Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Chinese-Educated Me

Disclaimer: This post is entirely Tien-inspired, thus all credit (if any) shall go to her and her amazing blog.

If I were to have kids (not that I'm expecting any I assure you, neither am I getting married), I wouldn't know which type of school to send them to - national school (sekolah kebangsaan) or Chinese type national school (sekolah jenis kebangsaan). Mr. Chin said he would like his kids to learn to read and write Chinese. I'd think otherwise - Chinese is not an important language, English is. I told him that those who go to Chinese school like us struggle to learn to speak English fluently. He didn't agree, with an argument that he turned out fine, and that he managed to learn along the way.

But I remember how difficult it was for me to adapt when I moved to an English-speaking medium in secondary school. My big sister was concern about my English speaking ability thus insisted that I go to King George V Secondary School. She went through a lot to get me in, as it was considered as a good school which only the best students deserved. Lacking one A in my UPSR examination, I wasn't one of the best.

I finally got in though, after a few trips to the Education Ministry and getting a recommendation letter from the Minister of Education (my sister somehow knew him briefly). All of my classmates either speak Malay or English, both languages I was uncomfortable of. I was often mocked for my in-proficiency in English. There were a few incidents that I remember vividly - annoyingly vividly.

There was a conversation when my friend had asked me to tell her something (which I forgot), but I must had refused because I said "I don't tell you". She corrected me by saying it should be "I won't tell you". I didn't know that time that "won't" is a contraction of "will not".

There was another conversation when my friend had asked me how did I know of something (which I forgot), I said, "the teacher talked to us" but I actually meant "the teach told us". I forgot to use the word "told". These were only a few of many other embarrassing moments.

You'd probably think at the rate that I was going it could take a miracle for me to have a blog of my own with over 140 posts, in English. I would say three things helped me the most - movies, books and music. And of course a lot of practice with my friends.

I'm not saying that I never benefit from learning Chinese - there are certainly its advantages. I don't regret learning it. I appreciate the Chinese literature and some novels and Japanese manga translated in Chinese. But English is after all, an international language, which I use everyday especially in my job.

I suppose that language is easier to learn at younger age. It's ashamed that we Malaysians are exposed to multiple languages but we can never truly master any one of them.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just like what Lee Kuan Yew once said, you can't have the best of both worlds. And yes I do agree with you, English shall be more impt for us in corporate correspondence; while mother tongue shall not be neglected for the sake of our roots! Cheerz!

MODERN ROBINSON CRUSOE said...

Definitely mother-tongue - Mr chin is right!! English can be pick-up or improve along the way but if one have good command of both mother-tongue & English will be better plus bonus of other languages such as our Bahasa Malaysia , Korean, Japanese

Mother-tongue is our root & i have certain regret that i'm really very good at it (compared to my family members or other friends) -mainly part of our tradition / culture

China is opening up & getting stronger & is said to be # 1 in world in economy soon?? Hence cannot say mandarin is not important! ( i think)

MODERN ROBINSON CRUSOE said...

correction : Mother tongue is our root & i have certain regret that i'm NOT really very good at it

thE gEOgrAphicAlly blind said...

Mr. Anonymous, thanks for dropping by ;) Definitely. If we can master both language that would be the best :)

Robinson, ability to speak and write in Chinese definitely earn you a place in the corporate world in China. :)

tienunscripted said...

Awww...thanks for the shout out! Wow, you have a lot to thank your sister for, she certainly knew what's best for you. And look at you, you turned out great :) I actually have a similar story about my english language experience....my mom used to teach me and my sis homework and tuition at home. This particular lesson, I remember until today. She asked me to read his passage and as I read she stopped me halfway because she heard me say "Since-Sockety". What? she asked. Since-sockety I repeated. Turned out, it was actually "Science Society" hahahahaha......!!! She was angry and lauging at the same time....LOL!

thE gEOgrAphicAlly blind said...

Well at least you were only embarrassed in front of your family ;) That's not too bad lolz.
Ya my sister went through a great deal just to get me good education. She used to teach me tuition too at home, and forced me to study ;)

confessions of a medical student said...

i, on the other hand, envied you and wee tze yee who can read and write in mandarin... i remembered how i used to attend POI (people own language -mandarin classes) in the afternoons with you, wee tze yee and boon lee... and i, on the other hand, struggled to learn mandarin instead....

how you would have the great patience to teach me jay chau songs, word by word... how we entered chinese language society, and how i needed a translator during those camps, and thank God, you were always there... ^^
missed those good old days...maybe at some point, we did learnt from one another...

you should be proud to say that, after all those years, your english is now well-polished and
AWESOME!... while my chinese proficiency is embarrassingly disappointing... siGh....

p/s: loved your new hairstyle ^^

zilin said...

Language is only a tool for communication. In day to day living, you actually not required to master a language for others to understand what you're saying (unless working in some particular fields). Yes, I do agree that English play important role in career development. But mother tongue is equally important for our cultural heritage. In nowadays living environment in Msia, there are too many opportunity of utilize english, and thus improve the skill along d way, but not the case for mandarin. Both english and mother tongue are 'must learn', one is for communication tool, another one is telling who you are. Cheers.

thE gEOgrAphicAlly blind said...

Wu Shin'n, I think you catch up most of your Chinese from your friends in Uni :)
p/s: I don't know why we go cut similar hairstyle this time :S Next time when we meet can compare lolz.

confessions of a medical student said...

i know, our hairstyle is driving pong crazy, haha!

thE gEOgrAphicAlly blind said...

So are yours, Shinyin lolz.