As an English teacher for so many years, even I had overlooked the correct usage of “My handphone is spoilt”. I had to look up the definition of the word ‘spoil’ in the dictionary and find out the nuance of its meaning.
The dictionary states: “to have a bad effect on something so that it is no longer attractive, enjoyable, useful…” Thus, the word is not applicable for something that is damaged or not working.
Further, I had thought that “outstation” is a proper English word, as I had been hearing my colleagues and friends using the sentence, “I am going outstation next week.”
So, when Sumati highlighted this, I consulted the dictionary and it turned out that “‘outstation” does not exist in English. She mentioned the phrase, “I always sleep late”, which is not the same as “I go to bed late”.
In fact, “I always sleep late” means “not wake up until late in the morning”. Hence, the phrase is confusing to anyone learning English.
We can say ‘We have lunch together’ or ‘We eat lunch together’. Both have the same meaning.
“I usually sleep in at the weekends”, it means “sleep later than usual in the morning”.
To “sleep over” means to “sleep at somebody’s home for a night”.
“Where got such thing” is a common error among Chinese students.
In fact, they always say “Where got?” especially when they are being accused by someone for wrongdoings.
The proper reply should be “I didn’t do that!” or “It’s not me!” I would like to share a common English errors by Malaysians.
First, the phrase, “Where do you stay?” should be said as “Where do you live?”
The word “stay” means to live for a short time as a visitor or guest, whereas “live” means to have your home somewhere. Unless the person you are asking is a visitor or a tourist, otherwise “Where do you live?” is the proper sentence to use when we want to know where someone’s home is.
The word “calculative” is not an English word but is being misused by Malaysians. The closest word in English for “calculative” should be “fussy” or “picky” or other related synonyms.
Finally, the phrase, “look forward to” should be followed by the “-ing” verb, when there is a verb after the phrase. “I am looking forward to visiting the zoo” is correct, whereas “I am looking forward to visit the zoo” is not standard English.
The word “to” in “look forward to” is a preposition instead of the usual to +infinitive as in the sentence, “I am ready to go.” The former ‘to’ and the latter ‘to’ are not the same thing.
Likewise, we say “I am used to scoring with my right foot”, but we say “I used to play football in my youth”. Again the former and the latter ‘to’ are not the same.
Last, but not least, “eat lunch” is acceptable in English. Anyone can look up the word ‘lunch’ and learn that it is a proper usage. We can say “We have lunch together” or “We eat lunch together”.
Both have the same meaning. Luckily, we are honoured to have such a devoted English teacher like Sumati to highlight these English errors misused.
We need to be lifelong learners in the pursuit of excellence in English. Even after learning English for more than 30 years and teaching English for more than 10 years,
I keep learning new things every day. I hope that there will be an English column in the NST for learning English, so that English teachers can put forward their learning and teaching insights.
As Apple founder Steve Jobs used to say: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”.
Thus, English learners should always stay hungry, stay foolish, and keep learning.