I REFER to the article “Malaysians need to master English, says Dr M” (The Star, Aug 11).
This advice coming from an elder statesman is certainly a timely reminder to all, especially the younger generation.
Among others, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad advised Malaysian students to master English, especially in Science and Mathematics, or risk being left behind due to a poor command of the language.
In a fast developing and borderless world, a common medium of communication is vital. Not surprisingly, because of its widespread usage and acceptance, English stands out as an important medium. It facilitates communication, thus making it easy for two parties to engage in a dialogue effectively.
Businesses involve transactions, both local and international, across borders and cultures, and the communication, in most cases, is in English.
Failing to master this language may mean a loss in business or failure to secure projects and international joint ventures.
The world is in a race and it’s not seasonal, unlike the Olympics that comes once in four years. It’s an ongoing race. Just like only the fit and disciplined athlete will succeed in a race, only nations who are focussed and disciplined will excel on the global stage.
Look around you, and you will be able to identify the nations which lead the pack today, and probably lead in the future too. These countries seem to have a formula for success.
Countries like Japan which have steadfastly placed their national language at the forefront in international trade and transactions over the years, have begun to master English, alongside Japanese, as a means of communication.
India alone is home to scores of native languages but English is taught in almost all schools nationwide.
Similarly, in Malaysia, English is taught as a second or third language from primary to secondary education. In short, by mastering English, you will not be handicapped. You will be well-equipped to keep track of developments around you and compete evenly on the global stage.
Technology advancements, inventions and discoveries, extensive research and development in various fields are almost certainly documented in English. No amount of translation, no matter how rapid, will be able to cope with the influx of newfound information, knowledge and technology.
By the time these printed materials are translated, some of the information in them may be obsolete. In other words, in order to remain relevant and on par, it has to be understood in English.
Having said that, I’m not negating the role and significance of other international languages like Mandarin or French. It boils down to need and urgency. I will not hesitate to learn Mandarin if I want to open up a factory in Shanghai or learn French if I want to invest in Paris.
It is always an advantage to communicate in more than one language, especially if one is engaged in business and trade, or the job requires communicating with customers, or simply travelling. It saves you time, energy and frustration. There is no need to hire interpreters or experts in individual languages or invest in bilingual dictionaries.
I recall reading a cartoon strip depicting a cat and its litter at the mercy of a few wild dogs. Having nowhere to run, the cat lets out a scream “Woof! Woof!” The dogs, upon hearing this, just turned and walked away. The cat turns to its litter and boasts, “See the advantage of speaking a second language!”
Having highlighted the importance of mastering English, a pertinent point to note is that it must not come at the expense of your mother tongue. Be proud of your mother tongue as your heritage, identity, culture, traditions and religious beliefs are closely associated to it.
Simply put, mastering English is a necessity. Mastering it alongside your mother tongue will give you the best of both worlds. Jaginder SIngh Batu Gajah The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 21 August 2015