Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Star - Knowing one language not enough in this age (17.3.2011)

The Star OnlineEVERY rational-minded and forward-looking Malaysian undoubtedly shares Wong Chun Wai’s views in On The Beat that universities have to give importance to English if they want to produce employable graduates (Sunday Star, March 13).
Many Malaysians fail to see the logic of the protest by students at the Academy of Malay studies (AMS), Universiti Malaya, over the Higher Education Ministry’s call for universities to give importance to English to enhance the graduates’ employment prospects.
It just does not make sense for any student to create an issue out of a need to improve students’ skills in English to increase the graduate employability rate.
It is a known fact that the problem of poor or weak command of English has affected all faculties in all our public universities. The problem is not only confined to Malay students but also Chinese and Indians and other ethnic groups from Sabah and Sarawak.
The teaching, learning and use of the English language must not be made into an issue when it is done in the interest of our future generation and for the sake of our nation’s progress and its future well-being.
What is even more disturbing is that there are some irrational ones who regard the teaching, learning and promotion of the English language as something unpatriotic.
As we strive to achieve Vision 2020, it is essential for us to adopt a practical and open-minded approach towards any language which can contribute to Malaysia’s progress while remaining firm and steadfast in ensuring that Bahasa Melayu is the country’s official and national language.
As a Malaysian, I am proud of our national language – Bahasa Melayu – a language I use daily in communicating not only with officials of government departments and agencies but also with the various ethnic groups. It is our common language understood and used by Malaysia’s multi-racial population.
However, we must also accept the reality that knowledge of one language is insufficient in this modern and technological age. We need to have a command of other languages for progress and development, be it English, Chinese, French, etc.
We learn and use English as it is an international language for science and technology, business and commerce.
Malaysians should strive to be bilingual or even multi-lingual now that most Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, have mastered Bahasa Melayu.
English is vital if Malaysians are not to be left behind. The ability to learn and use English or any other language should be seen as a progressive move to improve our knowledge and expertise.
The fear of the English language, which some still regard as a legacy of British colonialism, is clearly misplaced and needs to be rectified.I agree!
To overcome this, more needs to be done to convince parents and students, particularly those in the rural areas, on the importance of learning English as a tool for science, technology, business and commerce as well as progress and modernisation.
It is an indisputable fact that the command of the English language among our young generation is poor, and is a matter of concern if we are to cope with the global march of information and communications technology.
We must not regard the learning and mastery of the English language as a threat to our cultural or national identity. It is necessary for our economic survival.
Mastering the English language is about rejuvenating the nation. It is about preparing ourselves individually and collectively as a nation to take our place in the global economy.
Promoting English will not in any way jeopardise the importance and use of Bahasa Melayu as our national and official language.
Improving the standard of English will not diminish the importance of our national language since bilingualism or even trilingual is an unwritten need for social and professional competence in this modern age.
Certainly, learning and using the English language will not make us less nationalistic.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE,
Kuala Lumpur.

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