Aida Zabidi
My parents made the conscious choice to speak to my sisters and I in English while we were growing up. 

It was never something I realized made me different until I was much older, as sheltered as I was in a community that mostly spoke English. My grasp of Malay was good enough academically, but I never felt comfortable speaking it, so I would naturally lapse into my ‘mother tongue’ – the language that I would think in, which had always been English. 

Despite the Malay majority in the country, the community I grew up in was mostly English speaking as well, and I had always assumed this was a norm until I entered adulthood, and met with others from different backgrounds. 

I also didn't realize the perception of English speakers among certain groups.

I didn’t realize how certain relatives called my parents snobs for wanting their children to communicate in English. Someone who I became friends with eventually told me how he thought I was stuck up for responding to him in English all the time. I heard stories of school children being ragged for speaking English. 

It is a mentality that surprised me. It highlighted to me a growing dissonance about the choice of language in an era which I felt that being multilingual was essential. Up to today, it is still a trend I see a rejection of the English language, and a trend of each race to speak only their mother tongues, and it is a sad situation.

I don’t see the need to put people down for efforts to improve themselves, and I’m more impressed when a non-native English speaker continues to practice their speech in the effort to improve themselves.

I remember clearly having to correct my parents’ grammar when I was a school kid, and they’ve come a long way themselves, just through continuous improvement. I can never thank my parents enough for making that choice. 

It’s put me in a place that I was able to thrive in, and they’ve given me a future that might not have otherwise been. 

Language is never a failed effort.
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