Friday, April 1, 2011

English: It's better to be bilingual

I REFER to letters that still raise the question of whether it was a wise move to have abolished the PPSMI (Teaching Mathematics and Science in English beginning from primary and secondary schools) and replacing it with MBMMBI (Memperkasa Bahasa Melayu, Memperkukuh Bahasa Inggeris (strengthening the use of Malay, upgrading the teaching of English) and in particular to the letter by W.H. of Kuala Lumpur, "English: Malay medium a success" (NST, March 25).

It's never too late to change when the benefits are clearly in favour of our younger and future generations.

My experience studying both Bahasa Melayu and English right from kindergarten to "O" levels has made me bilingual. Whatever my peers and I went through during our schooldays can be reintroduced to national primary and secondary schools now without much problem.

It is only logical to teach Mathematics and Science in English, and let the choice of language to be used to teach the rest of the subjects be decided on the availability of qualified and experienced teachers in the schools.

Twenty or 30 years ago, when the country was going through a very rapid development stage in all sectors, jobs may have been aplenty and because of the demand that existed then, it did not matter much with employers if graduates were not fluent in English.

However, the situation has changed. The first priority of all Malaysian graduates, either those who returned from overseas universities or those who graduated from local universities, is to get a job, either locally or abroad.

In order to stand a better chance of securing a job of their choice, especially with foreign multinational corporations as well as private companies, all graduates are required to be fluent in English.

I am assuming that after 11 years studying Bahasa Melayu, they are fluent in the language.

When talking about giving more emphasis to English in schools and universities in the country, many argue that France, Germany, Japan, Korea and China did not need English to succeed and all these countries are developed countries with First World status.

I agree to a certain extent, but these countries have a lot to offer to people outside their countries and those who want to grab the opportunities or products and services that they have, must know those countries' respective languages in order to get them.

Let me ask this question: "does Malaysia have things to offer (products and services) that those people outside our country cannot get from anywhere else, so much so that they must know our language in order to get them?

My answer is, "no". So, we cannot really compare our country to the other countries in Europe and Asia.

It is also untrue if one insists that those countries are not concerned about English because in Germany, for example, almost everyone understands and speaks English.

Also, an increasing number of people in those countries are studying English from elementary to tertiary levels. There are no lecturers and professors in any German university who cannot write a research paper in English.

I also know a senior professor in linguistics who teaches English language at one of the top Japanese universities in Tokyo. There are many other highly qualified local and foreign professors, lecturers and teachers teaching English at all levels throughout Japan.

I believe the same applies to France, Korea and China.

I was raised and educated in Singapore from kindergarten to pre-university, before proceeding for higher studies elsewhere, and I totally disagree with W.H. when he said: "Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore admitted that his two-language policy of using English as the first language was a failure, as the young generation of ethnic Chinese and Malays were suffering from inferiority complex and the loss of pride and ethnic identity."

No such thing is happening to the young generation of ethnic Chinese and Malays in Singapore before or now. The two-language policy has been very successful.

I don't know why Lee said that. But he has been known to change his mind frequently.

Like many forward-thinking Malaysians, I am very concerned about the unfavourable situation affecting our fresh graduates and the generations of Malaysians to come. We want to address this situation as soon as possible.

Malaysians will do much better if they know English as well as they know the national language. We don't lose anything at all if our people are fluent in both Bahasa Melayu and English.

English can be a catalyst for the country to achieve the tenets of Vision 2020. It can help turn the country into a First World nation and ultimately make our economy a high-income one.

Shah Alam,

NST, 31 March 2011, Letters to the Editor

Don't be jealous of others who can be bilingual because you can be too but you chose to remain stagnant.

If you are lazy, don't put the blame on programmes which had been implemented by the government to make the students be more proficient in English.

DAP leaders and followers write their blogs in English. MCA controlled newspaper, The Star are in English.

If you cannot understand the heads or tails of the propaganda they are writing to belittle the Malays, how can you rebut them?

Many articles about the constant development of science and technology, medicine, politics, etc, etc, are in English.

If you cannot understand English, you will be left behind other races. Globalization is another way to conquer one's country using the borderless world.

If our enemies are clever, we have to be cleverer than they are. If we are stupid, they will conquer us easily.

The choice is in your hands if you want to remain stupid and ignorant.


  1. i have somehow responded to the all the claims & accusations made by certain quarters who came up with abolishing ppsmi, in Tun's blog when the thing was newly brought up. the results may have not yet arisen but as educators, teachers feel that the downfall of malay students' achievements in maths, science and english will follow suit...soon!
    even now, when the malay students have the qualifications to do matrix, they back off early since they are not capable of handling things in english! so many opt out for diploma courses in uitm or in other institutions just to avoid doing things in english!!!!
    some of those who had done matrix, backed off midway & went back to school to proceed with form6, instead!!! when asked, lamely they said "susahla cikgu! semuanya inggerih!!!'
    teachers have tried their best to prepare their students for such conditions but the effort has not deemed as 'vital' to the students since they have always thought that without english, they can still survive!
    yes, they survive but only survive far below those who are competent in english!!!!!

  2. I never look stupid when I speak in Bahasa Melaysia. ...But able to speak and understand English has been an asset to me and my family ,especially when travelling in foreign countries

    Mastering English is certainly an advantage to everyone in this world of globalization.

  3. Bro anti bohmau. Perseverance is the key to success. If you want to give up when the going gets tough, just be a 'Mat Rempit' or 'Mat Pit' and die on the road or beside the road.

    Anon 1:36 PM. Anyone will look stupid if they kept on talking in Malay when they go overseas and people there can't understand them. :D


Say whatever that is on your mind. Heck! This is a free country after all. If the racists Chinese can swear at the Malays as much as they want, we can do that as well.

However, I will not be held responsible to whatever that you have to say. The comment is solely the private opinion of the author.