I was born and being raised in Malaysia which is a multicultural country. In Malaysia, the official language is Malay. However, I rarely speak in Malay since my native language is Chinese. This is because I am being raised in a Chinese-speaking environment. Although my father is English educated, my family members seldom interact in English, Chinese otherwise. In my early childhood, I was exposed to daily communications that involve variety of dialects spoken among my family members, particularly with the eldest. Indirectly, I have learnt to speak some basic Cantonese and Hokkien dialects from my bilingual grandparents as I lived with my grandparents instead of my parents. In fact, I can now apply conversational code-switching between Cantonese and Hokkien in any circumstances after years of dialects acquisition.
At the aged of 5, I had started my preschool education in kindergarten. This was the time whereby I have begun to acquire other languages such as English and Bahasa Malaysia. The first time when I heard my kindergarten teacher spoke English to me, I was totally in panic. This is because what I heard from her was just unintelligible alien language. Instantly, she spotted my glazed look which explained I had no idea what she was saying. Since then, she has patiently guided me in my acquisition of English learning. The English lessons in kindergarten were very interesting. From those lessons, I have learnt the 26 alphabet letters along with some easy vocabulary knowledge by repetition and song singing. Looking back now, I am really grateful for her generosity of her efforts on shaping my English from zero to basic.
Before my enrolment of primary school, my parents were anxious about my poor English learning. This is because they perceived English as the international language. With the intention of making me more employable in this global competence, they extremely emphasized on my preparation of mastering English. However, when they were about to send me to English primary school, my grandparents were strongly disagreed. My grandparents had alternative opinion about it which was my native language should be mastered before the acquisition of second language. Eventually, I had enrolled into Chinese primary school after some serious consideration of my parents. During these formative primary school years, I have been broad exposed to different aspects of learning English that helped me develop confidence and desire to learn English. As I remembered, there were engaging and attractive teaching materials that capture my interest. For instance, my English teacher would switched and mix her teaching methods that required the intelligence, movement and responses from pupils to keep the learning fun. The best that I can recall was that the "Old MacDonald had a farm" song which my tutor combined drawing skills, learning English skills and singing skills at the same time.
While I was at the aged of 11, my parents were transferred back to the country. Since then, my carefree childhood has changed as I moved back with my parents. This is because apart from formal English learning, my parents arranged me to English tuition classes. They ensured I kept up with the English syllabus. At home, my father would be my tutor whom explained and answered my every question about English grammar. To improve my English listening skills, my father even read me bed time stories every night. In my childhood, I received mostly "Peter and Jane" books from my father during my birthday. At that time, it was really depressed for me to see my friends got a variety of toys for their birthdays' presents. I did not understand how thoughtful my father is until I was able to think rationally. At this moment, I am really thankful for his good intention of assistance that helped me improve my English language. Without his insistence of my English learning, I could still muddle up with those tenses such as Simple Past Tense and Past Perfect Tense.
My learning process of English has continued in my secondary school which is also a Chinese-medium school. The curriculum of English in secondary school was distinct from primary education. Besides of grammar that was being taught in both primary and secondary education, secondary school was more emphasis on literature, writing and novel reading. I find literature and novel reading were my favourite content of English learning during high school. This is because I enjoyed reading impressive stories and thoughts from those writers. When a discipline teacher was assigned to be my English teacher, everyone in my class assumed that was a tragedy. Despite our worries, the English lessons that conducted by her turned out surprisingly well.
She is Miss Chong whom might be ferocious in her appearance but still the second person in my life that positively influenced me. In a Chinese-medium school, it can be easily seen that almost every pupil were interacting in Chinese. However, during Miss Chong's lessons, we were not allowed to speak Chinese in any conditions. As I remembered, there was an unforgettable experience of mine with Miss Chong that I was caught red-handed speaking Chinese during her lessons. As the consequence, I was punished and chased out of class by her. I was really frightened at that time as that was my first time ever humiliated in front of my classmates. I did not blame her or hate her for that since it was truly my fault. To be frank, her great enthusiasm for English has indeed act as a catalyst for enhancing my English levels. In addition, I have immersed myself in English activities that were organized by society with the intention of capturing her attentions. My involvement in English activities has really helped me obtain the confidence of speaking English in public as well as increased the proficiency of my English.
After my high school, there came the time that I was selected to officially join English teaching course in Cyberjaya. For the enrolment, I left my hometown and came to a new environment that uses medium of English in daily communication. This has directly provided me golden opportunity to speak more fluent English during the interactions with lecturers and friends. However, my American accent hurt my lecturers' ear. Besides that, my foreign lecturers are hardly understood my "English" which actually is an unstandardized "Manglish". The habit of speaking Chinese or using Manglish have caused problems in my writing as I have a tendency to translate directly from Chinese phrases into English which was grammatically wrong without noticing. To avoid the grammar mistakes from direct translation of Chinese, I insisted myself to read online English newspaper and practice to think in English wisely before I speak or write. The English barrier at this university level is indeed difficult. This is because it thoroughly involves abundance of new vocabulary and English linguistics which I found it quite hard to digest immediately. Fortunately, when I have difficulties in understanding anything regarding to English, there is resourceful internet that accessible to me at any time.
Apart from that, I am also trying to improve my English language via different ways. I enjoy listening English songs without looking to the lyrics and play the guessing lyrics game with myself to develop a better listening skills. Furthermore, I watch films in English along with Chinese subtitles for my better understanding of the stories. Normally, I found myself learning new vocabulary and particularly phrasal verbs from films watching. In preparation for my in-class presentation, I will go through every word by looking up the online dictionary to ensure my utterance of the word is in correct pronunciation. Since there is neither any guidance from my father nor assistance from tuition mentor, I have to be more independently learning English with my own learning methodology to acquire English language. This university level of English learning is indeed a whole new experience for me as it certainly requires my independent efforts. It is also an undeniable fact that I have improved my English language greatly in terms of grammar and vocabulary if it is compared to last time.
Based on my experience of acquire English, I will like to suggest some advice to those learners whom wanted to improve their English. First of all, learners should figure out the suitable learning style before blindly studying English. This is because if their learning style is matching with their preferences, they can learn English more efficiently. In addition, learners should always bear in mind that mastering a language does not just happen overnight. It requires conscious efforts and time. To be more proficiency in English speaking skills, learners could implement the medium of English into daily communication and make sure they will be speaking English more frequently. As for improving the English listening skills, learners might try to spend more time on listening news reported in online radio stations with subtitles provided. Regarding the development of writing and reading skills, learners should do more reading based on individuals' interest. From my point of view, learners should not be afraid of making mistakes in English since making mistakes is a vital part of English learning process. Making mistakes does not mean that you will be wrong in entire life. On the contrary, the experience of making mistakes and being corrected will always stay in mind as a reminder. Last but not least, learners should have fun in learning English with own methodology instead of increases the anxiety level of learning. For learners whom desired to improve English, always stay motivated and positively influenced by those whom inspired you.