It has been five years since I last taught a Kadazandusun course. This year I have to teach again. Only one class though. It was a mixed feeling when I was told the news. A bit of excitement, because I always find a joy in preparing teaching materials from scratch. At the same time nervous, because I know students who enroll for Kadazandusun courses at the uni are normally those who are good in languages that they have the courage to learn a language that is 'foreign' to them. (It's the uni's regulation to allow only students who are of different ethnic groups to learn an ethnic language).
First week of class, I looked at eight students with unfathomable expressions. Eight? I never had a group of learners that is this small. I consoled myself that maybe that was a good thing. At least the teaching and learning process will be easier. The only problem would be how to engage these learners in the classroom. I have no idea what kind of learners they are. (For some reason I notice there's always a dominant type of learners in my class every semester, and that helps me a lot in planning my activities). I quickly realized the merit of having a small number of students. The hours can be fully utilized making them understand each and every word in the texts. At the end of the class, I have started looking forward to week 2.
At the end of week 2 lesson, one of my students came to me to ask whether I could possibly translate a Dusun song "Ama om Apa" for him. Pleasantly surprised, I told him I'd love to do that. He gave me the lyrics and I decided to be playful. I gave the root word translation and challenged him to make use of all my explanation in the classroom about how the affixes work to make sense of the song. Soon after almost everyone joined in in his attempt to understand the song. 15 minutes later, the group managed to make sense of most of the words. That's it, I thought. I've found my learner type! I know now I can use music to engage them in the classroom. "Next week", I teased them, "we can sing karaoke in the classroom. You all can take turn to be the lead and backup singers", and everyone went home lightheartedly. I really am looking forward to the next class.