Monday, 20 July 2009

English in Malaysia

The never ending subject.

This post is a follow-up of my last post on teaching English in Mathematics and Science carried out for a very short while in Malaysian primary and secondary school, which will be ditched in two years time.

English as an international language spoken and understood by almost all of the world's inhabitants cannot be denied its importance, otherwise you will see how some countries representatives need the use of an interpreter to get the message through to the other counterpart in any bilateral talk, or people using headphones to listen to translations in the language they understood in big gathering such as the UN meeting.

As for Malaysian, English has been adapted in the schooling syllabus since the first year of schooling i.e. Primary 1. I vividly remember how i used to write down the pronunciation of some words which i found to be complicated in my understanding -- thru Malay language eyes and understanding. For instance, i would write jump as 'jam' or jumping as 'jamping'.
But all those soon will come to an end when we were introduced 'reading a book with a dictionary'. Imagine how many words i needed to refer to the dictionary everytime reading a book. We were then encourage to finish one book in English in a week.

The best way for me is still; one is not too shy pronouncing the words although it might be wrong, watching the television and avoiding reading the subtitle, reading all sort of materials, reading the dictionary (although a lot of people says this is absurd -- it helps with my vocab though) besides mingling with the right bunch of people who would not scrutinised you.

But i guess the ultimate way in learning any foreign language is through total immersion in the language itself. When a person 'must' or want to use it all day long in daily life, preferably among native speakers, that will be the best of all type of learning.
I notice this as i am in the midst (although it had been an attempt since seven years back) of acquiring another foreign language -- French and found it hard doing so while i was back in Malaysia where that particular language is at a non-existence level. Unlike here, where i have TV programmes and French TV channel to watch and at least listen and capture the words and way it is spoken. Thus also the reason why my listening and spelling is way better and speaking....

The problem about Malaysian students especially those who came from remote area and families that never speaks English at all (although English is taught from primary school throughout until universities) is because they tend to study for the sake to pass the exams.
Not for the language itself.
Not because they are interested in communicating in that language and wanting to know the language better.

That is the reason why we may notice and hear students and adult struggling to speak the language when they are asked or when they are in the group of English speaking people.

But you may ask, how do they excel in school. How do they go abroad and pass their exams if they can't understand or speak the language.

The answers is exactly like my own experience with French language.
We listen to understand.
We remember the words and meaning.
But when it come to putting it in one decent word; it will go hay-wired.
When it comes to confrontation and debate; we flattened.
When it comes to exams; we made it.

Another good case was a story told by my SO while he was a student in the UK. The incident when one government servant who was sent to further his study, got all panicked when he was stopped by the police and asked where is his driver's papers. He just didn't know how to put his words right and didn't response until someone from the same country came over to the police station to save him.

How on earth does he cope with his lectures; only person in the same boat would understand.

Like any language, English is not an easy one to master. The basic rules of grammar, and all parts of speech simply cannot be grasped without years of much learning and repetitive weekly exercises. Spelling, vocabulary, and pronunciation simply cannot be learned without weekly spelling and dictation tests. Comprehension, reading and writing skills cannot be mastered in any other way without tests in writing and oral.
Don't be surprised when you speak to a English teachers in school and found them handling the language inadequately.

Again, it is all back to the needs and wants of every individual.
If they want to do, and if they want master it, it is all there for them to do it.
If they refuse, then thousand and one excuses will be their reasons to reject it.


Hmmmm......this reminds me of an incident of one Malay lady living nearby my place here who commented on my using English as communication with my young kiddo......according to her, my kid may not know how to speak the native language if they are spoken in another language.
Absurd is my word to this type of person. Nevertheless, i found it funny when some who tried so and too hard to speak to their kiddo in English, when they are around some other women (this is just the case of wanting to be seen or im educated....) but their kiddo didn't even understand what they are trying to say!?.....what say you.......
Hahahahahaha............
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