Update on Projek Bahasa Melayu

Ok I’ve been meaning to update on Zayan’s (and Ayman’s) progress on learning bahasa melayu. Apparently, by reflecting and writing on it, it will make me conscious of how the learning is going and motivate me to continue.

I have been pushing the learning from a lot of corners:

(1) Talking more in malay

Sometimes it’s just reflex to speak in English with the kids esp Zayan. Sometimes I have to speak in English esp with complex ‘you need to understand this’ instructions.

If it’s simple instructions, I can speak in malay and the kids will understand. If it’s more complex, I either will say it in malay and then say it in English.

A lot of times I do the combo of the two languages, which is how I naturally talk with family (excluding parents and older generatiom) and friends anyway.

With Ayman, I talk much much more in Malay. He understands a lot more and doesntt even bat an eyelid if he doesnt get it. He just goes ‘hmm?’ whereas Zayan will get frustrated if he doesnt get it.

Ayman also picks up more malay words and it sticks on him more. So from a vocabulary point of view, Ayman has more malay vocab than Zayan. This is probably because I’ve stuck to talking more in malay with him since he was a wee little one.

Just realising I need to talk more with them made me do more things with them. I know it sounds horrible but often I just want to sit and do nothing/watch TV and let kid get on with their play. Now I do things more WITH them so I can speak more with them.

(2)  Writing 

I wanted to keep up a more consistent daily routine of some form of malay work. Unfortunately, mornings are not good for us, so Zayan does ‘malay work’ in the evening after I come home from work. This depends on me being there, so perhaps this is done 2/3 of the time in a month. 

It started really, really basic because thats how low the standards/reality were! Name, age, shapes, colours, labelling rooms and items in the house, simple adjectives. I have an A4 book solely for this. 

For example, he would be matching colours and shapes to the malay words. He likes to draw so I made him draw different rooms in a house and then label them. 

I divided the work into: (1) writing sentences, (2) reading and comprehension and (3) learning new vocabulary. We might concentrate on one area or do all three! Btw the time span for this work is usually half an hr. Any more and he gets distracted. 

Below are examples of what he’s done:

I also have a little ‘journal’ writing for him. Essentially a little booklet where he writes 1-2 sentences on it. Sometimes I wouldnt even know the malay words for it (like ‘snake scales’ and ‘slide’) but he made me check it on the dictionary. 

Then I had to ‘up’ it because he was getting bored. I was finding it difficult to find ‘malay worksheets’ online. Most of the work is a bit boring, so in the end I made it up myself. 

Exercise: Translating english to malay

Exercise: Matching new words to pictures to then translate the recipe

‘Telur’ missing pasal Ayman took it out. For the vocabulary lessons, I do it with both kids. Ayman remembered it much quicker – I think he’s like his Ayah, quicker acquisition of language. Zayan is like me – he just needs to work harder and he’ll get it. The ‘working hard’ bit is what is hard. I mean, I can make it fun by drawing and colouring and making things relevant/funny/interesting for him. Essentially though, he has to learn some areas (writing and reading) by sitting down and focusing and that is the struggle. 

(3) Reading 

This is a struggle because I have little hold of fun and interesting malay books. I bought some dari Brunei from the last trip but sad to say, it wasnt that interesting. 

Zimah, my soul sister from another mother, kindly bought books for the kids. It has nice graphics and malay is not too difficult (good combo of short enough sentences but some difficult words). Thank you Zimah!!

I also got my parents to get me old Mekar magazines. I used to read this when I was a kid!! The contents are not that bad actually and have word puzzles/crossword there that I use as part of ‘Daily Malay work’. 

Aside from the above, I have downloaded this app which I cannot recommend enough. Seems like it has been set up by ‘Pusat Bahasa Melayu Singapura’. There is six stories with different options – you can just read it like an e-book, have it as audiobook or you can voice record yourself (or your kid can) reading it. It also has games at the end – one is a comprehension game (qs to ask on whether you understand the story) and another is some vocabulary game. 

I thought Zayan would get bored of it but he continues to ask to play it from time to time.

So on reflection, things going well and the issues:

(1) Malay work is done more regularly than ever before. I wish I can do it daily but depends on whether I’m oncall or not. My oncalls are on average 10 days a month and maybe 2-3 days post oncall (therefore still zombie), that makes it roughly about 2/3 of the month only. 

I’m still searching on things Zayan can do by himself when I am oncall and need little supervision. Anyway, will have a think. 

(2) Reading more

Currently we love this Sea world books from Zimah! And still sifting through Mekar magazines. 

But have to foresee them getting bored after awhile, so need to buy new ones. Hint, hint to my friends from Brunei &Malaysia! (I will gladly pay for books and postage!!)

(3) The ‘One page a day’ exercise

As I didnt have any fun books for awhile, I figured I’ll make some stories up. This story is about Zayan and Ayman waking up one morning to an empty house and found their neighbourhood has turned into a forest. I introduce a page a day (not consecutively because Zayan gets bored, but not too far apart either for Zayan to forget about it) and have Zayan read it.

Zayan can actually read these passages and understand half of what’s written. Or maybe he gets the gist of it by picking up on words he knows. 

I give extra exercises to go with it too sometimes, because I’m Tiger Mama like that. Once I made him draw pictures to accompany the story line. Today I made him translate and write some of the words in English. 

Anyway, five minutes later, he forgot what is ‘pokok’, ‘bunga’ and ‘hutan’. Btw I always point out pokok and bunga for him when bejalan. Breathe Fizah Breathe. It reminded me of his ‘learning to read’ saga, where I am constantly stressed out getting him to get it. Now I’m not so stressed and figure he will just get it one day! I just need to keep saying it. 

Now…  I just realise that he is reading, writing and learning more new words. He’s still not talking malay as much! (He talks in malay only when he wants something) It makes sense because he doesnt need to. There is no one else he talks malay to and I’ll reply him anyway even if he talks in English. Hmm, ok something to work on! 

Ayman on the other hand is talking more malay words. He will say (when I’m heating up his milk) “I dont want panas, I want suam”. Or “I am yaki yaki, mama bini bini”. 

I should do more malay work with Ayman (flash cards at least) and work on him talking in sentences in malay. 

How do I have time to do these worksheets and stories, you may ask? I do new ‘work’ every 2 weeks or so. I spend maybe an hour compiling it all and then take it out one at a time. 

This is one of those ‘I just have to make time for it’. I now realise I have to. I have to start being serious in teaching him because seriously, his malay was akin to a 2 year old. If I leave it any longer (like when balik brunei), he will have so much to catch up on. Kids his age in Brunei will not only acquire it via their surroundings (family, at the shops, TV, radio etc) but also at school. He has only me as a source, so half an hour a day of ‘proper work’ and on a weekday, perhaps 2-3 hours of language exposure with me is really not enough (if I’m not oncall). 

Has it made any progress? I can certainly see in Ayman. With Zayan, it’s hard to say.

There are moments when I realise he does understand more than I think but I have to talk slower and get him in the right mood. If tired/distracted, he just wouldnt focus on what I’m talking about.

Ok that’s it for today. Any ideas or suggestions are gladly welcomed!


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