There are many whys in my mind. Teachers have said it is not good to ask too many questions. Religion heads have also said to take whatever comes to you and be happy.

But I cannot stop asking these burning whys.

Why can American singers so easily cut singles and sell them in millions ?

Why can Hollywood movies can sell in billions ?

Why can America universities top the world ?

Why can British universities top the world, too ?

The answers I got came in one sentence.

‘They are good mah!’

What about Malaysians? Are Malaysians not good enough?

Now, perhaps, we have to take a new perspective and know what contributes to those whys.

Where does America and Britain get the money? We may know that the British did from their colonisation of various lands, but what about America?

Well, taking a look at some past research from Nitobe, their finances may even be higher today:

‘…every year, USA saves 16 billions dollars, because its expenditure on the teaching of other languages is only symbolic.This figure represents between 1/3 and 1/2 of its budget for research and education, the basis for scientific,technological and military development, to which other countries learning or practising English contribute indirectly. This is quite apart from the enormous income from the direct sale of cultural wares, the language learning courses that foreigners take, etc. The one-sided disequilibrium is colossal, with its concomitant damage to diversity.’

Therefore, Americans have more money in research. The universities have more funding. The records, CDs and movies are making profits and America is getting more affluent.

Take a look at Britain – how they can sip high tea while we toiled with sweat in the hot sun. The colonial days have long gone in many places around the world for them; however, they are still trying to hold on to one last straw of it, i.e. the language of imperialism.

This fit well for the British as Malaysia’s new education blueprint spells out clearly that English is a main subject in schools. However this does not bode well for Britain in the EU. What Dr GRIN worked out in 2005 showed that:

‘…October 2005 saw the publication of a particularly interesting report, accessible in French at,
by the Swiss Professor François Grin.

The most startling conclusion of the report is that, due to the current dominant position of the English language, the United Kingdom gains € 17-18 thousand million each year, which is more than three times the famous British rebate, or 1% of its GNP. In other words, each of the 394 million non-English-speaking citizens of the EU, including those from the poorest new Member States, are subsidising the British economy!

This amount comes from the sale of books and other goods relating to the English language, from the 700000 people each year who go to Britain to learn English, as well as from the savings that stem from the neglect of foreign-language teaching in British schools. This does not account for all of the language related economic transfers to the United Kingdom but for 75% of them, which the author sees as the fruit of the hegemony of English and not just of the demographic weight of the language itself.

Here, few parents lamented about the medium of instruction being in English, showing data from Korea, India etc to support claims that English is a successful element.

There are also newspapers talking about the success of India because of the wide use of the English language. Few parents, however (and mostly the Indian families from Malaysia), are sending their children for tertiary education in India.  Why not the rich families?

Certainly, less parents are considering sending their children to Korea as they would have to undergo the process of learning the Korean language.

At the end of the day, they still send their children to English-speaking countries. A point often overlooked is that a lot of money is thus paid to these countries –  like Australia and New Zealand – where English is not their national language.

How much money does a university in the United Kingdom charge for tuition fees today?

Who can afford to send their children to the UK and other English-speaking countries. Often they have to be rich and, but not certainly famous,  the Chinese calculated that one overseas student feed one American.

Therefore, the ranking of universities are based on the 50% foreign students in the universities. You are a brilliant reader, you can work that sum out.

For a developing country like Malaysia, we needed more places for Malaysians instead of foreigners. We need to train more people to serve such sectors. Would current ranking practices be fair to Malaysian universities and Malaysians ?

There are ones which do not participate in the ranking as we know that this requires money and that the report may not truely reflect the capacity of the univeristy. Deakin University , a two time University of the year in Australia did not participate as they felt a good university would not be based on such a survey.

I am out of the education scene now and would not like to argue as to which is the best way. But I definitely admire the Finland model – how positions of teachers are respected within society.

Certainly, I am not too happy with the PSD ,which is the recognition of the Education Degree board,  as it is based on their own measure of satisfaction. The funny thing is that my college is about a century old and its degree is not recognised by the PSD but by its sponsored courses which are acknowledged in the same university.

We need diversity, we need multilingual people. We don’t think in the same way but we aim to be one. A search of the Wikipedia site would show you a write-up of the leaders – all of which are vastly different. Malaysian leaders, on the other hand, would not have more than five languages in Wikipedia. Why?

How many languages can you can find in the page for the Prime Minister of Malaysia?

Finally, don’t forget the translation event of that shameful picture for visiting of Chinese Primier Wen Jia-Bao.



* I live in a kampung and never have had the chance to travel far. I just wonder whether the Finland schools use English to teach Maths and Science subjects.

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.

10 replies on “Why, why, tell me why!”

  1. Yes, please go ahead to do your research and get it published to help the MOE to maintain English as a major subject, before that, do consider to loop in the Singapore Univerisity which has the best brain in the NUS. I just wonder what kind of foreign students are coming to study in the private universities in Malaysia. Are they from Britain, USA, Australia and New Zealand ?

  2. I think the argument goes both ways, if UK can make off money from English why can't we, Malaysia? The simple reason is that we are not well versed enough in the language, if on the other hand, if our English is as good as Australia and NZ, wouldn't we be able to generate income out of this English Hegemony too? After all, we did have a good head start as a commonwealth country.

    1. Daniel,unless you want to trade your mother tongue for the money which you can get from selling the English. But, don't forget the skin colour is not welcome even though you can speak like the real British. Why the British council does not have the Chinese face in the school.

      Unless you can surpass this rule, you may be able to sell your English to the Americans.

      But be realistic, the GRIN report has called out the European unsatsifaction and what is the main cause of the unsatisfation, do more research on it/

      1. I don't know but there seems to be a big hole in your argument. You were arguing against adopting English in Malaysia because of English Hegemony that means more Pounds for the British, Dollars for the Americans, Australians and the Kiwians. What I have merely pointed out is that it's only a matter of perspective, if we speak as good an English as those countries, wouldn't we, as a country be able to benefit from this hegemony as well? In fact, we are already a destination of many foreign students come seeking for educations because many of our private Universities are using English as the teaching medium. Too bad there wasn't an academic paper done on this, hmm… may be I should suggest this idea to my colleague. Then we'll see if we have indeed benefited from English, I would suspect that we are, and there would be one more reasons why we should keep English in our midst.

        1. I think what Sinjoro Eng is trying to argue is, let me put it this way: How many Malaysians can we teach English to perfection with such scarce resources we have? Secondly, the people who promote English in Malaysia promised that English won't kill BM or other ethnic languages, but in reality, or in Sinjoro's eyes, the exact opposite is happening. How do you explain that?

          1. I don't know, but the confrontational style of Sinjoro ENG is not helping his cause at all… I'm not promoting English per say, I'm merely pointing out the big gaping hole in his logic of thinking in this article. That's all. There're 2 ways of looking at things, you could say that there're 75% of the population that's not speaking English, but there're also a big 25% (1/4 of the population on the Earth is speaking that language). Also on Mother tongue, I don't think it's about mother tongue versus English per se… it's more about the awareness that multilingual skill is achievable. My mother tongue is hakka, but I speak Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English… currently learning French, Esperanto, and Japanese. In my point of view, language skill is not a zero sum game…. it is a skill. There's a cliche… to know an additional language is to gain an extra pair of ears. Food for thought.

            Also there's another big caveat in Sinjoro ENG's argument… there's no infrastructure whatsoever that is invested in Esperanto. To learn that language in a mass scale would also mean an initial investment in it, who then would benefit from this initial investment? It certainly won't be Malaysia.

          2. I agree about the confrontational style, that's disturbing to me too. He surely should realize that Zamenhof did not hold any grudge for French and German (the lingua francas of diplomacy and science in Europe in his time) while inventing Esperanto.

  3. Oh MY English on AStro gives you a good picture of the state of english in Malaysia. Yes continue with the debate it wil only kill the language. Language is only a tool and we must give the best tools to our people. By no stretch is it an Ideology but we are spending million trying to make it an Ideology.

    1. Yes, language is a tool Anon but a tool to kill more native languages or a tool to uphold the justice of the languages. No one is going to talk about the Astro programme, it is commercial and nothing much to help. If you want your Malay to stay as it is, or you want the Malay language to forgo, thus reconsider the statement. Too many Malaysians are living in the past as I have said it in my other post. Hope you have watched this TED programe

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