I was five. I had someone helping me revising my Surah recitation at a tahfiz, and returned the favor by teaching him how to spell aeroplane. A.E.R.O.P.L.A.N.E.
Now 19. 20 in two months. Adulthood in the corner. I was playing basketball. Two kids approached me. Siblings. The elder sister was 10, her brother being 8. So, I taught them basketball. They’re too short to shoot. Omg, words. So, we just passed the ball around. Being a no. 4 jersey wearer, (this surely brought back memories) I taught them how to catch and throw the ball.
After the ice was broken and I got to know them better, I happened to ask them if they know what is the name of the game. Before they repeat ‘bola..bola…’ for the ninth time, I answered myself. ‘Bola Keranjang.’
‘So, what is it called in english?’ I asked. No answer from them. I answered myself yet again. ‘It is basketball. Now, what is basket?’ ‘Keranjang!’ The two kids answered loud and proud as they finally managed to answer my question. I was not satisfied and asked them the more common use of the word. To my surprise, they did not know that basket is bakul. Poor red riding hood. They made an excuse of not learning it yet at school.
Done with unanticipated English class, we continued playing. I threw the ball a little bit higher, the boy missed it. He ran for the ball, and kicked it towards me. ‘Bola sepak, abang tak reti main. Sorry.’ I was born kaki bangku. The boy then uttered a statement he shouldn’t had. ‘Ha? Tak reti?’
‘Boy, what’s bola sepak in English? Kakak can help him answer as well.’ Challenge returned.
Again, they surprised me with no answer. When I said football, they went ‘haaaaaaaaa, lupa pula.’
Me: What’s foot?
Me: No, that’s food. What’s foot? F.o.o.t.
Me: Kaki! Now what’s that? In English! (Pointing to an aeroplane flying above us)
Them: Hurmm… Kepel Terbeng. (Horribly imitating an English)
Me: A.E.R.O.P.L.A.N.E. AEROPLANE!
I was paranoid. I am still. They might be the dumb ones. Sorry. They might also be one of the few kids who didn’t catch up well with their studies. They might be just kids. But, finding excuses won’t solve the problem here. The girl was 10 years old and did not know AEROPLANE. And football. Nor basketball.
Well, pointing fingers won’t solve the issue here. As for me, I used to have this ‘Kamus Bergambar’ when I was a kid. There was a scene filled with many items on each page, i.e. Birthday party, farm, market, outer space. And at the bottom, each item were named in Malay, English and Arabic. Another version got Mandarin as well. My mother made me study that book, when I was four?
That’s one of many other solutions. But I do hope that this short story of mine could open your eyes. We are approaching 2020, our modern era. We are trying so hard and expending so much in implementing IT or computated learning in our schools. But aeroplane is hardly in a ten-year-old-girl’s vocabulary.