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