ENGLISH is no longer a language belonging to any nation. Instead, it is a lingua franca that links entire world communities in promoting diplomacy, commerce and science.
In this day and age, the world is not only borderless, but also digitally so connected that mastering English has become a necessity, not an option.
Proficiency in English allows access to information on websites with the click of the mouse.
The government’s proposal to make English a compulsory pass subject in public universities is long overdue.
In fact, it will be wiser if our government revives PPSMI (Teaching of Science and Maths in English) along with the implementation of the new proposal.
By doing so, our students will then be exposed to a wider usage of English at an earlier age.
Learning a language has to start from young.
I remember two Chinese-educated colleagues, who had spent a few years in the United Kingdom to complete their tertiary education.
They were not communicating proficiently in English when they first started work upon their return to Malaysia.
Their linguistic foundation was rooted so firmly in Mandarin that they encountered great mental resistance to master a non-native language when they were adults.
My children were trilingual from young.
My wife conversed with them in Mandarin while I opted for English. Without any difficulty, they picked up Bahasa Malaysia by mingling with their friends.
Later on, they picked up another dialect, Hokkien, from their grandparents.
Although I speak three Chinese dialects, I failed to learn Hokkien after a few attempts. I wish I had learnt the dialect at a younger age.
With early exposure to English, my daughter and son completed their master’s programmes efficiently through self-study.
They were not only able to complete their higher studies at an early age, but they also achieved impressive results in their exams.
Perhaps their early exposure to English gave them an advantage in boosting their intellectual capability, thus enabling them to study more effectively.
It has been highlighted at the recent World Economic Forum that there is a need for Malaysia to look into its low technological readiness to compete more effectively in this globalised world.
Obviously, the pool of technologically-talented people in our country has to expand before we can improve our readiness.
At the same time, there is an urgent need to tackle the critically low standard of English among our graduates if we want to improve our technological advancement.
Our deadline to become a developed nation by 2020 is getting closer.
Without a workforce that is capable competing globally, our aspiration may be delayed. Patrick Teh, Ipoh, Perak NST Letters 9 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:10 AM