This is a tale of my younger brother, who is very good in English language, say it written or spoken. I know a lot of people is much more better especially those who use it as their primary language everday, but I just want to share my version of story.
Many people thought we came from an English speaking family background, I just could not figure out why. In our family, we seldom speak in English, we just use plain Bahasa Melayu. However although both my parents came from two different state with heavy local dialect each, they never speak those kind of language at home. Just standard Malaylanguage, and that's the language that we use as we grown up. Plus a lot of technical English of course, sinch both my parents work in technical field.
My friends consider my English usage is quite good, I even once selected as a junior batch of debater in my old school during my tender age but I refused to join. As I consider my English was bad, and still not very good now. You see, I'm so particular with grammar and pronounciation, and I usually make sure I know how to spell each word that I use. Thus that makes it hard for me to randomly use the language to improve my English. This is also one of the reason I blog, by the way. To improve.
Oops, I'm sorry I forgot that the limelight of this post is my brother, not me.Hehe :)
When he was just a little boy, he loves to read. And still do until now. If I'm not mistaken, he starts reading at the age of three, and he was a very fast learner.He never talk in baby language ever since he can talk. He just read all reading materials in the house, luckily there were a lot. One of his favourite series of books I still remember were the series of `Beritahu Saya Tentang..'. I'm not sure those books still exist or not nowadays, but they were very very good. Even I enjoyed those books until now. It tells the young readers about almost everything and how they functioned scientifically, from rockets, cars, mechanics, dynamics until plants and animals. Another added value is this is another common interest of the whole family (reading), so my little bro always had enough supply of books in the house.
When he reach the age of 6, he digested almost everything that he found. In house I still remember, we have the complete series of Doraemon, Dragonball, Slamdunk, Kawan (local children magazine, it was quite good back then), Anak-anak Sidek, Mastika and only God knows what else.He kept on begging my Dad to buy more reading materials, and of course my Dad could not refuse. He also had developed the habit of reading during meal time, which was quite annoying at the first place but later on, we just have to respect his passion. Daripada makan sambil tengok tv baik makan sambil membaca kan..
When he reach 8, he starts reading atlas books. Yes you get me right, atlas that shows maps and locations and places.I do not know it was the surveyor blood (of my Dad, he is a land surveyor) or what, but he enjoyed every page of it. Everytime he sees me he would say something like this:
"Kakya, ape nama ibu negara Belgium? Apakah sungai terpanjang di Amerika? Apakah dataran ais terbesar di dunia? Apakah ibu negara Mongolia?"
Of course I could not answer back then la kan, even the names of places are not familiar to me. Then he would proudly tell me the correct answers of his questions. He's so informative, and I was so beaten up as a big sister. I felt jealous and proud of him at the same time. And I though his inquiry attitude is kind of cute. And again, of course those atlasses came in English so he was improving day by day.
Later on when he knew about games and gadgets and everything, there was no turning back. From PS1, PS2, Gameboy pelbagai kaler apetah itu and the list goes on and on, he never missed even once the latest technology of games. Typical boy. Until the extent he use his own money to buy those gadgets. The original one might be expensive, so he went for second hands. Gila tak gila my brother ni, but he is the type that if he wants something, no one can stop him. He learnt a lot from the games that he played too, like all the names of football players in EPF, car racers and the cars' details and such.He learnt English indirectly with his passion.
When he entered secondary school, I noticed he started English novels, the one that I use to read at that time. Being a natural reader, my drawback at that time was I'm quite `stingy' to spend my own money to buy those kind of novels that normally cost RM40 and above. So as my brother then had the same interest as me, I just read his books everytime I went home. Jimat jimat, hehe. And he did not hesitate to spend for books, and this attitude I later learnt from him. As books are life-long investment, no matter what type of books. I emphasized books okay, not magazines or comics. Hehe. Later on he surprised the whole family as he was involve in debate team of his school, first speaker plak tu. Gempar abis la the whole family, since he never shows his interest to the field even once at home. And when I just developed my interest in Grisham's and King's (err Sheldon not in the list, I even regretted I 'd read most of his books :( ) he already digested Albom's and Coelho's. Segannya saya.
He might flunk the science courses but always did well in English and EST subjects in school, he even obtained A1 in 1119 examination.(erm I pun dapat berapa je 1119..:P)
When he followed my parents to London few years back, he even tell my Dad :
"Abah takyah la cakap (English), biar Afiq je cakap. Nanti diorang tak faham plak sebab grammar tak btul"
Busuk sungguh ayat adikku itu but then we could not disagree more. He is really good then. And still is.
So the moral of story is, if you want your sisters,brothers or even future children to become good in English, developed reading interest in them ever since their tender age. Expose them with good english materials, and be selective of course so they won't digest the wrong knowledge. Do not disapprove their interest, but try to find way utilize their interest in a positive way (in my brother's case, his interests helped him to master English language). Also do practice to write and speak English, regardless your grammar, vocabulary or pronounciation because that skill can be developed later. As once my teacher said, "If you want to master English, you must think in English and even dream in English."
Believe me, my brother were from the same Malay background as most of you and me yet still he managed his way successfully in conquering the language. I learnt a lot too from him. I still do :)