The audacity to learn English

Ever since the Malaysian government decided to revert to using Bahasa Malaysia as the language of instruction at schools, there have been screams of protests in the form of letters and articles in newspapers. Yes, we all know the importance of English. Yes, it is the lingua franca in international politics, business, and education. Yes, nearly one-third of the countries in the world use English as either their first or second official language. And yes, we also know that the majority of books and online content are written in English.

Its because I learn English not easy (photo from

Yes, yes, we know all these, so why then is the policy of teaching in English being rescinded? This is because there is a difference between knowing something is good for you and actually doing it.

Although many reasons have been given for the rescinding this policy, I believe the main reason is simply that most Malaysians are just not bothered or care enough to pick up the challenge to learn English. Though Malaysian intellectuals may write their letters and articles of protests until their faces turn red, the reality is most Malaysians are not intellectuals, and they do not care enough to improve themselves. In other words, it is just too darn difficult.

At UPM, I teach a subject called “Agriculture and Man” which is a compulsory subject for all undergraduates, irrespective of their degree course. For two semesters, I taught a large group of English literature undergraduates who share the same problem: the majority of them have a poor command of English! One even said that she expresses herself better in Malay than in English. Even though I teach in English and my notes are fully in English, these English literature students still prefer to answer the exam questions in Malay.

Many times, I am an English teacher first, then a science teacher. I have difficulty understanding the written assignments by my students. I have to correct their English sentences first, then proceed to check their science facts.

I am now know its safe to using (photo from

However, there is hope for individuals who both understand the importance of English and who are willing to work hard to master the language. While the majority of Malaysians in the future would be babbling their English words, great opportunities await those who stand out because they can write and speak fluently in English.



  1. The truth is, a lot of Malaysians have poor command of English.

    Many people claim they speak fluent English, but it’s Chinglish (or Manglish) at best. Granted, English is not their first language.

    What perplexed me is: these people would converse with their children in English.

    • Some parents want their children to be multi-lingual, so they try to speak to their children in many languages and dialects. This is certainly good, but parents should also ensure their kids are exposed to the correct grammar!

  2. Pengalaman saya, sebenarnya belajar menguasai bahasa Inggeris memerlukan usaha sendiri yang berterusan. Kebanyakan pelajar [Melayu khususnya] tidak menguasai bahasa Inggeris kerana mereka tidak mempunyai asas yang kukuh sejak di bangku sekolah lagi. Mereka tahu bahasa ini penting tetapi enggan berusaha untuk menguasainya.

    Ketika di universiti, kawan-kawan saya lebih suka membuat rujukan menggunakan buku bahasa Indonesia yang lebih susah untuk di fahami berbanding menggunakan buku bahasa Inggeris. Dan hari ini mereka masih bermasalah untuk menyiapkan tesis Master kerana kebanyakan bahan rujukan dalam bahasa Inggeris.

    Saya mempunyai asas yang agak baik dalam bahasa Inggeris. Sungguhpun begitu, saya masih terus berusaha untuk memantapkannya hingga hari ini. Saya sendiri tertanya-tanya mengapa kawan-kawan gagal menguasai bahasa Inggeris. Pada saya, jika apa yang kita pelajari masih tidak cukup dan kita masih tidak mampu menguasai bahasa Inggeris, adalah menjadi tanggung jawab diri sendiri untuk berusaha agar kita dapat menguasai bahasa itu.

    • It is true that many academic books are written in English. Malaysia does not have many writers who are able to translate or write their own academic books in the Malay language. Hence, it is crucial for those in the academic field to master the English language. We simply do not have a choice.

      You will be surprised to learn that even English Literature students at my university have very poor command in English! Imagine reading Thomas Hardy or Virginia Woolf books with a poor command of English!

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