It is no secret that Malaysians in general are not so good in the English language. Most of them believe they are, but actually they're not. That's the result of several decades of teaching what's known as the "Communicative English" in our schools. In learning the "Communicative English", the emphasis is on whether others can understand what we're saying. Very little emphasis, if any, was given to grammar or spelling etc. I'm not very sure if there was any stress on the accuracy of communication.
I recently spoke to a University Graduate who's presently pursuing a Masters in a local University. I found out from her that it's basically the same story even for the Masters level, i.e. not so much emphasis on grammar.
Unfortunately, in the job market English is an asset. The medium of communication is still overwhelmingly English. A few years ago, the Malaysian government made English the medium of instruction for maths and science, but it soon became clear that some people could not cope with the language.
So what happens when it's difficult to learn an important language? Why, of course the simplest thing to do is to reverse the policy! So, not surprisingly, maths and science are now taught in Malay—again.
As one would expect, many parents are concerned that their children will find it very tough when they enter the job market in the future. There is no question that English is important, even if some people would not admit it.
And so, we can now see so many people offering English lessons. I don't know about the other parts of Malaysia, but in KK, one is able to see "English Tuition" advertisements on almost every lamp post in the city these days. Check out the photo below, which I took near my office in KK.
There are many, many other advertisements of numerous sizes and patterns of course. And some of them also include other information and perhaps justifications why English is important. Such is the case with the advertisement below.
I shall refrain from arguing the claim of "Good English Good Job", simply because that is the absolute truth, although, to repeat, some people would not admit it. Apart from becoming eyesores, I can live with these advertisements. I just wished that they—whoever these people are—would advertise properly, such as in the papers.
Admittedly, I myself am a product of the Malaysian education system, and it is unfortunate that I am still not so good in English. I've not contacted any of those people who offer to teach English, but I suspect they, too, are products of the great Malaysian education system. If my suspicion is correct, then there is every possibility that these people are not really qualified to teach the language! For the English that they know is the "Communicative English", which is, for the most part, plain rubbish!
In the above advertisement, below those words "Good English Good Job", there are dark-coloured ovals, each containing justifications for learning the language. The grammar is just awful to say the least. One of them says "Self-Confident". I don't have an English degree, but I like "Self-Confidence" much better. A tiny little difference which does not really matter for "Communicative English". In fact, I wonder if the teacher knows the different [difference] at all?
And finally, I can't resist, as always, to quote yet again one of JJ's school work. This one from her recent mock exams. Part F instructs: "Use all the words below to make one correct sentence." What do you make of it? Apparently, all of her sentences are wrong.
Check out, for example, Question 2. The words which are required to appear in the sentence are "sat" and "tree". And JJ, referring to the picture on the left, came up with:
They sat under a big tree.
Again, let me repeat that I don't have an English degree, but I can't see anything wrong with that sentence. Both the words "sat" and "tree" are there. Grammatically, it is also sound. But no, the teacher found the sentence wrong because of a missing "yesterday".
And therefore, JJ got Question 3 wrong too, because although she came up with "He walked near the waterfall," she failed to include something there to emphasize that the event occurred in the past. But emphasis or no emphasis, are those sentences wrong?
I think it is entirely possible that we will come up with a whole new language by the next generation, known as Manglish. And that will be our official version of the English language. The hell with what the rest of the world thinks of our English!