On Love for Language

I embrace my culture, my Malayness, my tongue, as much as I embrace my love for the English language. I think I speak considerably good English and love reading books not because my parents are well to do and we come from an upper middle class background (because we don’t). My dad aint a sailor, my mom’s not a teacher, and both my parents could not afford to enrol me into any English enrichment classes when I was young… Truth is, my love for reading and the English language is ingrained in me because I had a mom who read me bedtime stories every night without fail, and bought me books as birthday presents. She made me watch Sesame Street which had Elmo teaching alphabets and the 9.30pm news on Channel 5 where I enjoyed imitating the news anchors. She cultivated in me the curiosity for language. I picked both the coloniser and native tongue from my mother while my dad was trying to make ends meet by driving his taxi. I came from neighbourhood schools, felt that my English was just subpar, and I was demotivated by my teacher at one point when I kept getting Cs for my essays. But I continued to read and continued to better my English out of pure interest. And even though now that I teach and use the English language more and feel like I’m losing my competency and fluency in my mother tongue because of the lack of necessity and professional usage, I still feel more at home when my relatives speak to me in Malay. It’s the language of familiarity, of comfort, of culture. The language of my roots, my home. And if having a mom who loved me and sowed in me a love for knowledge despite only having O levels as her highest qualification is on its own a privilege, then I am indeed privileged and grateful to God for blessing me with this gift. Alhamdulillah for this. My passion to share my love for reading is truly by extension to share my love and appreciation I have for my mom. For I owe it all to her. My mother. My mother tongue. My rock. Just a little reminder to myself to stay grounded. To stay rooted. For you’re nothing, you’re undeserving, without the prayers of the ones who love you.

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