Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 3 March 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Copyright © 2008
M. S. Thirumalai


Incorporating Translated Malay Short Stories into
Teaching English Language Skills

Haja Mohideen Bin Mohamed Ali, Ph.D.
Shamimah Mohideen, M.A.


This paper shows the interaction between language, literature and language education. Active literature teaching in Malaysian schools is back. Though it seems there is forced persuasion to study literature, and there is apprehension felt by teachers, we can achieve two things - acquisition of various language skills and appreciation of literature - through carefully selected texts or award - winning literary works. In this way we can not only introduce Malay or local literature, but also make it popular through the teaching and learning of English. In this paper the researchers are going to demonstrate how the above can be done. Reading, listening, writing and speaking skills will be exploited by using selected award-winning short stories. Translations into English are entirely the researchers' effort.


While emphasizing the role of literature in teaching language, Thirumalai poses this rhetorical question: "Is there anyone who doesn't like to listen to or read stories?" He goes on to add that literature plays a useful role in maintaining the interest of the students. Using short stories, novellas and plays helps to sustain the students' interest in language learning (2002: 117). Short stories are a very good resource for teaching language skills in an integrated fashion for the following reasons: they are not very long, they are interesting, they deal with human relationships, students can interpret subjectively and gain insights in their own individual manner. Students can enhance their cross-disciplinary vocabulary competence and they can also develop creative and critical thinking further and thus gain greater control and confidence in the language. Short stories provide an additional entertaining dimension to the prose passages which are often used in language teaching materials, for example, newspaper and magazine articles as used extensively in the Headway series by John and Liz Soars (1986). Not least, they have timeless appeal.

Short Stories in Malay

Short stories in the Malay language provide insights into the life and culture of Malays in particular, and Malaysians in general. According to Baker (2003), learners ought to develop an awareness of not only their own, but also other cultures. Multicultural understanding contributes to improved tolerance of one another. The themes go beyond Malay and Malaysian, even have universal interest and provide stimulating material for exploiting all the four basic macrolanguage skills - reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Students learn grammar in context and develop the ability to communicate accurately, appropriately and meaningfully. Contextualized grammar makes the learning of grammar (which is often considered dull) motivating. Students are able to differentiate between varieties of the language - standard and non-standard language, formal and informal, register, slang and metaphors - used in the short stories. Many educationists believe using young adult literature will help overcome the reading problem because such literature motivates students feel and talk about their experiences in relation to the texts used (Probst, 1988), cited in Wei-Keong Too (2006).

Literature Review

Hae-Ri Kim considers the incorporation of literature in the EFL curricula beneficial as it "provides practical teaching - learning strategies that work for secondary schools as well as colleges or universities" (2003: 1). In this regard the use of literary texts offers students an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of their life and acquire cross- cultural understanding. The readers respond personally to the texts, appreciate literature and involve themselves actively in language learning. Mckay (2001) has recommended using literary texts to integrate the four basic skills. The tips given by the educator may be improvised to make them particularly relevant for the various genres.

Poetry, for instance, not only provides a model of authentic language use, but it "can also serve as a springboard for a variety of teaching activities which can develop" the four basic language skills (Sithamparam, S. 1992: 144). Besides, poetry can also contribute to the holistic development of the individual as it plays an important role in students' imagination and sensitivity to the world around them.

Plays offer a rich context for developing pragmatic and sociolinguistic awareness among students. They may be used to examine turn-taking, understand stated and implied meanings. Students would be able to recognize that plays differ from natural conversation significantly (Mckay, 2001).

The case for using stories is that they are "funny, engaging, remind us of ourselves, help us empathize, inform us, take us on journeys" (Spiro, 2006: 47). They connect us with the familiar and uncomfortable, the fantastic and dangerous, subliminal fears and dreams. Mckay (2001) has outlined some ideas as to how short stories may be approached in L2 classrooms. Readers are asked to assess verbally and in written form the characters in the selected stories based on their behavior, what others comment about them and how they are described by the authors themselves. This would involve the students practicing the reading skill of skimming to look for the adjectives that fit their description. Short stories may be used for improving argumentation ability. Items related to cohesion and modality may also be dealt with. Garvie (1990) believes that stories will help in discourse awareness, including understanding cohesive relationships in a text. It can also aid understanding through contextual clues. Sasser (2005) has personal experience of her intermediate and advanced level secondary students responding positively to selected short stories, for example, by William Saroyan, Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston, and novellas including those of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.

Realizing the motivational aspect of using stories, there are now many children's stories which are bilingually presented. Multicultural literature enables learners to be exposed to specific cultures and groups of people. Towards this end many popular stories from non-English speaking countries have been translated into English (Merilee, 1996).

Rahma Ibrahim and Tausiff Sultana (2008) assert that that the use of stories in the language classroom has a sound pedagogical basis, besides providing insights into life, beliefs and value systems. They are utilized for the development of the four major language skills alongside critical and creative thinking skills which are currently being emphasized. They further add that when stories are used as components of a communicative methodology, learners are challenged not only cognitively and linguistically, but also affectively and socially.

Puji Rahayu (2008) has used the historical stories of Prophet Muhammad to teach about past activities in the four macro skills in Universitas Islam Indonesia. The aim of using the stories was not only to develop communicative ability in English, but also to introduce Islamic values to Indonesian students. Teaching the past tense is very much aided by using historical stories. Biblical stories can be used with Christian pupils.

In conclusion, stories can help to stimulate students' overall facility of creativity. They contribute to multicultural awareness, tolerance and familiarity with each other's beliefs. Stories are akin to a magnet for students to be drawn to reading. We can exploit the stories to get our students to practice the many language skills required for overall proficiency. The subsequent sections illustrate how this may be done.

Synopsis and Literary Criticism of Target Short Stories

The three short stories chosen for the purpose of this article, were all published in Mingguan Malaysia, a Malay language newspaper, between March and August, 1997. They are namely:

1. 'Gajah Putih' ('The White Elephant') by Zakaria Ali published on 23 March 1997,
2. 'Lola' by NF Abdul Manaf, which appeared on 27 August 1997, and
3. 'Zel' by Mawar Shafie, published on 22 June, 1997.

All the three short stories were the ones selected to receive the main prize of the 1997 Literary Prize sponsored by Utusan Melayu (a newspaper group) and Public Bank. They were published in Wacana Hitam Putih (1998), as an anthology of short stories.

In 'Gajah Putih' ('The White Elephant'), Zakaria Ali attempts to portray the different traits of his characters. The differences in their way of thinking and the manner in which they respond are clearly brought out. Symbolism has been used effectively. The characters in the story act harshly without due consideration and balanced judgment. They are ignorant and hypocritical. They could not appreciate the action of an elephant on its knees in a mosque, as if it was praying to Allah. And that was because these people rarely said their prayers, and they felt offended when an animal did what was incumbent upon them. Zakaria Ali indirectly and sensitively tells the people not to forget one of the main pillars of Islam. A Muslim ought to maintain praying five times a day, and remember his or her Creator.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders A SLP'S GUIDE | Teaching of English Literature and Empowerment of Indian Students | Translating Irony in the Quranic Texts – A Contrastive Study of Yousif Ali and Pickthall English Translations | “Why” And “How” of Literature in Language Classroom | An Evaluation of the Communicative Approach and Audio-Lingual Method in Teaching Grammar in a Private High School in Turkey | Command or Curse? Women’s Position - A Look at Genesis 3 : 16 in the Light of Abuse | Learning Sanskrit: A Personal Experience | Plural in Tamil and Telugu - A Comparison | Incorporating Translated Malay Short Stories into Teaching English Language Skills | Getting Exposure to Input in Multimedia Language Laboratory - A Pleasurable Learning Experience | Representation of a Minority Community in a Malaysian Tamil Daily | The Internal Landscape and the Existential Agony of Women in Anjana Appachana’s Novel LISTENING NOW, A Doctoral Dissertation | HOME PAGE of March 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Haja Mohideen Bin Mohamed Ali, M.A. (TEFL), Ph.D.
Ms. Shamimah Mohideen, M.A. (TESL)
Department of English Language & Literature
Faculty of Human Sciences
International Islamic University Malaysia
P. O. Box 10
50728 Kuala Lumpur
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