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Teacher learns Dusun dialect to be closer to students
Published on: Tuesday, March 16, 2021
By: Bernama
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Cikgu Aben: Learned many new things, including Dusun dialect, in Sabah.
Kuala Lumpur: It is common to hear tales of people falling in love with Sabah. It’s hard not to fall for its diverse nature and culture and other unique attractions.

Muhamad Haikal Sa’ari, better known as ‘Cikgu Aben’, came to Sabah with the desire to effectively carry out his duty as an educator.

In his quest to do so, the 29-year-old from Sik, Kedah instead found himself learning one of Sabah’s local dialects - one known to be difficult to master. 

He confessed to initially being nervous about moving to Sabah, but the English teacher’s perception changed 180 degrees once he stepped foot on the Land Below the Wind in 2015.

Assigned to Sekolah Kebangsaan Kibubuk, Pitas, in Kota Marudu, for the last four years, he has learned many new things, including a Dusun dialect. 

“Students are more at ease speaking their mother tongue. It can be very difficult to get through to them by speaking only in English. I took the initiative to learn and understand the Dusun Kimaragang dialect.

“For example, the other day I told them to sit down, but some didn’t understand. They only understood when I said ‘mogom-mogom koh’ (please sit). Students feel closer to us when we speak their language. Hence the teaching process will be easier,” he said.

He used local songs to understand the Dusun language, which has many branches and dialects according to various areas in Sabah.

“The first song I heard was ‘Id Pagandadan’ by local singer Fabian William. I looked up the song’s phrases and took note of the lyric’s meaning. Little by little I began to understand and appreciate the song.”

Although not yet fluent, the advantage in grasping several Sabah dialects – among it Dusun, Dusun Kimaragang, Dusun Tombonuo, Bajau, Murut and Bugis, has narrowed the gap with his students during study sessions in class.

“I imagine my students as my teachers. If there is anything I don’t understand, I will ask and they are willing to teach me. This also dispels the notion of me as an outsider among them.

“Moreover, we now want student-based learning. It’s not just me teaching in front with just them taking it in. I don’t want it to be that way. It is imperative for me as a teacher to ensure that they actually understand,” said the father of two.

His ability to converse daily and sing in the ethnic Sabah language has made the youngest child of three famous on social media.

Cikgu Aben’s Facebook page and Youtube platform each have around 54,0000 followers and 20,400 subcribers.

He also has recorded a few Dusun songs using the Sumazau beat.

“The initial songs I covered are the Id Pagandadan, Tupusku and Oroton Ku Yak. I have another Facebook page, which is “Cikgu Aben” and uploaded the songs there. I didn’t anticipate it to go viral and viewed by several hundred thousand people. I’m touched by the support given,” he said. 

Without a music background or having taken a vocal lesson, Cikgu Aben admitted there were many shortcomings in his singing and does not think himself an artist or celebrity.

“I’m just a normal teacher who loves singing, that’s all. I’m close to my students and accepted their challenge to sing in the Sabahan dialect,” said Cikgu Aben, who married a Sabahan himself. 

Besides engaging his hobby of singing in various Sabah ethnic dialects, his Youtube account also promotes the beauty and uniqueness of the state to others. 

“Once you go to Sabah, it’s hard for you to leave. “ 



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