Monday, October 17, 2016

English the only solution?

Malay Mail Online - Sarawak CM: Emphasising BM over English ‘stupid’ (extracts):

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — The prioritisation of Bahasa Malaysia over English in education policies dating back three decades is “stupid” and the cause of graduate unemployment now, said Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

The Sarawak chief minister said the country should have placed equal emphasis on both languages.

“Back then, it was decided that correspondence with the government, if not in Bahasa Malaysia, would not be entertained. How could you have a policy like that?

“That is why so many graduates these days could not get a job because they cannot speak proper English,” he was quoted saying yesterday by local daily The Borneo Post.

Noting the sheer volume of books on science and mathematics published in English, Adenan also expressed his doubts on whether the country’s authority on Bahasa Malaysia — Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka — could cope with the volume of new material daily.

“Are we going to translate all of them? Why do we have to do it twice when you can do it once?” he asked.

While Adenan has a point, I don't agree with him entirely.

I believe the change over to Malay had been too total and too much in a rush. The old saying 'Slow and steady wins the race' would be most correct in this issue.

The changeover should have been gradual, just keeping behind the translation process for books on science, maths, technology and other internationally written books.

There is nothing wrong with requiring correspondence with the government to be in Malay if the rule wasn't 101% strictly enforced - in other words, have the rule but also have some flexibility, especially when it comes to technical words.

But on other issues, as in academia, medicine, science, technology and international business, the government should have been been less nationalistic and hasty.

In this issue, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka had failed miserably as the principal government translator while those encouraging the obscene rush in the changeover, like Mr Manmanlai but Harng-Faiti-Lah (wakakaka), had been equally culpable as well. DBP should have employed more translators, even Indonesians, Dutch and other experts.

It was not wrong to nationalise our mainstream language per se but as everything in Malaysia, we tend to rush for political brownie points, to score with the once powerful Malay teachers lobby, to show the Heartland of admirable nationalistic fervor so to win their approval, without considering the realities of life. Inconvenient realities and processes were swept under the rattan mat. Indeed, it should have been a 'slow and steady' program.

English is of course important but there are many nations which have got along quite well with their own languages like Japan, South Korea, China, Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia and the Low Countries. Maybe they possess adequate translated books from abroad, maybe not, but many like Japan, Germany, the Scandinavian countries and France have fared far better than Britain.

Adenan might have sounded correct but ONLY because of the poor implementation of Bahasa, and more than half of what he has just said has been to his political convenience, thus also cocktalk.

For example, many Malaysians are currently unemployed not just because they have poor English command, as Adenan said, but because their qualification are deemed dodgy and their education irrelevant to the needs of commercial and technical sectors.

Our universities could not be placed within the top 100 of various types of international ranking, while a lil' country like Hong Kong with just a comparatively measly population of 7 million would have two or three of theirs in the top 100 positions. It just go to show the poor standards of Malaysian universities.

And if our Malaysian universities couldn't teach for society's needs in Bahasa, how do one expect them to teach well in English?

My post title 'English the only solution' may be so for the current situation in Malaysia, but only because our official program was ill conceived, ill implemented and made a political footfall for some politicians. But that doesn't mean we should neglect our Bahasa.


  1. Prinsip Pengekalan Tenaga - The Principle of the Conservation of Energy.
    Tenaga tidak boleh dicipta atau dibinasakan. Ia hanya boleh berubah kepada bentuk yang lain.

    Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It only changes from one form to another.

    See...there is nothing wrong with using Bahasa as a medium of instruction.

    The key is how well the subject is taught, and how rigorous are the educational standards, both of which are lacking in Malaysia.

    Japanese pupils study all their subjects entirely in Japanese. They learn English purely as a basic language. That doesn't stop Japan from creating all the advanced technology coming from their country....

    The same lessons could equally well be conducted in Swahili, Suomi , Suluk or Telugu...

  2. The roots of Malaysia's educational decline lie in the White Paper "reports" made by successive educational reports
    Razak Report 1956
    Rahman Talib Report 1961
    Hussein Onn Report 1971
    Mahathir Report 1979

    All of them were obsessed with fast-tracking the supremacy of Bahasa Malaysia (or Bahasa Melayu at other times) by deliberately downgrading English. In the process dumbing down the whole Education system.

    They were all men who struggled against the British colonials, and English was the language of the Colonials.

    They threw out the baby, threw out the bathwater, and wrecked the bathtub. All the King's Men and all the King's horses can't fix the Malaysian education system today.

    In the wired world of today , where 60% of all Internet content is in English, a small , trade-dependent country like Malaysia can't afford to be anti-English Language.

    Scandinavian countries are excellent examples of how a country with a small population , and almost nobody outside their borders speaks their language, leverages good English to trade and communicate with the rest of the world. Similarly with Holland and Belgium.