English Got Me Here.

The piercing sound of my alarm had awoken me. The radiant sunlight beaming through my tall window felt like invisible slaps to the face, reminding me to get off the bed. I wish I can continue my slumber but it’s rather an important day. 

I wore a suit made for RM100 from Phuket matched with white shirt, brown checkered tie and gold clip. I had my favorite brown oxford shoe on and every spring to my step felt golden.

The panel went wild for my presentation. I must have done something right. Grinning from ear to ear, I await the Q&A that comes after.

But it never came.

Instead, they only wanted to know how a kampung boy (local slang for kids from a rural village) mastered English as well as I did.

And this was my answer:

I was born in a family of 8 but my twin brother died when he was little. I was raised in a wooden house that my father had built with his bare hands. We were poor. He was a retired army whilst my mother was a housewife, raising 8 children, putting them through school and ensuring there is food on the table so we won’t starve. I am the youngest, so by the time I was 4, most of my siblings have gone to KL to find work so they can help to support our family. Being mostly alone in the house, I had only 2 hobbies. One, exploring the jungle in our backyard and Two, watching TV. My father enjoys watching the news and National Geography while my mother watches only 3 things: P Ramlee movies, Hindustan movies and English movies. My favorite show growing up was Sesame Street. I had an imaginary friend growing up. He was my bestfriend. His name was Fikri. And he was my twin brother. Whatever I hear from the TV I would practice with him. I didn’t care whether the pronunciation was wrong and whether I use the correct grammar; I practiced anyway – because I was someone who has always been curious about new things – and in this scenario, the English language. That curiosity developed into a love for the beautiful language. You see, I was raised in a place nobody would know if it wasn’t for M Daud Kilau and Zahid Hamidi (legendary singer and politician, respectively). I didn’t have anybody to practice English with. Everybody here speaks either Malay or Java so I had to improvise – half of my childhood was spent talking to myself as if I had erethism. But I didn’t care. I excelled through schools and here I am today being a proud kampung boy who can speak English. I hope to inspire people who come from (are in) the same situation as I was to believe that they can be better if they try. That’s my story and I hope it has somewhat welcomed you to understand me a bit more.

It was exactly a week after that I got the call. “You got the job.” To this day I believe it was that job that propelled my career in banking to where it was when I quit the industry last year after a challenging, yet enriching 13 years.

Everyone has to start somewhere. We live in a country where English is not our primary language. Most of us are still stuck with the idea that we can survive this world without having to learn new words or phrases but let’s be honest, have you been in a situation where you completely misinterpret the meaning of a sentence? It’s only going to get tougher as you move up(on) in life, so stop resting on your laurels and learn a new word. Pick up a book. Read a new article online. Upgrade yourself, because if you’re not going to do it, nobody’s going to do it for you.

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