Au Naturale

on Monday, 2 August 2010
How did I become good in Bahasa Melayu?

Talking about how I acquired this second language of mine is really interesting.

I don't recall the first decent conversation I had in Malay. I remember some classes in school, I remember the first time I told the kacang putih auntie that:

Itu saya mahu 10 sen. *while pointing at the flying saucer (tapioca) kacang putih.

There's just no recollection whatsoever about my first few experiences using Malay. I don't even remember how was it exactly that I managed to suddenly get over the awkwardness of a new language and started using it just like that... let's think back a little bit..

I remember I had problems talking to a lot of people in primary school in Bahasa Melayu. Not that I refused to speak in Malay but I had too little vocabulary in the Malay Language. I couldn't converse with others and sometimes I even used Mandarin to speak to others; which led my mom to say:

Don't talk to them in Mandarin... use English or Malay. They don't understand Mandarin.

I remember very clearly me having this problem. In fact, shortly after that, I had 2 friends who are Chinese, who can speak Cantonese and English without a problem who conversed exclusively in Malay to me. When the 3 of us hung out in school, we'll be speaking in pure Malay and it just felt natural to us. After that, in secondary school, again I had a Chinese friend who had no problems speaking in Cantonese or English but spoke Malay to me. We didn't feel awkward at all. Completely natural. I'm not even talking about vernacular Malay; I mean, talking to each other almost native-like in Malay.


A teacher in school told me that sometimes if the first contact between the 2 individuals was in a certain language, then naturally it will continue on no matter who you are. I feel that this could possibly be true and it'll be important for me to realise this fact. My students are going through the same process when learning English. It is that one split moment when they use English and it leads on no matter where they are and whatever their condition, when that scenario fits, they will automatically use English.

I need to get them that one friend that they speak in English naturally to.

I need to give them that one situation where they feel so natural to use English.


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