I REFER to the letters, "Never-ending search for a solution" from Hassan Talib and "Use model that worked prior to 80s" from Mohamed Seth Ismail (NST, March 22). They are spot on where problems and solutions regarding the English language are concerned.
Problem-solving and decision-making are critical factors in the progress of any company or country. But in Malaysia, it seems that we do not have a good track record in solving problems and making decisions quickly about the English language.
Globalisation has affected our life academically, economically, technologically, culturally, politically, and internationally. Thus, we have to master English.
We have lost a whole generation of youth as they lack knowledge and confidence in the proper usage of English. When you ask any student or undergraduate, "How are you?", very often the response will be, "I'm in the well."
Then you are tempted to ask, "Are you referring to the legendary Hang Li Po's well?" and "How did you get in there?"
I am sure you have also heard youths uttering sentences like, "I busy now lah, nanti saya panggil you on my cellulite phone" and "Today, while coming to school ah, I see a died kucing you know and there was banyak magnets on the kucing."
Many of our teachers have not got past their caterpillar and pupal stages to become flying butterflies where English is concerned. What is even more pathetic is when educated adults murder the language. Instead of saying, "Could you please lower your voice, I'm trying to concentrate over here," they say, "Shaddap lah!" and instead of saying, "I'm in a fix as I don't know how to solve this problem," they say, "Die loh!"
Have you come across notices and signboards around town that gave you a good laugh? I remember a menacing notice in a chicken rice stall with the caption, "Muslim Killed".
Of course, the stall owner was not threatening the lives of Muslim customers. He was just attempting to inform them that his chicken was halal, not realising that he was guilty of linguistic mayhem.
Some time ago, there was a scare that a particular brand of mineral water was contaminated and the stocks were removed from the shelves.
There was this notice attached to the menu at a restaurant in a five-star hotel: "We wish to inform all our beloved patrons that the water we serve is clean and safe to drink as it has been personally passed by the chef."
I wondered how many people would want to drink water that was personally passed by the chef.
The deterioration in the proficiency of English started in the 1980s and the cancer has grown.
Over the past 30 years, many Malaysians have become perpetrators of the crime of mutilating the English tongue so creatively that we have spawned what we call Manglish or Malaysian English, or maybe we should call it "mangled English".
Are you guilty of "mangled English?" If you are, then to me, you are guilty of a murder most foul and should be put behind bars till you get your sentences correct.
It is strange that in Malaysia, it is mandatory to teach and learn English in schools but it is not necessary for students to obtain at least a pass in English for certification.
No wonder many students, teachers and educationists have been resting on their laurels for so long as there has been no urgent need to improve their English language skills.
We should never underestimate the resilience of our students. They will rise to the occasion when thrown in at the deep end.
Acknowledging the wide acceptance of English as a universal language but not doing anything concrete to arrest the declining standards of English is tantamount to betrayal of the highest order.
Dr Elizabeth Jaya Joseph, Universiti Selangor, Shah Alam, Selangor
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 30 March 2012