Friday, April 27, 2007

English for success, Mandarin for making money

During the Look East Policy of the seventies, the English language almost suffered a demise in Malaysian schools. Today, many of those in their mid-thirties still carry the scars of that short-sighted policy. Poor grammar, bad pronunciation and poor writing mark those who failed to take the initiative to improve their English.

Fortunately, the language that gave us Shakespeare, Dickens and the King James Bible bounced back with a vengence! English periods more than tripled, important subjects like English and Mathematics are now taught in English and British teachers are imported to serve in rural schools. You need to pass MUET, the university entrance test to get a place in a Malaysian university and you need to have a good grasp of English to land a good job. Globalisation and technology has ensured a permanent place for the English language. This English thing is a worldwide phenomena.

Mandarin or Putonghua is the other sought after language. Again this is not just happening in Malaysia. However, within the Malaysian context, if one were to go to any Malaysian Chinese school (I was about to say a good Chinese school but I've been told that almost all Chinese schools are well run), and you'll see, apart from the Chinese, Indians and Malays as well. You may even run into a head prefect who is an Indian or a Malay. Watch them play in Mandarin.... It's a good feeling. Let us hope that as music and sports unite people, that English, Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia will build a new generation of Malaysians that cut across racial barriers.

Malaysian parents are pragmatic. Their children should know English for professional success and know Mandarin if they are to capture the world's largest consumer market!!

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