I recently met a few 12 and 13-year-olds who didn’t have the slightest idea of how to construct a proper sentence in English. Composing an essay will no doubt be a Herculean task for these kids. On the other hand, I know of three 5-year-olds who are able to verbally construct a sentence with relative ease.
When asked the reason for their inability to form sentences, the former group informed that they had not been taught to do so at school. What an alarming revelation!
“Why has the standard of Malaysian English deteriorated?” is a question oft posed by many. Perhaps this borrowed dialogue between an English teacher and a primary school student might shed some light on the nationwide mystery.
Teacher: Why you no have book?
Student: I no buy.
Teacher: Why you no buy?
Student: Because my father no have money.
I was greatly tickled by Miss 5 one day. “I cannot rub this! Can you rub me?” I am an obliging sort, so I proceeded to carry out her request and had her squirming in no time at all. The little Miss had earlier used the wrong shade of coloured pencil.
The same Missy was often heard saying, “My one is more better!” She is not unique in her utterance. Malaysians, young and old (and I suspect a number of English teachers as well) make the same grammatical mistakes in their speech. “Mine is better!” is more apt in this instance.
If we want our kids to excel in any language, we best teach them right from a young age. Kids are smart and fast learners. Living in a multilingual environment, Malaysians shouldn’t find it a difficult task to master the English language should it be competently imparted to them from an early age.