assistant or being the check-out girl or even that familiar face at KFC even though they made it sound all so fun. I wanted something more than what my 17 years of age should have been into. I knew for the fact that I wanted to use my only asset to my advantage..hey..not my natural C-cup boobie, but my ability to speak English very well, of course.
I did just that as a receptionist and I was paid very well to do a 9 to 5 job which consisted of merely speaking to guests and transferring calls, as well as assisting customers with inquiries that were within our limits. It was totally awesome to be able to work in an environment where everyone spoke in English and boy did I impress people for being a dopey-looking obesed MALAY gal who spoke English very well. That was an experience I would always treasure, being in the corporate world where everyone looked so fine and high-classed even if they were only clerks of all works but because they all spoke in English, it made my working environment so exquisite. And since then, I vowed that my husband and children would speak to me in English where ever my household is concerned.
Now, it has been many years after that moment in my life and with three little ones hovering all over me, I have managed to keep my part of the deal. All my children speak to me in English. Although it has done us some good, my in laws (father, mother, brother, sister, cousin and the whole nine yards) would sometimes switch to English when communicating with my bodyguards, it has also brought negative perception to us too! Imagine getting cynical remarks from the locals upon hearing us speak to each other happily in English, we are constantly made into fools at our weekly night markets. Some of them would speak to us in Malay but with poor imitations of the American accent, and sometimes they mock us by trying to speak in English in the most ridiculous way with bad grammar which crucifies the language itself.
For instance, the nastiest thing that happened to me was when one of the customers at a stall I was at, boldly retorted, " Kita nih orang Malaysia, cakap Melayulah..!" when he overheard my colleague and I speaking to each other in that forsaken foreign language. Terkasima I jap..coming from a man, who works in the oil and gas industry, that was shameful..not for me but for him! Another incident happened to me when I was visiting a colleague in another school for some exam things. I noticed that I would instantly switch my language mode to English when ever I am around language teachers so, meeting another English teacher at that school, naturally I spoke to her in English. Then one of the teachers from that school said, " Oh, we should get out now. They have started to speak in English...Dok reti lah.." How despicable is that when an academician puts another academician down? Definitely, I would be speaking in English, namely because I am an English teacher!!! What values would I be imparting to others when I constantly preach that you must speak the language to master it when I myself am not doing just that? Again, it is very shameful because remarks like that only show how wide our mind is in accepting others (not wide at all!) and how narrow and shallow we are in terms of our mentality. Sadly, this is the Malay way of thinking!!!
People often think that I look down on my native tongue because I am always fumbling for words when constructing sentences. No, I am fumbling for words because when you want to convey your opinion in meetings, I think you must use polite words especially to your elders and superior. I can speak Malay as fluently as my English, but only if you can stand to hear the language being murdered by me for I speak fluent Bahasa Melayu pasar. People often suggest that my kids would fail terribly in the public examinations because they would not fare well in the BM paper. They think....little do they know that my boy speaks perfect Malay, when he chooses to. It is as if you are hearing the words out of a textbook. That is how perfect his Malay is! If you want to hear him speak Malay casually, you would hear the Terengganu dialect coming out from his mouth. If you hear me babbling to my kids, you would then hear a mixture of English (a mix of the Canadian and British accent), my cakap orang nogori as well as the normal Malay everyone else use. So, while I am comfortable to use English as my main language, I DO KNOW how to speak in Malay..and same goes for my kids!
Being Malay, I think we should feel proud of ourselves for being able to master this international language. Do not feel compelled to use it only because you hear me speaking it to my kids that you automatically code switch to English when commanding your child to do something. Kesian budak-budak tuh...terpinga-pinga sebab tak paham...but that was a good attempt anyways. And another thing, don't fake your accent or stress on the voiced dental (alveolar trill) /r/ sound too much.. Mat Saleh pun tak cakap macam itu. Getting stares and glares that mean nothing less than the feeling of remorse is something I am accustomed to now, but it saddens me when people think that I am doing it only for show. Who the heck do I want to show off to? As a teacher, I know how important English is in the world of knowledge, business and also communication. If we do not know it, then we would direly fall behind. I do not want my kids to fall behind direly!!!!
I know the perks you get when you are fluent in the language..I can still remember my first paycheck of RM 1100 as a receptionist in one of the leading software companies many many years back! I was quite well -paid..well because most of the customers could understand me, I guess. Seriously, you can go so far if you are able to converse in English..believe me!!! So, kita nih orang Malaysia...cakap Melayu laahh....harus ker??
p/s Ye..I sedar my writing is nowhere near excellent but my writing is on speaking okay..Alang!!!
"my writing is on speaking" ... I like that ... clever use of oxymorons :)
This is my plain ramblings for today!