A Malaysian’s Journey: British English, Multicultural London, and the Northern Lights

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In this episode of the podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ata Hanifee, a Malaysian student currently pursuing his PhD in Film Adaptation Studies at Queen Mary University of London. 

I asked him the following questions:

  • What is it like being a student in the UK?

  • What is it like to adapt to the environment there as a Malaysian?

  • How is your family adapting to life there, particularly your toddler son at his new school?

  • What are some interesting words, idioms, slang words, and phrases you’ve learned there that you won’t find in a textbook?

  • Any advice for those who plan on studying abroad but lack the confidence to do so?

Watch the episode here.

You can also listen to this episode on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Ata, a self-declared “very, very reserved” person, shared how he had to step out of his comfort zone and immersed himself in social interactions with the locals in East London. One of the things he mentioned was his exposure to Multicultural London English (MLE), which is a mix of Jamaican Creole (Patois), Punjabi, Bengali, and many other influences brought in by immigrants to London.

After listening to his experiences, you might agree with me that mixing British English with MLE makes the English language very vibrant. They sprinkle in words like:

  • “I’ll get it sorted” instead of “I’ll get it done”

  • “Cheers” or “cheers mate” instead of “Thanks”

  • “Is that all right?” instead of “Is that okay?”

  • “One hundred percent” instead of “absolutely agree”

Ata also noted how they use fillers like “sort of,” and “yeah, yeah, yeah” a lot. 

He even shared how, when someone asked him “You all right?”, he misunderstood it to mean “Are you all right?” when it is actually a greeting similar to “Hi, how are you?”. As a result, he ended up giving a long, detailed sob story about his homesickness.

By far, his favourite heartwarming phrases are “No worries” and “It’s all right”, which he has learned to respond with whenever he hears the locals say “sorry”.

We ended our conversation with him sharing his once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Northern Lights from his balcony in Luton. Here is a photo of the Northern Lights from his camera!

View of the Northern Lights from Ata's balcony!

One of the biggest takeaways I got from Ata is that you need to get out there and speak in English. Always have a curious mind and a sense of humour to learn, listen, and adapt to the environment accordingly. 

Thanks for reading and tuning in!

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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