Learning English With Bell

Last update: 12/09/2014

By Fadzli Ramli

MELAKA (Bernama) -- Mohd Arif Christopher Bell, 61, arrived in Malaysia in 1977, along with 76 other volunteer English teachers from University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom.

While the rest returned home after their teaching stint, Bell decided to stay back and even master the Malay language, a language that he now speaks fluently.

Bell is now proud to call Malaysia his home. He has settled down here with Noraini Abdul Ghani, a former journalist and public relations officer, and they have two sons.

However, looking at the poor English proficiency in Malaysia today, this Englishman with over 30 years experience in the business of international education, is trying to help by providing pointers to teachers and students, particularly in the rural areas.

As far as Bell is concerned, teachers and students should be reminded that bad English is better than no English at all.

"And that no one should feel ashamed if their command in English is poor, the most important of all is to use English, if they use and practice English trust me their proficiency in the language will improve".


Based on his observation, in teaching English in schools the out of the box method should be adopted to get more students seriously involved in English learning sessions.

The old method of teaching English such as asking a student to read an English book while others listen is not effective because only the person reading the book is learning the language.

"While a student reads loudly in a class, can one be sure all the others in the classroom are listening, I don't think so. One method to fix this is mentoring where a student with good English proficiency is paired with a weak student while the teacher monitors them in a learning session.

"Often we rely too much on books to teach and learn English, but why not complement books with other mediums like music, videos and images to make learning English more fun and get more students involved in the learning process.

"Cartoon is a good medium to make students learn English, kids love them...the good thing about cartoons is that they animate and describe actions for example Dora is going up the hill, they say in words and animate the action thus helping students understand English better," he said.

Teaching out of the box also means teachers must organise more outside classrooms activities such as road trips, games, sports and simply organising class outside of the classroom.

"Urban students have lots of exposure to English but for rural students the only exposure is in their English class so we must make the best out of each English learning session and create more chance for the rural students to speak English," he said.


However, most important of all, he said, is making sure the teachers were proficient in the language and confident in teaching English using these methods.

Bell admitted that it is not easy to command a foreign language.

Bell narrated his own first experience when he was learning Bahasa Melayu back in 1977, but sheer determination and a fighting spirit helped him a lot in learning the language.

"On the second day, the teacher prohibited us from using English and we had to use the Malay language, we did and from much practice we learned how to speak the language and that opened a new wonderful world for me. I want the students to feel the same way by learning English, trust me it will open a whole new world for you," he said.

Thus apart from the students, the teachers too must have the strong determination to master the language.

In sharing his knowledge and skills in English, Bell had set up the Brighton Education, a company that is currently running English proficiency program for 1,200 rural primary schools in Melaka, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu since 2011 under the Ministry of Education.