When will we ever learn? In 2012, the English version of Mindef's official website was criticised for its series of embarrassing gaffes. The site soon became a Twitter and Facebook sensation.
The erstwhile then Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi, was forced to close down the site and make a humiliating admission that his staff had used and relied on the free online services of Google Translate.
So, was Google Translate also used for the caption to welcome Obama to Malaysia?
With 1.5 million civil servants in Putrajaya, couldn't Najib Razak have asked the best English speakers to proof-read the electronic message before it went out?
If none of the ordinary civil servants are free, perhaps the Prime Minister's Department (PMD), which is 45,000 strong, could have come to the rescue?
What do the civil servants do? Where are the linguists?
Perhaps, some of the money could be used to pay for a first-class proof-reader?
Do we not have any good English language graduates? We have spent millions of ringgits on students, to study Islamic studies, and apparently marriage courses, in Paris. Perhaps, a few students could be sent abroad, to study languages?
A similar, embarrassing translation was made in 2011, during the visit of Chinese premier Wen JiaBoa. The banner at the welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya, contained several errors of grammar and syntax.
Again, where were the proof-readers and quality controllers?
In Malaysia, English is widely used in the private sector, unlike the public sector, where it is alleged that only high-ranking civil servants use it as a communication tool.
When contacted, civil servants agree on the importance of English, but many felt that they were not compelled to improve their English, as it was not used in their day-to-day work.
A retired civil servant, said that proficiency in English, in the 1980s, was much higher among older civil servants than the younger government employees.
She claimed that this was due to the "far superior" education, which Malaysians received in the 1960s and 1970s.
She said, "Today, if you speak English, people think you either want to show off, or that you look down on your national language."
A local university lecturer confided that it was frustrating to teach students whose English was very poor.
"The new intake of students can hardly write, let alone speak English. I cover the hospitality industry course and students are required to present certain assignments in English. Their work is difficult to mark. What is happening to the students now, has its roots in their early schooling."
It is believed that many students, especially Malays, aspire to a job in government, where they understand that English is unnecessary.
So much for our Wawasan 2020 dream, when we cannot speak English properly, to compete and communicate, in the global market.