DEAR Malaysian would-be undergraduates, did your blood freeze momentarily or did you hyperventilate when you read in your all-action social media app — in your lingua franca — that the Education Ministry will make it mandatory for undergraduates to pass the English subject as a pre-condition to secure a degree in public universities?
You scour the vernacular media and stumbled on what the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin articulated: a pass is obligatory because you will “communicate confidently” in English with prospective employers, thus boosting your employability.
Read as many English books, magazines and newspapers as you can. One way to improve your command of English language. Pix by Shiraz Yasmine Ali
What happens if you flunk? Would your pending degree wallow in purgatory?
Must you resit in the next semester when you should be job hunting? Will there be an exemption to flunking English provided your Grade Point Average stimulates the Richter scale?
But before you faint in anxiety, ask yourselves: what does it take to pass English, a language formally learnt in primary and secondary schools but barely practised with friends, family and peers, so verbalising and writing it is practically as cumbersome as discoursing Javanese?
Regretfully, you ignored English although it girdled you like breathable air.
You’d have to be blind or an ignoramus to miss it — billboards, business signs, newspapers and magazines, radio and TV news, info and commercials, and movies, TV series and cartoons, watched with subtitles, of course.
You survived for years on a smattering of practical English words like:
“FRUST” to depict frustration, “member” to connote a good friend, “confirm” when you endorse a gossip;
“KONFIUS” when you are, well, confused, “okay” when you sound an acknowledgement; “I” and “you” in addressing yourself or your better half; “can or cannot” when issuing a friendly ultimatum; and,
“BLUR” to describe a naïve person, “die” when failure beckons and hoary expletives imitated from movies and hip-hop songs.
You also survived on tacky sentences like “I love you”, condensed and simplified for the greatest intimate expression and “where got!” to generically dismiss inane accusations.
You force yourself to absorb, not consummate, English when you surf the World Wide Web or operate your PC and smartphone by picking up frequently-used jargons and terminologies but this by itself does not constitute real learning.
Imagine this: you have to pass an entire subject instructed on the essentials of constructing written or verbal sentences without tripping on mystifying spelling and bewildering grammar, “terrifying” for the blurred students or “staggering” for those resigned to learn.
Then there’s the idea of expanding the English vocabulary, which is a drag because it implies READING and defining, understanding definitions and more reading and defining.
And that’s just the works of Enid Blyton.
As a general concern, youngsters’ command of English is dismal, particularly those who slipped through the cracks before they could codify their grasp while in school.
There are variables to invest blame for this mediocrity: lack of formal and informal opportunity to write and speak, diminishing instructions in En glish, peer pressure that learning English encouraged western yellow culture so it must be unpatriotic. You get the drift.
For non-English learning youngsters usually scattered in non-urban areas, to pass public university English will be tricky when culturally, you are bereft of its organic foundations and deprived of its natural exposure.
But it’s not too late to learn English better than the English themselves.
Formal classroom lessons are fine but they can cramp your style.
Here is how you ingratiate yourselves into decent English — the pop culture way:
WATCH American/English movies, TV series, documentaries or reality shows by immersing the way they enunciate, phrase, exclaim, berate, pontificate and humiliate;
INSTALL translation dictionary apps in your smartphone or computer. Your pinnacle in English preoccupation is when you install the Oxford English Dictionary with pride; and,
NO getting around this: read as many English books, magazines and newspapers as you can. Start easy with comics and steadily accentuate to the New Straits Times before you dive into Rolling Stone, Economist andTime.
These are basic starters but if you put in the hours, don’t be shocked if you develop a weird American or British clip.
Bully for you if you can natter like Kim Kardashian, rant like Wayne Rooney, yak like Chef Wan and elucidate like our politicians.
That English pass needed to secure your degree will be a doodle and you are a sure thing towards gainful employment in that big multinational craving for Malaysians to illuminate in the international stage. AZMI ANSHAR - NST Columnist 7 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:04 AM