Why English is
We are currently
learning English in a school so we join approximately one billion other people
around the world who are engaged in the same pursuit. However, as we try to
memorise proper grammar, and try to avoid the mistakes common to most students
of English, we may wonder why we are learning English in the first place.
So why is English
English is spoken by more people than any other language, and is the native
language of more than 350 million people. More people speak English than those
who speak the Arabic and French languages combined. Moreover, English is the
international language of diplomacy, business, science, technology, banking,
computing, medicine and name it. Arguably the best pop and rock music in the
world. English has plenty of words to choose from in fact an English speaker
afford the biggest vocabulary of any language with a choice of 500,000 to
1,000,000 words. But don’t panic, most English speakers do very well with
vocabulary of around 20,000 words.
English can be fun
too. For instance, the music stars such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles and
Michael Jackson has encouraged fans to speak the language of their idols they
also can sing the song of their idols fluently whilst others have enrolled in English
classes to improve their understanding of the dialogue in film and TV shows.
Or perhaps they
have embraced English to enjoy the writing of Stephen King, Geore Orwell or
J.K. Rowling. They may even have an interest in speaking English. Just to
converse with travellers from other countries. Who communicate by using the English
global interlingua while travelling abroad. Finally, if you are studying English
at school, college or university, remember that getting an ‘A’ grade in English
is almost worthless, in terms of communication, if you cannot speak the
language. Spoken English is used in the best careers, the best universities,
and is increasingly being used at job interviews. So like it or not, English is
a very important language to learn how to speak.
Here are some tips
on how to be better in English.
First, we need to
drop prejudice against English. It is the language of international business
and knowledge – the language of first priority. Any lingering paranoia against English
warrants removal. Second, we must make a decision to learn the language despite
difficulties and setbacks. It means thinking in the language and using it as
often as possible. Practise makes perfect. Those poor in English must make a
decision to better themselves in the language.
Third, we need to encourage
multi-lingual Malaysia. We do not need to teach all the languages in school but
we should provide the opportunity for people to learn languages inexpensively. If
we all learned each other’s language, it would help us to understand each other
better and may bring us closer as a nation. Malaysian do not need convincing on
this points, as many are already multi-lingual. When we are multi-lingual we
are better equipped to interface with those who are different and our language
skills are valuable assets.
Finally, we need
to change our purview of Malaysians who express themselves through the arts in English.
We should support locals who do this. I know several Malaysian musicians who
are very good never got the breaks and recognition because of limited English market
in the country. It is time we promote local English writers and artists. Of course,
we also need to encourage reading and improve the markets for local efforts. It
is one way to encourage Malaysians to express themselves in English and feel
confident about it. If Malaysian regard their own creator and performers as
mediocre, why shouldn’t the rest of the world?
We must not think
that doing anything in English or using western forms of expression is ‘aping
the west’, it is a gratitude comparison. As Dr Mahathir aptly said, “Don’t
think they will learn Malay to understand us.” My point is that to make English
ours because It is an integral part of our culture, our history and us. And when
people get the chance to see us, hear us, and read about us they may understand
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu