After almost 4 months in Kampar…

I have come to the conclusion that I may have just found THE best English lecturer I’ve ever met.

Mr Lionel Keith.

I’ve always liked his class because he teaches differently from all the other lecturers/English teacher’s I’ve ever had. He makes sure everyone participates in class, regardless of what their English standards are. He doesn’t ridicule, scoff or speak behind a student’s back about how lacking their command of English are.

Back in school/college, I remember thinking to myself how some teachers were so degraded that even Ashley could’ve taught better (and probably give better explanations too), and had better English than most of my teachers. (Except Pn Kathy^^) But Mr Lionel was different.

If there was any lecturer that had effortlessly gained respect, it would be him. I remember very clearly how throughout my years during English class, I have thought to myself that the English standards in which my lecturers/teachers taught were not up to par. As in, it was too easy for our level. And I’m not showing off or speaking as someone who has better command in English than others – no way. But the exercises given were always standard; comprehension in section A, then probably summary or fill in the blanks or something of that sort. In the essays department, NONE of my teachers/lecturers have ever told us any tips or a specific way to attain marks. (e.g what content to put first, etc)

Throughout my 4 months here, I feel that my command of the English language has actually been challenged. Before, in classes, I’d get told things like, “Ah, very good”, and other compliments. The English teachers (and nearly every other teacher, in their subject towards their ‘best’ student, really), of course, practiced favoritism. Although they always denied doing so, it’s so plainly obvious. They tend to be extra lenient with that/those particular student(s).

So here’s another part where Mr Lionel tends to be different. He has no favoritism whatsoever. He treats everyone the same. He’ll acknowledge you the way he would to any other student. He doesn’t look at you funny if you’ve mentioned something in broken sentences; instead he takes your key point and puts it in a better-sounding sentence. So in other words, he still uses your point, and I think it would give students more confidence to voice out their opinions – because he doesn’t shun them off.

And here, aspects like my sentence structures and whatnot have been corrected, ideas questioned, and many such cases. It actually makes me ponder, and when I do, I try to come up with something better; something that Mr Lionel would approve. So in other words, I feel that my English standards has gone up a slight notch. I’ve even learnt how to properly write strong essays that are filled with key points and arrange them in ways that would be most efficient to allocate points. I’ve never been taught such tactics throughout my years.

But I think the one that really struck a chord was today.
Mr Lionel told us that we had a choice; either to discuss comprehension, or he’ll give a few topics to talk about, and we’d have a sort of informal public speaking based on either topics. The 3 topics that he gave were:

  1. My problems with the English Language.
  2. My social life here in uni.
  3. Conforming to what others say.

Well, no one picked the 3rd one. xD

Rachel, Aimi & I picked the second, while the other 5 (Annie wasn’t there, she had gone home for Good Friday already) picked the first one. We were called one by one to the front to talk about the topic, whatever we wanted to speak about it, for however long we wanted.

In short, the 5 (Hui Kia, Eric, Thoggai, Shangaree and Nirosha) of them shared the same problem; they felt insecure presenting in English because they felt that others had a better command of it than they did, and that they became nervous when they had to present in front of a large crowd, resulting in them having to refer to cue cards almost the entire time. Well, except Eric. He’s weird. xDD

Now, at the end of our little ‘speeches’, Mr Lionel would question us, about what we had said. I remember Thoggai’s question particularly well.

She had said that she felt embarrassed to present in English because she is aware that her English isn’t good. She fumbles and read from cue cards because she depends on them to speak properly, and gets nervous when she has nothing to depend on. She also said that she was afraid of what other people may think of her, because her English is bad.

However, she did mention that we (us JR students especially, because we see her in almost all our classes) have helped her in her English because she speaks to us in English all the time, but her English is still under par.

Mr Lionel then asks her the question that I think I’ll remember for life:

You say that you are  afraid what others may think of you. Have any of your friends avoided you because of your English?

She answers no.

Did you find that/ have they treated you differently because of it?

No again.

Then why are you afraid?

When she just smiled and kept quiet, Mr Lionel continued,

If you keep comparing yourself to others better than you, you’re not gonna go anywhere.

I dunno, it just struck a chord in me. I felt almost sympathetic. Mr Lionel has told us since the beginning that he doesn’t want us to compare ourselves with people who were better than us; on the contrary, he said that he wanted us to improve on our own level. Even if by the end of our semester, we’ve only improved by a level, he would be satisfied enough. He said that the goal was to improve our English at our own levels, not try to compete with the better students.

Here they were, expressing how language was a barrier for them, and how they felt nervous speaking in front of a crowd in a language that they weren’t so good in. Most of them said that if they were to present in their mother tongue, they’d have no problems.

And here I am, getting all over- jittery and nervous whenever I present just because I can’t remember the points I have to present. My language and grammar is fair; understandable, at least. So why should I find it hard to present?

But yeah, I’m hoping to have classes with Mr Lionel again. Oh, and love his subtle jokes. xD

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