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English language proficiency in Malaysia suffers from denial

Fluency in English would be an asset - NEIGHBORHOODDEVELOPERS.ORG

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The inability to read, speak and write in English fluently has put us far behind many nations, says JD Lovrenciear.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the English Speaking Union of Malaysia, British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay said, “English has conquered the world like a virus and is the fastest growing language in human history” (Bernama).

According to the diplomat, “some 1.75 billion people worldwide or one in every four of the global population” are speaking English.

It enjoys the status of being the global language of business and the internet.

In addition to the language’s penetration into board rooms, he pointed out the truth, ie that English is important even in getting a good job, with a low level of English proficiency instantly putting a job seeker at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, studies show that the Malaysian workforce will need to master English given the fact that “more than 50% of (our) workforce will need English ability”.

At the event, ESUM chairperson Tunku Dara Naquiah Tuanku Ja’afar vouched that various activities were held throughout 2019 to promote English among Malaysians, including through public-speaking and essay-writing competitions.

The harsh truth is, despite six decades of independence and, having enjoyed a head start in the language, today, we have to spend taxpayers’ good money to hold English speaking and writing classes at postgraduate level.

As a long-time trainer of executives and having been a lecturer with local universities, I observe that our command of the language has collapsed.

Who do we blame? Political juggling has done much harm and damage done to the Malaysian population.

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Our political overlords, who plot to engineer the population along race-based perimeters that ensure everlasting power and control, enabled English language proficiency to slip through our fingers – starting from early childhood education right through university and up into the hallways of Putrajaya, the seat of governance.

Anyone who championed English was even labelled and witch-hunted for not being nationalistic enough.

As the world accelerates into the fourth industrial revolution, we are at a disadvantage. The deficit in the language has even encouraged a culture of copy-and-paste from the internet.

The inability to read, speak and write in English fluently has put us far behind many nations that are ready to embrace the fifth industrial revolution, given their clear understanding of the importance of English.

Whether we will ever be able to break this vicious cycle – so perfectly intertwined into our socio-political, socioeconomic and socio-religious fabric – is anyone’s guess.

What hope is there when we can go ballistic in our politically charged battles over the use of Malay, Jawi, Mandarin and Tamil and the vernacular school system? In the meantime, more remedial work will have to be done after our young have graduated, using larger chunks of the national budget.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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rakyat biasa
rakyat biasa
25 May 2020 6.57pm

As a former British colony, we have inherited a business culture and education system that greatly favors those whose first/native language is English, which certainly doesn’t describe the vast majority of Malaysians. So we end up with cases in which higher-ups who have a very different worldview than the grassroots due to linguistic and cultural differences. The same goes to most other former British colonies, particularly those in Africa and South Asia.

In other countries without an Anglo-American colonial legacy, even the companies and institutions who use a lot of English reflect a deep understanding and forbearance of what it feels like to use English as a non-native language. And that, my friend, makes the difference.

Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
3 Dec 2019 10.50am

Could it be that the children of leaders-rich-high positions are sent overseas to be proficient in English so that they can continue to be in leadership and high income professions as English is a world level language the knowledge of which is critical for high paying positions while the rest of the citizens are provided token opportunities to be proficient in English so that they will remain subservient to those with English proficiency?
Is not lack of proficiency in English language of graduates of public institutions of higher education a major cause of them being unemployable as it is a basic need of the market place and on whom millions of RM of taxpayers’ funds are spent annually?

3 Dec 2019 6.16am

Even to work at Mac Donald’s you need some proper basic qualification.
The 222 sitting Malaysian Parliamentarians education level is the biggest question mark????

Comparing Singapore Parliament members with Malaysia the score would be 3 to 1.
Same as their $$$ Exchange rate. Sometimes we even find our Cabinet members doing Stand up Comedy statements during very serious Press conference in English.

This is the outcome of “Production in Quantity without Quality” by our Universities.

Gursharan Singh
Gursharan Singh
9 Dec 2019 10.16am
Reply to  Nair

Is it not a common culture in many countries that to be a politician or stand for election and to get elected one does not need any education/expertise but number of votes and connections/financial resources to fund the campaigns?
In some cases the elected post may also be transferred to spouses or children or siblings other family members or in the event of the elected person were to return to the respective Almighty.
People may also vote more to the Party and may know little or nothing about the character/expertise of any proposed candidate but just bling faith in the choice of the party leadership.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x