I had a golden opportunity to spend a morning with Electrical Engineering students who wanted to practice conversational English.
We’ve talked to Mr. S and his wife several times when we eat breakfast at the same local coffee shop. Just after New Years, Mr. S told us he was going to a nearby university to help some students improve their spoken English. All of these students can read and write English, but they don’t have any one to practice with to hone their speaking. When he heard that I had taught ESL, he asked if I would go with him one morning and talk with his class. I was delighted to have this chance.
For four hours we talked. Before class, I talked briefly with each student and got to hear their names and what they are studying and why. It gave me a chance to assess their level of ability and for them to get used to my accent.
Mr. S asked me to start the class by giving them some of my background, work experience, and about our time in Malaysia. From that time on, they asked questions and I answered. I would ask them questions and they would answer.
How rich an experience!
It is not common for a foreigner, a Christian, and a woman old enough to be their grandma, to talk to Muslim, university students. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, there just are very few opportunities.
They asked my opinions about Malaysia, its food, its culture, its progress as a nation. They wanted to know why I like Malaysia and what I don’t like. They wanted to know what I liked best about working as a NICU nurse. I was asked how would they know who to marry and what I thought was important to ensure a long lasting marriage. One girl asked what I do to stay healthy.
They told me about their families, what they want to do with the education they are receiving. They told me about their favorite music and movies.
There was such respect and interest on both sides of the discussion. I felt completely at ease and shared freely. I really stepped out of my box and out of my usual introvert personality. They took the chance to speak in English and realize a native English speaker could understand them and wanted to converse with them.
I will always treasure the memory of this day as one of my favorites in Malaysia.