It was Teacher’s Day not too long ago and as with all good traditions that are observed in our family, the two happiest little people handmade some fancy little cards while I helped buy a few small gifts to show appreciation to their teachers for their commitment to quality education and dedication.
This brought back a flood of primary school memories particularly of my own journey in acquiring English as a second language during those formative years. There was always the fear-provoking Mrs. Chong or Mrs. Surinda… well you know, the soon-to-retire English teacher who were themselves trained by British teachers and for whom we all revered during English classes.
Like a hungry mama Cheetah going on a hunt for a tubby calf, she’d spot grammatical, syntax errors and spelling mistakes from miles away, scrutinizing the essay homework you have submitted with her mean, piercing gaze and once she caught you making even small mistakes, in fact any mistakes at all, such as saying things the Manglish (Malaysian English) way, “I got money yesterday so I buy a rubber for her as a birthday gift lah” which means “Yesterday, since I had some money with me, I bought her an eraser as a birthday gift ” (and we add the “lah” word as an affectionate complement to end all of our sentences!), she’d pounce on you and give you a rattling good lecture about her top thirty rules of grammar while devouring your entire being like a piece of luncheon meat!
Somehow by some miracle (actually it’s because my own mama made me do a lot of readings of Peter & Jane English books), I have managed to pass all my English papers and today I shamelessly correct some spelling and grammatical errors I spot on office memos and work documents to the annoyance of my staff. I can’t help it! Not being perfect myself does not stop me from manifesting this little obsession at work, while browsing online, and even while reading faulty signage at a foreign airport!
When it comes to my kids, I am fairly relaxed about how they would eventually acquire English as a second language though. Relax in the sense that I do not push or torture the three happiest little people for any academic achievement, or get upset if any of them got a C or even a D for a subject. To me, the scores only measure the level of understanding of a particular subject. It is more important to cultivate joy at the family dining table, far more important that they love God, or that they are willing to play with other less privileged kids, be honest and polite and demonstrate a sense of responsibility by helping out in the household doing age-appropriate chores.
We have also come to realise that our happiest little people seem to learn best when they are having fun. This is where I have a confession to make here. I am one of those working moms who would sometimes pop an educational DVD such as Discover English With Ben & Bella, totally believing that TV is not entirely a bad thing. It is only bad if you lose control over them.
Daddy Joe and I have witnessed that English in particular, is best learned through a multimedia channel. Like a mini wordsmith, Cheeky Koko in particular, has a flair for the language that is beyond his age even though we are a mandarin-speaking family, with his daily speech peppered with vocabulary we are quite certain he has mastered through watching cartoon series. After all, this being the era that belongs to Technology.
So I am absolutely fanatic about good and fun things that teach ABCs or counting like this because somewhere between them being repeatedly exposed to an educational TV content that teaches them new English words through fabulous singing and dancing along with Ben & Bella and seeing that their imagination and creativity get fuelled simultaneously, I am glad that at least they have not tuned into Soap Operas or MTV to learn English, just yet, at least not at this age. Save me some grey hair and stress level there.
We also teach English through a lot of imaginative play. Most days I’d be the Queen in the far far away land sipping coffee while beaming with pride as I watch Pumpkin Mei-Mei go about her “princessy” stuff.
And of course we also have our elaborate bedtime story every night when they learn even more new words, other countries and cultures, folklore and fairy tales (and no, we did not have gumballs raining like the Bedtime Stories movie!) that have seen the mom act like a lunatic woman on a few occasions as well as a gorgeous witch on other occasions just to make the kids go into their dreamland with a smile.
Someone should give me an Oscar award or a lifetime achievement award for going this far.
Well, even if they don’t, I am sure the three happiest little people will be able to say, “Thank You, I love you, Mama” in perfect English.
Photo credit for Cheetah: From Photopin
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalart/3332055680/”>digitalART2</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/8406155906/”>Tambako the Jaguar</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>