If there’s one more thing in life that fascinates me (well, other than shoes, handbags, football, F1 etc.), it’s language. I’ve always been fascinated by people who can speak multiple languages, especially if they aren’t been brought up listening to those languages. Let’s skip the fact that most Malaysians are at least bilingual (mother tongue + English), some are trilingual (mother tongue + Malay + English). Mother tongues themselves can come it lots of form. Malay can be Javanese or Kelantanese or Kedahan. Chinese can be Mandarin or Cantonese or Hakka. Indian can be Tamil or Hindi or Urdu. Of course, these are just examples, there are many other variations of Malay, Chinese and Indian that I have yet to hear of.
These languages are spoken everywhere in the country, it’s just natural for us to be able to pick up bits and pieces of them. Ask any average Malaysian, they will tell you that they have no problem speaking a mixture of two (sometimes three) languages in one sentence. A daily expression like “Macha, you want to makan or tah-pao?” simply translates to “Mister, do want you eat-in or take-away?”. Notice that we use not two, not three, but FOUR languages in the same sentence? Amazing huh!
Check out this article on Yahoo, it’s a bout how easy kids learn new languages:
I also read somewhere that it’s easier for someone to learn foreign languages if he/she has been exposed to hearing different languages whilst growing up. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the language that they wish to master in the future. For example, do you notice how easy Malaysians learn a new language, be in Japanese, French or others? It’s because, living in a multicultural society, we grow up hearing different languages on daily basis. True, our local languages are nowhere near to sounding like Japanese or French, but because of the exposure that we get, it’s easier for our brains to get attuned to a new language and grab the logics of it. It’s like driving a car, if you only drive compact cars all your life, it’s the only type of car that you find easy to maneuver. But if you constantly change cars from compacts to sedans to rovers and back to compacts, it is easy for you to maneuver any type of car given to you. Maybe you can even drive a bus.
So if you want your kids to master a new language, start them off early. In this age of globalization, being able to speak an extra language opens massive doors. It’s also never too late for you to learn a new language yourself. My 50+ year old mum who already speaks 3 languages (Malay, English and spit and spatter of conversational Japanese from her student days) also learns basic Arabic by listening to a daily radio show.
I have recently enrolled myself into a Spanish class. It’s one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve been in. I’ve gone through four lessons so far, and as of I now I already know how to greet, ask basic questions and provide simple descriptions of people and objects. It’s a beginner’s class, most of the students are college kids. The class mix is pretty good, I have classmates from Malaysia (maybe 10 of us), Iran, India (as in the country India), Yemen and Italy.
So what are you waiting for? Go learn that other language! It’s never too late, if my mum can do it, I’m sure you can :-)
¡Hasta luego! (See you later!)