Letters - English – Use it or lose it

23 Jul 2015 / 01:16 H.

    "MAKE English top priority" (News, July 22) refers. I support the call by the Sultan of Johor, when he proposed that English be made a medium of instruction in our schools. Many have lamented about the poor command of English among our young generation.
    The problem must be addressed at its roots. I have first-hand experience trying to do this when I was working in Bangkok. During the weekends, I gave free English tuition to Thai university students.
    I discovered that just like in Malaysia, English was a subject taught in primary and secondary schools. But why is it then that the Thais are not able to speak English?
    It was because that they did not have the environment or incentive to do so as part of their day-to-day life. English is treated as a foreign language in Thailand and not a second language.
    These university students understood the importance of the language and in all earnestness wanted to improve their proficiency, but they were not able to make much progress.
    Whenever they were not speaking the language with me (and I only met them once a week), they fell behind again. Each week, I felt we were starting from point zero all over again in our English lessons.
    I realised then that unless they changed their environment and their friends, they were not going to improve their command of the language.
    Hiring foreign teachers to teach the subject or instituting a compulsory pass for English for advancement will not arrest this decline. Unless and until English is used as a second language and used in our day-to-day living, the change will be slow while the decline continues at a rapid pace. Can we afford to wait?
    I was privileged to attend an English-medium school where it was compulsory to use it daily. So we had no choice, but to speak good English.
    The lack of proficiency in English affects the productivity and the competitiveness of my organisation. And I believe this in turn collectively affects our country's overall economy and competitiveness.
    This decline in poor language and analytical skills will be felt even more after Generation X and Baby Boomers are no more. The generations that follow will need to rebuild.
    Until we have a transformation at the top in terms of policies and mind-set, our future generations will have to prepare for hard times.
    Jeanisha Wan
    Petaling Jaya


    thesundaily_my Sentifi Top 10 talked about stocks