My Father the English Teacher

My father taught Latin at the Penang Free School. Animus, animi, animo, animum, anime was the furthest I got with that language. I don’t know whether knowing Latin helps improve one’s English. It probably does. My father had an impeccable command of the English language. Master Basha his adoring students called him. He was Bash to the Headmaster, Mr Todd.

My father was my favourite English teacher. He would have answers to every question I asked, quite unlike my English teacher at school who would be inclined to say – go think about it, then come back to me. Which probably meant she didn’t know the answer. Her pronunciation, in particular, left a lot to be desired. Look up Jones, meaning the English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, my father would say whenever I didn’t know how to pronounce a particular word. But if I asked him hard enough he would tell me.

Thanks to my dear Father I won many elocution, debating and essay competitions in school. I would invariably begin my debates with, Mr Chairman, I emphatically declare……and go on to dazzle my poor opponent.

At the end of one school term, I was reluctant to show him my Report Card. No problem with my English marks. But an ugly red number showed up against my Maths result – 38 upon 100. A clear “Fail”. I finally plucked up enough courage, gave him the report and waited to be roundly scolded. He looked at the report, calmly signed it and returned it to me. Aren’t you going to scold me? I asked. No. He said. Just do better in your Maths next term.

And I did.


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