Prejudice prevents more from speaking English

AS A trainer of English teachers in a public university, I feel that teaching English is sometimes a losing battle.

Comedians mock the proper use of English in the Malay comedies by quoting lines like “What you saying talk talk the orang puteh?”.

Lines like these have long lost their punchlines and they are actually detrimental to the growth of our nation.

If we carry on with this attitude, we would be eventually at the losing end.

I have mixed feelings about native teachers being hired to teach English. While it may have its benefits, it is also costly.

The local trainees and teachers can do just as good a job at a fraction of the cost if given the chance.

The reason why they are often not deemed good enough by many is simply because they are young individuals who have gone through a lifetime of school which uses Bahasa Malaysia in its system.

Worse, in university, they have very little practice outside of their circle of TESL coursemates simply because they are branded as “show-offs” when they converse in English with students from other courses.

However, I strongly believe that given time as well as the resources for training towards continuous development, future and existing local English teachers can be a very capable lot.

There is absolutely nothing wrong if one masters English. It does not make you a snob or less patriotic.

Sometimes the media also goes so far as to portray English-speaking Malays as un-Islamic elites whose main activities are to go clubbing, drinking and chasing girls.

I feel it is about time that the Government does something to stop this stereotypical thinking and the mentality that English-speaking Malaysians do not love their country, race or religion.

I am a Malay and am very proud of Bahasa Malaysia. The fact that my parents had the foresight to teach me good English from a young age has not made me forget or think less of Bahasa Malaysia as it is my native language.

However, it is English that has served me well while debating with English native speakers on Islam and also to promote Malaysia.

What we should worry more is the improper use of Bahasa Malaysia.

Young Malaysians nowadays speak a different brand of Bahasa Malaysia with words like ‘kerek’, ‘kantoi’ and ‘tak ambik pot’.

I sometimes worry if we cannot use proper Bahasa Malaysia and our English is just as wanting, what language are we masters of?

by Afni Anida Adnan, Lecturer (TESL), UiTM, Shah Alam.

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