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I Got Tear Gassed

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You No Speaking Engrish? Very Well Then

Posted by Simon Templar On Thursday, July 09, 2009
I was schooled in sekolah kebangsaan from Standard 1 up to Form 5. In my secondary school, English was the common medium even though it is a sekolah kebangsaan. Our teachers basically taught us almost all subjects in English; Bahasa Melayu being the exception. Maybe Pendidikan Moral too, but I can't remember. But the lingua franca in school was English. Everyone spoke English. Yeah... text books were in BM but our teachers spoke in English. My classmates all spoke English. Nobody had any complains. In fact, I'll be surprised if the Principal walked into our class and started sumbat-ing us in BM. So you can see that the environment that schooled me made be very comfortable, no, i correct myself, most comfortable in an English medium environment.

But I guess my teachers were quality cikgus. English or BM was not a problem to them. Did you know that my Form 5 BM teacher was a Chinese guy? Cool. But that's out of context. I've been told that the quality of teachers today has deteriorated - steeply. Teaching was a passion back then. Today, teaching is merely a job to many teachers. Of course there are exceptions, but unfortunately, exceptions mean that they are a minority. The teachers today are the result of our failed education system over the past few decades. I should not dwelve further to describe the state of this failure or its causes or what is and what not. That will be too much to write. But FAILED it is; capital F, yes. And our teachers today are also the products of some poor teachers' college and ever changing education system and syllabus. Sistem lingkup!

As in many things in Malaysia (except for prices of goods), English in Malaysia has taken a nose dive in the past 1-2 decades. Look at the command of English of our young adults and school kids today - what a shame. My English is barely acceptable but these people speak Martian. I read resumes and conduct interviews. So, this is not a made-up nightmare of mine. Horrible English is very real in Malaysia. But what do you expect when their teachers cannot differentiate 'is' from are' and 'you' from 'your'? Well done, Mr. Education Ministers of the years.

But is it of anyone's concern that our English is so poor. Apparently not. Politics are more important. Our Ministers have to please the nationalist Malays whose missions in life are to protect the Malay language and culture konon. Our Ministers have to please MCA and the other Chinese gung-hos who breathe and eat Mandarin and Chinese culture. Don't get me wrong. Culture is important. But there are other ways to protect ones culture. Risking the future of the next generation is not one of it.

The Malays argue that the Japanese, Koreans, French and Germans do not study in English. But let us be honest and realistic. We are Malaysia. We all know where we stand. And we all know how the country is being run. (Yes, it's all the government's fault). Unpatriotic I may sound (though I am not), we are no Japan. Neither are we Korea (shame shame shame), France or Germany. Why live on a lie and fantasy?

The Chinese language supremacists will lecture you on how China is exploding and how important Mandarin will be when China becomes Captain Earth. But while the day is still not here yet, please be realistic that English is presently the single most important language in the world TODAY. Yes, it may be too late when Mandarin finally takes over (I can live with that), but only a fool will sacrifice English today for what may be of Mandarin in the future. Today is certain, the future is an uncertainty.

But whatever it may be, this is a democratic country (or so we like to believe). People get to choose what they think is best for themselves. If the Malays and the Chinese do not want English, then fine by me. (Where are the Indians anyway?) It's their choice. Go send your kids to Chinese school, go on. I am ashamed to admit this, but the more they want to go backwards, the better it is for the "English" crowd like me, my family, my colleagues and my friends. It is no secret how a good command of English opens you up to opportunities (or is it a secret still? Damn). Go to an MNC and try for big positions with a half past six English. You can be darn well qualified, but you better not speak. Wanna be a consultant at BCG or McKinsey? Harbouring hopes of being an investment banker at Goldman? JP Morgan? What about going global? Try the States, Ing-ger-lern or Australia.

It's all fine by me. Just when we thought that competition is getting tougher for a top tier career, Malaysia opens it up for us again. Poor Singaporeans. They need at least a Masters to get a decent job. Over here, life is a breeze. Not because we are good, just that the others are lousy. So, go on Malaysia. And you Malay language and Mandarin champions too. Go on.

If you read this article and understood what I am taking about, good for you. But then again, you may think that you understand but the truth is... you may not. Why? Based on comments seen on my past articles, and also those comments posted on the articles of the likes of RPK, Hakim Joe, and the other frustrated writers, I know that many readers do not understand what we write. Engrish speaking and reading no powder kot.

15 Response to "You No Speaking Engrish? Very Well Then"

  1. yeekeong Said,

    damn, stop telling ppl about having good english and getting a good job with MNCs. it's bad enough there's not enough MNCs to pass around. more ppl with good english will provide more competition!!


  2. Ben Said,

    Good perspective. Like what you said, it nice to live in the Kingdom of the blind and the one eye man rules. Without the basic command of English, my family and I will be starving is really nice to be the one eyed man here.


  3. thegoz Said,

    A good command of the english language is indeed essential. But common.. most of us who do have (reasonably) good command of english is not due to the education system. it's because of the environment we live in. your school for an example. i was in a school like yours too. Penang Free School. Nearly everyone speaks english to each other. Look at how we teach english or even BM for that matter. we basically teach how to answer exams. "Class, you have to memorize key points of that novel, only then you can get marks according to the latest marking scheme". That's the kinda tips that I get before SPM. English lessons at school should also emphasize on pronounciation of english words, talking in english,different ways of communicating in english, being confident with english,etc. the same should be done with BM. i mean, there are students who get A1 for BM and yet their BM speaking skills would make A Samad Said cry. i agree with you on some of the key points of writing. keep on posting.


  4. Azizi Said,

    Mate, you know this morning I was think about this very topic and you know what conclusion I came to ?

    This is it : See there are always going to be two types of people in Malaysia, the educated English speaking ones and the "lower class" non English speaking ones.

    Did you know that those days in estates, the British employed Indians from Sri Lanka and Kerala because they were educated and spoke English ? So these people lorded over the estate workers.

    So in our case - instant slaves! Wooohooo!!! Imagine you having awesome jobs and working overseas and you can have these buggers as foot wipers and arsehole cleaners! Now how about that!

    "Ya tuan" "Tuan saya tak cakap Ingerisssssss".

    Yeah i know its mean, but hey the government is providing us with future maids and office boys. What you think I am going to employ them as executives with their cheap ITM degrees ? Please lah!



  5. Well said my friend. English is in a pathetic state today. In fact, the so-called English teachers of today are a pathetic lot. Many of them can't even write a simple sentence and they teach English to our children!!!!

    But let's be honest. UMNO is/was never bothered about our education system or the quality of English. All they want is to remain in power. After all their children go to international schools and then overseas. You think they care for our children' future?
    The real losers are the Malays.


  6. Da Maniac Said,

    Well said Simon. Like you said, those of us being brought up in that environment would not be a disadvantage. So no worries about how my kid's English would be. Most are really concern for this country of ours, and the future generations to come. Those who are pro-English do not have that point of view because of their children, but because they are worried at the cotinuous backward state that the supposedly 'learned' leaders of this country is bringing us into. Eventually, it would affect all of us.

    But this is the choice that they made and they have to be responsible for their actions one fine day, and let's see how the history books would write about this in 50 years time.

    I guess this is what we get when we have politicians who don't jack schiit (miss using that!) about what education is because they themselves lack the edcuation in the first place.


  7. cuan Said,

    I taught for 23 years prior to premature retirement to take up legal practice. For the first 10 years or so, science and maths were taught in English and thereafter the two subjects were taught in BM. During the latter part of my teaching career lessons in the two subjects were taught in BM but then during Q&A time, questions were put to me in English and answered in English. For the weaker classes I had no choice but to conduct the classes in BM and also after the lessons all conversations would be in BM.

    I am still in touch with many of my former students and many are doing very well in business, in the field of medicine and in the IT Industry and they are very conversant and good in the English Language.

    My 2 sen worth here: I guess whether you would eventually have a good command in English depends on the school you come from. If you come from those mission schools like the Anglo-Chinese Schools, Catholic Highs, La Salle and the likes, where I am very sure English would be commonly used till today in all aspect of their school life. I am very sure, reading would be very much their culture and their libraries would be stocked with autobiographies of historical personalities and books written by well known authors. I remember I read about Ghandhi, Eisenhower, Churchill, Albert Sweitzer, Sun Yat Sen when I was in Form 3. I dont think you have this kind of environment in a Kebangsaan or Chinese School.


  8. Anonymous Said,

    Just because one went to a non-English medium school does not mean that one is against English. Many of non-English medium school leavers are multilingual. In fact, the language of the school playgrounds in many Chinese schools in the cities is English. Face the reality mate, the lingua franca in Malaysia is multilingual and definitely not English only. MNC prefers Malaysians who are multilingual and not English speaking only because there are plenty of them where they came from.


  9. I have written off our public school system from primary school all the way to the universities level. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a decent command of the English language and have a good job at a MNC. I am sending my kids to private school period and then sending them overseas.

    The government always claim that we are spending a lot of money on education. But how much of that money actually goes to improving the teaching standards thru training and better compensation for teachers, rather than to the UMNO-linked contractor pockets to build more buildings, buying furnitures and computers.

    After 6-7 years of using English for Science and Maths, Najib claimed only 8% of teachers are proficient in this language. What were the remaining 92% doing during this time? Shouldn't the government do more to help upskill these teachers? I pity those kids drifting away in our public school system for the next 3 years when English is still being used as the main medium to teach Science and Maths.


  10. gracie Said,

    Don't worry guys, when Malaysia joined the WTO (World Trade Organization), we, who have decent level of English will have less competition while joining foreign companies.

    And, if the gov decided to do away the 30% bumiputra equity, more foreign companies will come in to set up their business. If they can't get enough labour supply here in Malaysia, they would import labour force from foreign countries, there would be absolutely no benefits to our economies.


  11. lala Said,

    Thumbs up on this post.
    I am very agree with that. How can we compare Malaysia to Japan.. France and all that countries? I've been to France and yes, I had communication problems but that actually wasn't a big problem. I am soooo weird, we are much, much better in English to be compared to those developed countries. Why can't we be one of those countries?
    PPSMI actually good, they shouldn't trash it. it made my English better. :(


  12. Anonymous Said,

    We mustn't be too smug about being good in English and that it is equivalent to a bright future. A lot depends on job opportunities and exposure.

    What is lacking for a good job in MNCs might be key to excellent opportunities in our GLCs and crony-related companies and government contracts, with the right connections.

    Recently, Chinese-educated accountants never had it so good, earning more than average salaries and perks like special discounts in their own housing projects. Before this, they were made to feel inferior to those English-educated.

    But then again, the standard of English has dropped to ludicrous level and I would readily agree that if that is meant to be the medium of communication, then we have to be prepared and preferably be excellent in it.

    I was asked to write a letter of apology for a young mother (Chinese-educated) to her former school, in English simply because she wanted so much to be different from the others. But what good is it when her draft starts with, "I am so apologize..." Even if written in basic English, the teacher would have noted that it wasn't written by her, and she is likely to end up being laughed at.

    Even retired English teachers have their fair share of using wrong words because of the lack of overseas exposure.

    For example, 'my coffee this morning is too thick...' and this is likely to get a response from an English, 'you treacle?'

    Many still cannot pronounce 'facade' because of its French origin.

    I used to laugh at my friend when he said, 'this morning I'll come and carry you for breakfast'!


  13. Thomas Mok Said,

    people are so obsessed with English, Mandarin, Malays, but what are language but means of conversation? the standard of English is very low presently, the reason could be accidental or it could be intentional, either way, for survival sake, those who really are concerned, they will find way and means to pick up the language. not everyone will work in MNC and nor everyone will get a government job. people will do whatever to survive and friends of mine who are basically "English-minded" though educated in Sekolah Kebangsaan (I wonder where we picked up the English as the medium were Malays in school - for me, and Cantonese - for my friends) and yet they speak fluent English, Queen's English if it pleases you. The irony of it is, most of them now are attending Mandarin classes! Go figure...


  14. Antares Said,

    Language is a red herring. If your heart is pure and your mind is clear, just by looking someone in the eye and smiling is all the communication skills you require. Anything else is just a bonus. When you love somebody - if that person speaks Japanese or Eskimo or Urdu - you have a powerful incentive to learn their language and vice versa. So the first and most important step is the DESIRE to communicate. Some of us are natural linguists and easily pick up new languages, indeed we find it pleasurable to learn. Others struggle to speak even their own mother tongue, because they aren't particularly articulate. Takes all types. My point is, choice of first language is entirely your own private affair. If you can only speak Tamil, for insance, and nothing else... well, I can still get to know you by watching you dance or sing... and if you happen to be fond of me, you will eventually learn enough English or Cantonese for us to enjoy little chats. I know many Tamil-speakers who also speak fluent Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese, because they grew up in a Chinese neighborhood. Ever since I relocated from KL I found my Cantonese and Malay improving, bcause in the city I only ever spoke English. Why do governments always interfere and screw everything up? Their intentions are rarely pure - and most people who join the bureaucracy aren't particularly imaginative or inventive, since bureaucrats function on rules and regulations. My advice is to stop wasting breath debating language issues just to gain political mileage. Save your energy for removing Umno/BN from power as speedily as possible - before it's far too late!


  15. 理论论理 Said,

    The Chinese language supremacists is merely defending the LAST place (read PRIMARY SCHOOL) where Chinese student can learn their mother tongue and at the same time have better understanding of Math & Sc. in mother tongue ... the basic human right !!! What's wrong with that ??? (For indian schools, you have to ask Samy ...)

    Go ahead and change all the subjects of SECONDARY SCHOOLS to English, nobody from "the Chinese language supremacists" will say a word !!! Trust me, why? because all the Secondary Schools were using BM previously so changing to English is most welcome by the majority of Chinese/Malay/Indian in urban area, especially those who think non English speaking are foot wipers and arsehole cleaners. (read Aziz's comment above).
    Just stop and think for a while, you are lucky that you study in Sekolah Kebangsaan Std 1 to Form 5, where all the text books are in BM but all your teachers spoke in English. Imagine you are a Chinese studying in the same kebangsaan all the text books are in BM but all your teachers spoke in English. Where & How do you learn your mother tongue ?


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