"Where did you learn English, Azahar?" That was the question many at Vet. Path. Dept. UGA frequently asked me, after they read my writings, either my routine pathological reports, my papers and even my thesis.
It sounds as if I am blowing my own trumpet. No, it never crosses my mind to brag about my English prowess.
It is just that I myself wonder how on earth a kampung boy like me love English so much that it just comes naturally to me.
Mind you, I spent most of my childhood in rural areas, either in rural Perak or Terengganu.
But, as far as I could remember, I was good in English since from primary school. Still remember exchanging English reading materials with one Secondary school girl by the name of Normah.
From then on my love for English was beyond compare and blossomed into something that I really looked forward very much.
In SDAR I was fortunate to have two volunteer English teachers - one a Voluteer Service teacher from England and the other a Peace Corp teacher from US.
Thus I knew both Queen's as well as American English from the start.
How did I do it? Well in a nut shell there were three ways - reading, writing and listening. You may notice that I never say speaking.
As far as reading is concerned, it started very early in my life. In fact well before I went to school. It was the words written on the first pountain that my father gave me. The words were: Made in USA. You want to know how I read them? I read it as they were spelled in Malay!
Then came newspapers, advertisements and banners. Only when I came to SDAR that I was really exposed to many English books. Back then my name was there in almost all book registration cards. I have read almost all English story books available in the library - I am not kidding.
The books also changed as I grw up. First the books were children books like Three musketeers, Don Quixote and many more; then the Spy books like James Bond, Western novels authored by Louis L"Amour, J.T Edson and many more....
Then came writing. I always love writing Essays, especially those that need our narrative skill - you know the continuing stories. After each essay homework I was always eagerly waiting for the work book to be returned by the teacher.
Why? The teacher would almost always say "Azahar did an excellent work in this topic" Classmates would always gather around me just to have a look at my essay.
My narrating skill did not just in class. It wandered of to one magazine - believe it or not, the Movie News. A few of my short stories did get published in the magazine.
New Straits Times, the Forum section was the other place where I used to send my writing. It is more of my complaints or explanation.
The most controversial letter I wrote was when I complained of the unreasonably low housing allowance for my father. His superiors called him after it came out in the paper. My father just said that it was me who wrote it and not very long after that the allowance was increased!
I was in Form six then.
Many will not believe me when I say television taught me alot about English, especially in understanding spoken English and learning new big English words and phrases.
I was always hooked to tv programmes, even when I was in the final year DVM! All English series, be it detective stories like Kojak, Hawaii Five O, A Team, comedies like All In The Family, dramas like Peyton's Place etc etc I just watched them all.
I was also intrigued with documentaries. Pharses like "it is always human's nature to bend nature to fulfill his goal..." always fascinate me.
Sadly, now the standard of English in school is deteriorating, to say the least.
I hope the authorities will do something quick to stop this and so that we can be proud once again of our citizens' mastery of English.