Are We All Only Going to England?

Malaysians are almost shut out from the world. This statement many cause your adrenaline to run. Besides English, what other languages are you proficient in?

I would like to convey my view on why Malaysians are not allowed to study foreign languages freely in schools.

I was intrigued by the number of Malaysians who plan to study and stay in Great Britain. According to my research online, Malaysians fall in the top five for overstaying.   

Many still believe that English is vital as the elites keep placing emphasis on it — be it in the media or in daily life. The Ministry of Education of Malaysia website states that there are French, Japanese and German subjects that students can study in their respective secondary schools. However, not many are fortunate enough to learn these languages. Perhaps this only applies to those in elite and residential schools.

Many westerners read about the Li Yang craze and assume that people in China are all studying English. This is a misconception. Those who have been to China would know that, although English is in the school syllabus, only the elite are able to speak English fluently. China has undergone many stages of change. Their language policy is multi-lingual despite the “comrade effect” in the 50s when Russian was emphasised. However, not all Chinese nationals were learning Russian during the Mao era.

In Heilongjiang, a province close to Russia, they learn Russian. Whereas in the Dalian country in Liao Ning, a province closer to Japan, they learn Japanese. Only in urban areas like Beijing and Shanghai would people choose to learn English. We need not mention schools in rural areas as they do not have enough teachers for core subjects, let alone English teachers.

Most international schools or established government schools in China allow students to choose their languages, but mother tongue language education is still a part of the system. Despite its Han dominance, the Mongolians, Tibetans, Thais, and minority tribes in Xinjiang are still using their mother tongue in both primary and secondary schools, just as the Chinese and Tamil Schools in Malaysia.

People worldwide seem to think that Malaysians only speak Malay. It is so naive of them. Their monolingual situation is applied everywhere they go. Although South Africa recognised English as one of their official languages, you may not understand South African English.

Looking back at Malaysia, are we given that free choice? Why are students not given the opportunity to study other foreign languages? Can students make their own choice to choose to learn a foreign language? The aforementioned subjects on the Ministry of Education’s webpage are only offered to a few elite schools.

It has been long since Malaysia was colonised. My question is: Are we all only going to England? It is high time the Ministry of Education considered looking into a multilingual society, with Malaysians who know not only their mother tongue but a variety of foreign languages. This would be beneficial for language lovers. Alternatively, one can learn an international language — Esperanto.

As research on Esperanto clearly shows, learning an international language can help to improve one’s mother tongue. Hence, a polyglot society is is not impossible if Malaysia introduces Esperanto in Year One. My research has shown that slow learners can even control the basic tenses of Esperanto after just 10 hours of coaching.

Looking at the Modern language faculty of UPM, this university provides a few foreign languages but not as many as Beijing University. What would these UPM graduates do after completing their courses? Will they be roped into the foreign affairs ministry or RTM’s external programmes? Or are they left to search for jobs with little chances in the market?

I would like to make a comparison between two external broadcasting programmes: Suara Malaysia and China Radio International. There is a big difference in the number of languages that are part of the broadcast.

Is Malaysia lacking in this skill, or is it just that our leaders are not wise and innovative?

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After watching the 8 minutes short film of the late Dr Claude Piron on the chanllenge of language, Sinjoro ENG has himself revolutionised. Watch it and see whether the short film will touch you too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU

Posted on 16 November 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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9 Responses to Are We All Only Going to England?

  1. Shiver

    I would suggest Sinjoro that you learn to read other people's comments without prejudice as your responses are completely insulting and demonstrate your own 'lack of reading'.
    English is used in many, many countries around the world so I am rather lost by the relevance of your article's title. I anticipate no response since it's been so long since this article was written but I would ask that you value other people's contributions and learn how to engage in discussion.

    • Sinjoro ENG

      Well Shiver, I am not the forum facilitator and I do not reply to all the comments if the links of the articles are provided. It is up to the readers to reflect and research further. I do not support the spoon feeding system and certainly would not feed here either.

      If you have not all the articles of mine and links provided, certainly you do not know the facts and further researches. Here is for you, though I have pasted in the article. Read No 6 to qualify your statement 'English is used in many, many countries around the world '
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/guide/languages.sh

  2. Amina

    Sinjoro..another thought provoking article…I think you're right that we are so English-centric but have not even mastered that, would it be practical to introduce other languages? Would we have to bring in lots of other 'native speakers' to train our teachers? I'm just curious to know…which country did you go to? (mentioned in another of your articles). I just want to know whether your fluency in English make it easier to get a warm welcome and an expat work permit? Or was English proficiency not necessary in your job overseas? I guess there are so many people working all over the world in enviable jobs, who are not at all proficient in English. It is, perhaps, my life experience, that has led me to believe that English proficiency definitely makes things easier. Maybe, as you say, it isn't so…

    • Amina, sorry, you have to figure the answers yourself. I am tiring to go through these kinds of questions again and again. I just wonder you can use English in Thailand and Indonesia comfortable needless to say it in China.

      Teaching Esperanto you don’t the native speakers. This shows that you did not click the link and even visit the large online learning site

      http://www.lernu.net

      Do you reading more and come back to this topic.

      • amina

        Just to clarify, I did not mean 'native speakers' per se, as from reading your links, it is obvious there are no native born speakers of Esperanto. What I meant was the necessity to import more people from outside who have the skills in Esperanto which may not be available here. Sorry if I have upset you, as it appears from your final comment. I thought Loyar Burok was for discussion and deliberation of different points of view but it seems that if anyone has any questions/comments, your stock response is that they have not read enough. I'm sure as a researcher you are aware that in terms of reading, you can find any number of materials and evidence to support any hypothesis you want. I've been hearing the response to 'go do your reading before you have a right to discuss this topic' all my life, from my teachers, our govt and mainly from Ustaz and Ustazahs. Sad to encounter it here as well. Good luck and peace to you.

        • For your information Amina, Esperanto does not require native speaker or native born speaker. It is the second language recommended by UNESCO to protect the mother tongue. I am sure you are not a researcher as from your comment that you make. The Esperanto World Association is within your finger tips, send them a mail, they are glad to reply to all your doubts, discussion in here is a bit of time consuming. You select the wrong place perhaps. Buy the award winner new documentary The Universal Language and watch it and you will know what you lack http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w4K6xALH3Y&feature=watch_response

      • This reply is to tell you why I felt you are not a research with my link of lernu site and you are not even able to figure out that online teaching and learning is almost part of the life in the world. It does not have to say the download programe of learning. If you are interested in knowing how easy Esperanto is, you can try lernu or down from the Brazil site http://www.kurso.com.br

  3. Tan Zi Hao

    A highly relevant question, which also necessitates another question: should industrial demands (proficiency in English) lead the supply of human capital or vice versa?

    We always talk about correlation between the two, but in the developmentalist Malaysia, industrial demands always lead, unfortunately (ironic though, Malaysia is still facing the problem of mismatch – with the rapid expansion by NEP and the proliferation of private institutions around the 1990s). Developmentalism, one way of another, jeopardises thinking skills and the capacity to innovate.

    The education industry should rethink about their roles in the country. This can start with academic freedom and AUKU to be abolished (immediately!). While private institutions should re-look at the postcolonial condition in our country, must be aware of the highly political English to be able to re-negotiate a breathing space for more challenges in educational discourse, followed by the reconstruction of knowledge, learning and medium.

    Then, maybe we can start with some ASEAN language courses too.

  4. It's like that

    Malaysians are very free to learn other foreign languages.

    Especially if you are a secondary school student of MARA junior college or some Malay boarding school.

    They learn French, German, Japanese and shits like that, while "ordinary" students have to suffer from incompetent teachers.