The founder of the social enterprise shares with us what they’re all about.
The level of English in the country may be slowly deteriorating but it has also opened up opportunities for passionate language hustlers to do their part in elevating the country’s proficiency. One such band of linguists is Englishjer, a “youth collective that focuses on building a better ecosystem of learning English amongst all Malaysians through research and creativity.”
In light of recent spotlight cast on our education system and teaching mechanisms (Moving to another part of Malaysia, anyone?), we spoke to Qayyum Jumadi, the Founder of Englishjer to find out his opinion on the matter as a third party striving to inculcate good knowledge of the language in the young minds of the nation.
How did the social enterprise called Englishjer come about?
Englishjer actually started out as a Twitter account of just me giving tips and answering questions people might have about English. I started it almost as a joke. I thought to myself “why the standard of English is so poor here? I bet I can share some of my knowledge. It’s English jer!” – and the name of course stuck. I used to bring around a marker pen when I’m out in town to correct notices and signs, but I got in trouble for that. Being on Twitter is a much easier way to correct people’s English. There is no security guard to chase me out. Englishjer became a social enterprise after people kept inviting us to do workshops and camps in high schools and universities. We fund our free activities from all this.
The programming at Englishjer seems to take a quirky approach to the language. What do you aim to achieve through Englishjer?
The aim really is to make English more relevant and unintimidating. We do a lot of creative stuff to get people interested in using the language, or at least have a better exposure of it. We had 2 nationwide writing projects where people write stories and poems in 100 words exactly (and then the best ones get published), we even did a poetry night where the poets get to recite their poems in the dark. We have crazy quizzes and a lot of gatherings, trying to make it all fun for everyone.
What have been some of your most memorable moments since you began organising events and programmes as part of the social enterprise?
I think it’s always a new experience and that’s what’s make Englishjer so exciting – for both us on the administration side and the volunteers. In our camps, we do a lot of sharing session and we do it progressively. We start by making lists, then mini essays, then just free writing. We share all these writings. Seeing people grow throughout the activities is what keeps us going. The stories are just incredible, and we also have a deeper insight on how our informal systems sometimes are a problem to learning English. We work together on that every time.
Since its inception, how has Englishjer helped Malaysians?
Well, we are huge on Twitter, people ask us a lot of questions there. People also share stuff they’ve learnt so it really became a community thing. We helped carve a small niche for education content in social media. Other than that, we have about 40 videos up on Youtube, quizzes on our website englishjer.co that people can access for free. We do a lot of on ground stuff as well, doing research, meeting people, because we believe in that sort of thing, socialising English. We also support English projects throughout the country organised by others.
How did you develop a passion for the English language?
For me, the passion came externally. I just love connecting with people, making jokes, laugh together. A good grasp of language helps with that. It’s really the innate desire to be a part of a larger conversation and understanding the people around me, that’s the motivation. My parents play a big part in that, they always encourage me to try new things, challenge myself, and be the best person you can be.
What’s in 2018 for Englishjer?
For 2018 I hope we can do more creative projects. We’re also working on another book, we hope that goes well. We’re open to collaboration so hit us up if you know anyone who would like to make a difference!
In line with Englishjer’s funny approach to the language, we also asked Qayyum his thoughts on some of the recent signage mishaps that drew a lot flak from fellow Malaysians.
The Unforgettable Christmas
“I think people are exaggerating this. It might be that the person doing the design thought it’s for a specific person named Mary. Maybe just needs a comma. I personally have a friend named Mary Tan. Nice girl. They’re also probably wishing happy new year in one go, that’s why “new years” so next year they don’t have to wish again. Ever. Pretty smart if you ask me.”
The Hot Offline Mess
“To be honest, I initially thought they were being poetic because the first two lines rhymed. I hope they fix their networking issue, though. Must be boring and stressful in the office without Facebook.”
The No Wild Animal Packaging Here, Thanks
“I got excited when I saw “seal bag” (so cute!) – I think the content is almost there (pun intended), this is just a bad case of Google Translate. I need to use a little extra brainpower to translate this back into Malay, though. But whatever it is, someone from the management signed off on this. That’s a little worrying.”
The POTUS Welcome
“This has always been funny to me because it sounds like the the LED board has reached sentient and decided to welcome Barack Obama him/herself (I don’t want to assume the gender). I think what’s going on here is they forgot to put the comma there, it would have made more sense.”