By Hussaini Abdul Karim
August 27, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider
AUG 27 — It is very pleasing and most delightful to the ears to hear many non-Malay Malaysians, both young and old (except maybe some of the older ones) speaking and writing in perfect Bahasa Malaysia, some without even a hint of an accent whatsoever, in the case of the former.
The country’s New Education Policy to switch from English to Bahasa Malaysia introduced and implemented in the early 70s must have done wonders. With the introduction of new laws, rules and regulations, the policy makers have found a very effective way to teach the national language which is now widely used and accepted throughout the country at every level including in the home.
Fast forward to the new millennium. While we have won over the people in terms of Bahasa Malaysia, we have now lost a big asset i.e., the ability of many Malaysians, graduates included, to speak and write proper English. In a way, our New Education Policy has backfired.
People all over the world, in the 60s and the early 70s, especially from English-speaking countries, poured praise and compliments every time a Malaysian spoke or wrote in English at international seminars, forums and discussions, including at the United Nations, and allowed Malaysian representatives to hold important positions because of our excellent language skills. Now, however, things have changed, for the worse.
Knowing the advantages of mastering more than one language, Malaysians need to re-learn English and what’s best other than to start from young, i.e. at the primary school or even kindergarten level. In order to master the English language the way our people did before, it has to be learnt the same way and there’s no short cut to it.
Of course, I am not suggesting that new laws, rules and regulations are introduced like how our policy makers once did when they wanted us to learn Bahasa Malaysia. Our policy makers and the people at the Ministry of Education know how a language can be taught effectively to achieve a very high fluency level, so let the use of English by all be free-flowing, for official, non-official and social use, and teach it the way Bahasa Malaysia is being taught now.
Besides that, many concerned Malaysians, including myself, have sent in useful and practical ideas, suggestions and proposals on the teaching and learning of the English language. If need be, re-introduce the English medium schools and recall all our excellent and experienced language teachers in addition to training some of our teachers to be excellent language teachers.
This will make Malaysians bi-lingual and instantly, we will increase the ‘value’ of our people with this additional asset. We can then ‘attack’ the world again like how our people did before and we can see many more Malaysians being accepted for jobs overseas and not only in the country, which is seen as among the several direct advantages that our people, especially graduates, will enjoy.
So, the powers that be; let’s not wait any longer and make a decision on English fast and stop dillydallying.