English readiness – Are young Malaysians equipped for the globalised world?

English readiness – Are young Malaysians equipped for the globalised world?

As the lingua franca of the world, English, is the most widely spoken language in the world other than Mandarin and China, as the world’s most populous nation aspires to become the world’s largest English-speaking nation. 

In Malaysia, the debate rages on. The flip-flop decision of policies by the Education Ministries and politicians joining the fray is not helping. Where once, English was more widely spoken here (except for Singapore) than anywhere else in the region, the standard of English has sadly declined. Young rural Malaysians can hardly string two sentences together and their spoken English is appalling. English as a language has been put on the back burner and less Malaysians are given the opportunity to be integrated in the global marketplace. 

In school as a young child I had the opportunity to learn Bahasa Melayu alongside English which was the main medium of instruction and till today, I can still communicate effectively in our national language just as I can in English. This is despite the fact that Bahasa Melayu was only taught as one subject once a week. This does not make me any less a Malaysian. 

The apathy accorded by teachers and instructors towards the English language is not surprising. The zeal to be a “nationalist” has overtaken the practical purpose of instilling English as an important tool for global communication. This can be seen among the rural schoolchildren who are unable to communicate effectively or perhaps they are reluctant to communicate in English due to peer pressure. 

Most young people in rural areas have the idea that they are lacking in patriotism towards the national language if they resort to English as a medium of communication. A drastic paradigm shift in thinking is required whereby multilingual ability is seen as a platform to enhance one’s own culture. 

By denying them the right to learn effective communication in English, we are denying them the right to be recruited globally. According to a recent survey, by learning English you become among the top 25% who can be recruited globally. Similarly, a recent McKinsey survey 94% of the global CEOs place smart communication above technical and professional skills. 

English readiness – Are young Malaysians equipped for the   globalised world?

About 1.5 billion people speak English worldwide. Young people are getting a chance to connect with the billions of other young people on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

In China for example, the learning of English peaked during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when the government realised that China had to make an effort to be more international. Today, the English-learning industry in China is worth nearly 2 billion pounds. There are more than 50 thousand English-training organisations in the country. In Beijing alone, an estimated three million people attend English classes every year. The obsession to learn English runs deeper, as thousands of Chinese parents are sending their children to summer camps in the US. Chinese parents are beginning to realise that English is the key to success in white collar China.

It goes without saying that here is huge amount of knowledge in the world and most of it is encrypted in English. With English you get access to a huge amount of information online, on television, books and people. By gaining proficiency in English, you can increase your chances of getting admissions to the top universities in the world and enhance professional growth.

The lack of English can limit your professional growth as business is getting globalised. You may not get access to knowledge to broaden your thinking. You may not be able to communicate with some successful people. Your scope for education can be limited and you may lose out on international business. You will move to the top of any competition because many corporations want to hire those with dual language ability.

The English language is the predominant academic language around the world. For example, much of the research conducted is written and expressed in English. Scholars communicate research findings to their peers in the field mainly in the English language. Additionally, most software programs are written in English and it is a must if you want to expand your knowledge in computers and technology.

English readiness – Are young Malaysians equipped for the   globalised world?

English will open doors for you if you are willing to make an effort. From entertainment to scholarly research to getting a top notch job, learning English will significantly improve your life if you are a business person or student.

Business and commerce are increasingly driven by international trade and if you are going to grow in your job you need to be able to follow this trend.

Technical skills are essential in modern industries and you need to be able to both read and write technical English if you are going to maintain your technical competence.

You may need to attend international symposiums and exhibitions either as a visitor or a presenter and the chances are you’ll have to work in the English language.

In fact, knowledge of a foreign language is equally useful for maintaining employment, particularly in industries where companies look to relocate business or expand into other markets. This is because downsized or outsourced employees who speak the language of the country where the company plans to relocate can gain an advantage in the race to be appointed to a post in the new location. Knowledge of the language of the region where your company is expanding into new markets can make you indispensable to the success of the business as you bridge the cultural gap between the two locations.

Most people in the world are multilingual, and everybody could be; no one is rigorously excluded from another’s language community except through lack of time and effort. It is advantageous certainly to learn other languages such as Mandarin, French, Spanish or Arabic. Different languages protect and nourish the growth of different cultures, where different pathways of human knowledge can be discovered. They certainly make life richer for those who know more than one of them.

Language is an aspect of humanity, and learning what a fellow human speaks teaches you more about humankind as a whole. The more languages you know, the more you understand our species, and that is beneficial no matter what the situation is.


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About Tan Sri Lim

Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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