Learning English The Fun Way
By Zulkiple Ibrahim
KUALA LUMPUR : Many are familiar with ERA Radio’s ‘Can I Help You?’ segment that aired on weekdays during the morning talk show slot. However, this radio segment was only some minutes long and meant to elicit laughter from listeners.
Recently, Astro – Malaysia’s satellite television station – unveiled a sitcom-cum-educational series called ‘Oh My English!’ which is aimed at helping Malaysians improve their conversational English.
According to Astro, ‘Oh My English!’ is an educational comedy which aims to amuse viewers while teaching them conversational English at the same time. The programme made its debut on Astro TVIQ (channel 610) on May 20, and airs every Sunday at 10 am.
From June 8, ‘Oh My English’ is also broadcast by Astro Prima (channel 105) at 9.30 pm.
THE VIEWERS’ RESPONSE
The viewers of this show have responded with rave reviews.
“My officemates and I never stop talking about the show. The show is funny and resembles a sitcom, but it is also educational. It really shed a lot of light on the way we speak English in everyday life,” said civil servant Shamsuddin Yahya.
For businessman Datuk Zulkifli Idris, ‘Oh My English’ is very educational.
“The issue is that for Malays, the mother tongue is Bahasa Melayu. Invariably when they want to say something in English, they first think in Bahasa Melayu before coming up with the English version,” he told this writer here.
“That is how simple phrases like ‘can you chop my certificate?’ (meaning ‘can you stamp my certificate?’), ‘burning bread’ (toasted bread) and ‘open the fan’ (switch on the fan) have come about,” he explained.
The above phrases are among several others featured in the series.
Zulkifli added that even many of the present-day graduates cannot speak proper English.
“When we speak English, we only need to use simple words for the message to get across. Unfortunately for some of us, our mother tongue controls our thoughts.
“We think in Malay and translate it into English, and most of the times, the wrong words come out during conversations.
“Bahasa Melayu is a simple language that many can grasp easily, and that is why we can see many foreign workers speaking in our mother tongue; but in English, we need to understand the concept of usage,” Zulkifli pointed out.
For nursing practitioner Zaidah Zainal, the show bears some semblance to the hit English sitcom series ‘Mind Your Language.’
“But since it has more local content and the scenario is regarding the antics of students in a Malaysian school class, I think it has much more appeal to Malaysians.
“Apart from being educational, ‘Oh My English’ is also hilarious and entertaining. Furthermore, it shows how some of us converse in English daily,” said the mother of three.
‘Oh My English’ is set in the fictitious SMK Ayer Dalam and follows the adventures of Kelas 3 Merah students who are notorious for getting into mischief.
Using unconventional methods of learning, Henry Middleton (the English teacher) tries to improve the students’ command of English. Middleton, who was born in Malaysia but raised in the United Kingdom, arrives at the school and takes on the challenge of teaching English to this class. The cast includes the actress and singer Adibah Noor, the comedians Harun Salim Bachik and Mr Os, and Zain Saidin – who plays Middleton.
‘Oh My English!’ also features rising young stars such as Izara Aishah, Addy Ashraf, Ahmad Ezzrin and Nurul Ezlisa Loy, along with Mohd Zhafir Muzani, Kaameshaa Ravindran, Amer Sharrif, Tan Teong Sik and Muhammad Akhmal Mohamad Nazri.
Several short viral videos of ‘Oh My English!’ feature international superstars such as Greyson Chance and Maher Zain.
According to Astro, every episode contains three short English capsules that explain the correct use of English in terms of grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and pronunciation.
Astro has collaborated with the British Council to develop English learning content, including comprehensive materials and worksheets, which viewers can easily access via the official ‘Oh My English!’ website.
The television station noted that it recognises the importance of its role in providing new and innovative opportunities to encourage lifelong learning among Malaysians.
Since 2009, Astro has collaborated with the Education Ministry to distribute world-class learning content among schools across the nation under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative.