I REFER to "Our grasp of English not bad" on Feb 24. British Council country director Gavin Anderson starts off by saying that the level of competence in the English language among Malaysians is "not bad". Then, in almost the same breath, he states that there is "much room for improvement".
If the level of competence is "not bad" (in the normal sense of the term, this would mean "reasonably acceptable"), why would he then say there is "much room for improvement", and "the truth is that the general competence has declined", without stating the extent of this decline? There is a world of difference between "not bad" and "much room for improvement".
Then, Anderson does a little bit more of backtracking: "It is not bad compared with other countries".
To this, I say, why even begin to compare the level of English among Malaysians with that of other countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, China, etc which were never English-speaking colonies of the British empire?
The many years of neglect have taken a heavy toll, and it is the general consensus that many Malaysians' grasp of the language has deteriorated beyond recognition.
And if they are prepared to admit it to themselves, a fair number of the older generation need to arrest their own decline in the standard of English.
The former secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession confirmed recently that many headmasters, headmistresses and education officers could not speak proper English in spite of their long exposure to the language.
Let the education authorities get real: many a student with an "A" in English can hardly speak the language with any semblance of competence.
Malaysians should not deceive themselves that their competence in English is "not bad".
Mervn Singhe, Segambut, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Online Opinion Letters to the Editors 10/03/2013