THE level of English in ministries, brought to light by the reported "poke eye" translation on the Defence Ministry's website, is indeed shocking, but not at all unexpected.
The English version of the ministry's website had phrases such as "clothes that poke eye", a translation of "pakaian yang menjolok mata".
The ministry said this came about because its officials were relying on the free online Google Translate for the English version.
There could be many reasons for the poor standard of English in our ministries.
I am sure that Mindef could use their Academic Staffs from Pusat Pengajian Umum dan Bahasa, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia to help out.
Of utmost concern is the intake of students and trainees into universities and teacher training institutes to do English degrees. One may suspect that quality has been compromised for political expediency.
There's no doubt on the intakes, they are qualified I guess but their competency level needs ... your guess is good as mine.
To prove my point, look at the number of errors in this report by a final-year student majoring in English:
"Do you fear of facing people when you are presenting? Do you feel that you want some place to build up your self confident? Besides, still we offer you chances to build up your leadership skills as well. Something that you will not be able to learn in the classroom, and probably now you are starting to asking. Please don't be hesitate to call."
Perhaps there is no intention to compromise quality on the government's part, but this brings into question the quality of the people entrusted to vet applications.
How are officers and evaluators selected? There seems to be a vicious cycle here when graduates of poor quality come out and get selected to be officers or evaluators.
Maybe or easier to say that even the officers and evaluators comes under the same category
Surely, they are unable to judge between the good and the bad.
Take schools, for instance. When Minden Heights Primary School in Penang changed its name to Sekolah Kebangsaan Minden Height (without the "s" in heights), I was aghast.
I said you could not take away the "s" as the word would have a different meaning and suggested that it be named SK Cangkat Minden instead.
At least this would preserve its original meaning, but alas, until today, the school calls itself SK Minden Height.
And how about teacher qualifications and experience? Here, the ministry must shed its apathy of not recognising teachers who have a master's degree in English and who are experienced.
These teachers have never been considered for promotions or given grade or pay hikes. At the very least, put them in decision-making panels to use their talents.
The recently-introduced New Salary Scheme for Civil Servants (SPBA) was a golden opportunity to introduce grade and pay hikes for these qualified and experienced teachers.
Sadly, however, unimportant criteria, which do not contribute to the improvement of teaching, have been introduced instead.
Cuepacs, the umbrella body of public sector unions, must work with teachers' unions to be the voice of conscience for the sake of our country.
By L.A.H., Penang firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 11 January 2012