June 22nd, 2013

Small beginnings lead to great things

We often overlook the little details that play a part in making a huge difference.

MY regular contractor probably does not appreciate me hovering around when he is doing his work. But he does on occasion explain certain procedures to me.

This self-taught man is quite incredible because he does much of the work himself. He is as comfortable laying bricks as he is in fixing the plumbing. But his creativity truly comes to life when you show him a design from an interior decor magazine and he is able to bring it to reality.

I watched him use a plumb line recently. This simple device consists of a weight attached to the end of a string and is used to determine verticality or depth.

It ensures that a wall that is being built is straight because our eyes alone will not give an accurate picture.

If a contractor seeks to build a structure that is sound, this initial step of using the plumb line cannot be bypassed. It is a small but necessary step in laying foundations for bigger accomplishments.

In a world where we only look at results and magnify achievements, we often do not recognise that it is the small beginnings that eventually lead to great things.

And this is true not only in tangible matters like an iconic building or a big-brand business, but also in the way we shift societal values or grow movements that touch the lives of many people.

I was listening to a dear friend share about her community work in an African country recently and the phrase “small beginnings” kept cropping up.

As she went through the whole gamut of tasks that she has been involved in over the past two years working among refugees under very harsh and difficult conditions, it hit me that what she sees as a “small beginning” is such a “gigantic task” for someone like me.

But with her usual joyful disposition, she talked about the need to prepare the ground for those who will come after her.

She is focused on the journey rather than on results.

Why should we despair the small beginnings, she asks, simply because we cannot see the big conclusions?

In the recent general election, many people stepped forward to volunteer as polling and counting agents.

The good citizen willing to offer his time will probably not even be remembered by the MP or ADUN who recruited him in the first place.

But in his own small ways, he has been part of the small beginnings that herald a more involved citizenry in the public space to protect our institutions and help make the country better.

And that is certainly something that should give us hope for better tomorrows.

Soo Ewe Jin (ewejin@thestar.com.my), who still considers his years at home as a full-time father the best years of his career, wishes all fathers Happy Fathers Day. The STAR Online Sunday Starter 16 Jun 2013

For the sake of the nation

EVERY level-headed Malaysian who subscribes to reason and logic will unanimously agree that teaching, learning and using the English language must never be made into an issue when it is done in the interest of our future generation and for the sake of our nation’s progress and its future well-being.

But unfortunately there are some in our midst who are not prepared to accept this fact judging from their comment and reaction to the teaching of Maths and Science in English.

What is even more disturbing is that there are some irrational ones who regard the teaching, learning and promotion of the English language as something unpatriotic.

As we strive to achieve Vision 2020, it is essential for the Government to adopt a practical and open-minded approach towards any language which can contribute to Malaysia’s progress while remaining firm and steadfast in ensuring that Bahasa Melayu is the country’s official and national language.

As a Malaysian, I am proud of our national language – Bahasa Melayu – a language I use daily in communicating not only with officials of government departments and agencies but also with the various ethnic groups.

It is our common language, understood and used by Malaysia’s multi-racial population.

However, we must also accept the reality that knowledge of one language is insufficient in this modern and technological age.

We need to have a command of other languages for progress and development, be it English, Chinese, French, etc.

We learn and use English as it is an international language for science and technology, business and commerce.

Malaysians should strive to be bilingual or even multi-lingual now that most people, particularly the younger generation, have mastered Bahasa Melayu.

Malaysians may lose out in the field of information and technology in the new millennium if they are not proficient in English.

English is vital if Malaysians are not to be left behind.

The ability to learn and use English or any other language should be seen as a progressive move to improve our knowledge and expertise.

The fear of the English language, which some still regard as a legacy of British colonialism, is clearly misplaced and needs to be rectified.

To overcome this, more needs to be done to convince parents and students, particularly those in the rural areas, about the importance of learning English as a tool for science, technology, business and commerce as well as progress and modernisation.

At a time when so much has been spoken about the age of ICT and the global economy, one problem that we need to address and which concerns our future is the command of the English language.

It is an indisputable fact that the command of the English language among our young generation is poor and is a matter of concern if we are to cope with the global march of information and communications technology.

We must not regard the learning and mastery of the English language as a threat to our cultural or national identity.

Mastering the English language is about rejuvenating the nation. It is about preparing ourselves individually and collectively as a nation in finding our place in the global economy.

Promoting English would not in any way jeopardise the importance and use of Bahasa Melayu as our national and official language.

There is a need for social and professional competence in this modern age and certainly learning and using the English language will not make us less nationalistic.

TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE Kuala Lumpur The STAR Online Opinion June 22, 2013