Sunday, March 15, 2009

Learning Languages – My Own Experience

From young, Chinese has been my strongest subject. The strangest thing is that I do not know how I did it. I don’t speak Chinese at home – we communicate in Hokkien mainly even among my brothers. Somehow, I would always top the class in Chinese. The highest score I even got for a Chinese test was 108 out of 110 marks in Primary school. I remembered a Chinese teacher actually got a few of us EM2 students who are good in Chinese to pit against his higher Chinese class which comprises of mainly EM1 students. I have never studied their module before, but managed to score 8 out of 10 for the test, while majority of the higher Chinese students scored 6s and 7s. Then moving on to Secondary School, I did not manage to hold on to the top scorer position since it will always be occupied by schoolmates from China and Hong Kong, but I supposed I was closely behind.

Singapore educational system emphasized importance in English Language. Being good in Chinese language does not really meant anything. In fact, you can fail Chinese and still have a way to go, but if you fail English, your school life is over. During Secondary school, my English standard dropped to an all time low. Not that I am blaming the school for my own bad, but seriously our school’s English standard is not as good as the Chinese standard. It got to a point where the whole express class can actually failed English test and the only one who passes is the highest scorer.

The struggle heightens during my O’level year. I do not think that I am at the bottom of the pit, but out of some reasons, the English teacher just likes to pick on me. The whole class English language were “atrocious” as my Secondary Four teacher put it, but I am the only one whom she chose to throw the assignment to the ground and shouted at me “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO PASS YOUR O’LEVEL ENGLISH!!! ”. Anyway, I got a lot of bad blood with this English teacher. I have no doubt that she is biased especially that there were many classmates who have failed and score the same points as me, but she did not singled them out.

Shamed, devastated and more importantly unconvinced of her biased judgement, I am determined to prove her wrong. After my June O’level Chinese papers, I go library at every opportunity to read books and finished doing all the mock tests in the ten year series book. Eventually, the hard work paid off. I was one of the two students who passes the prelim paper in class and was the higher scorer. The English Teacher who had vowed off supervising me looked at me in surprise and even claimed credit that my improvement was (anything but) all her effort. (Disgusted)

However, even then I only managed to pass my O’Level English papers. I managed to get into Polytechnic and had chosen an Engineering course. There were reports to write, but the marks were allocated based on the content and not so much on the English language. I scored rather well for my technical writing modules, but I believed if the lecturers were really particular about the English language, a lot of us will probably fail. You see at that point, we don’t realise that our English may not be on mark until now that I looked back.

Then, I joined my current company. I had a breakdown after few months. All my colleagues’ English were very good and mine was embarrassing bad. I struggled for very long. I went back to the O’level studying mode. I will be at the library every weekend and even brought Straits Times to read. I purposely chose to watch a lot of English shows i.e. dramas and documentaries and I would conscientiously read the English subtitle if I was watching a Chinese show.

To improve the written English, I also made an effort to chat and sms in proper English sentences which irritated my friends. In fact, one of the reasons which I started this blog was to practise writing in English. I used to write more in Chinese for the earlier posts, but switched to mainly English nowadays. Though I have not got much time to go library, but I will probably resume back to the mode if I was admitted into the degree course of my choice.

I have learnt that learning language has no short cut. One need practise. You don't learn to speak and write properly every day, you will lose the ability to use it and will affect your communication in future.

Then recently, I noticed this very weird trend that youngster nowadays have. They speak and write “gibberish” without knowing the consequences. I am disturbed that young people uses improper languages and think that it is cool. The problem with this trend is that youngsters think that it is acceptable because you are only communicating with friends, it is ok. It is in fact not ok. Like I explain, languages have to be practise constantly. If continues, they will one day not able to differentiate between proper language and “gibberish” anymore. In the end, they will come to regret that they did not learn language properly when they started working.

Young people, correct the habit before it is too late.

Examples of "Gibberish":

- Every sentence is ended with "xia".
E.g. Yesterday, I watch a movie xia, it was cool xia, got a lot of action xia.
I wondered whether xia refers to hero in Chinese. If so, there are often more superheros in one conversation than Marvel comic superheros combined.

- Using "De" in written English sentences for emphasis
E.g Very irritating de.
I thought people who write like that tried to sound cute.

- Speak English-accented Hokkien.
Instead of "Go" or hokkien pronouciation "zao", they say "Zhaow".
I am purist. I have problem with people purposely pronouncing Chinese or Dialect with English accent for sake of showing off. It is as if they are trying to act higher class which is disgusting.

- Instead of writing proper English, they write "Internet" spelling
I.e. Dunnoe (don’t know), Wat (What)
One day they will not be able to differentiate which is the proper English spelling...

No comments: