Chinese-educated retiree spreads the joy of learning English


Speak easy: Lee conducting his Free English Speaking Workshop at SJK(C) Chung Ching in Kuantan.

GEORGE TOWN: Once a teacher, always a teacher. This adage applies well to Lee Seng Fatt who made a quick return to the education field after retiring as an accounting lecturer.

Since 2016, the 65-year-old retiree has been giving free English lessons to primary school pupils.

He has conducted 86 workshops to date, with the largest group being 374 pupils while the smallest was about 20.

After working in the academic field for over 20 years, Lee said he was eager to help children communicate better in English.

“When I retired from my job, I felt that I still had the energy and time to do something for the kids,” he said.

As a Chinese-educated person, Lee has experienced the challenges of learning English, especially for those from Chinese primary schools.

“They need proper exposure and encouragement to build a good foundation.

“My role is to cultivate their interest in English,” he said, adding that he has received positive feedback about some of his pupils having an improved command of the language and enjoying it more.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Lee used to reach out to schools in the beginning of his mission.

By word of mouth, many school heads then started to contact him to conduct workshops at their schools.

He has driven near and far for the purpose, from Penang, Perlis and Cameron Highlands to other places but with age catching up, he would take public transport if the journey took more than three hours.

“I’ll give priority to schools in rural areas because I know pupils in village schools would face problems in picking up the language.

“They need to be exposed to the language at an early age,” he said.

A determined Lee said he has never turned down any school.

“I want to make a difference even if it means travelling far by public transport. The only time I could not hold the workshops was during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Lee said he usually starts by teaching commonly used words and conducts his lessons bilingually if it is a Chinese school.

“I try to be as interactive as possible because it’s not easy to get the kids to speak up. I’ll quiz them and create games to interact with them on the second day,” he said.

Lee hopes his work will inspire others to come forward and volunteer in some way.

“I hope to share and spread the joy,” he added.

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