English language has been a very strong influence throughout the world today. A lot of international business and trading rely on the language for susceptible and a good business relationship between companies. Those companies who are able to do business transactions and meetings by using the English language are much more respectable and regarded to. Other countries that use English as their main medium of communicating have been shown to have a greater drive in their economic status. The English language is an important medium of interaction used among people in various field, such as career, academic and business throughout the world. Jerry Anak Ahen, 2009).
Take Singapore as an example. Even though the country consists of different race that speaks different language, they decide to use English as the main medium for communicating and they are now a first world country. Using English as their main language would make conversing between a Chinese and a Malay guy easier, rather than the conventional Malay. Yes, we in Malaysia might think that by using English is disrespectful towards our ancestor’s language, but we cannot have that mindset again in order to be a first world country.
I recently went to Singapore and I find it exciting to be able to converse with the Chinese and Indian people who are living there. I could see that there are a lot of benefits in using the English language. Given the current ascendant position of the English language as the language of global academia, science and technology as well as commerce, among other areas of social life, English language studies form a “wide and varied area for investigation and critical reflection” (Allison, 2002, p. x) Malaysian education system had tried to implement the PPSMI or Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris but the step had proven that our education system and the students are not ready yet to learn and adapt English into their studies. The lack of preparing and educating both teachers and students proves to be a suicide mission for the PPSMI. Most of the students in school have a very low proficiency in English to understand the science and mathematics subjects to be taught in English.
Adding on to the problem is that not many teachers that are competent enough in using English language to teach the two subjects. So, at last it was abolished and now it is back to normal. Yesterday the education ministry announced that English will be a compulsory subject that is needed to pass in order for Form 5 students to pass their Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia or SPM. But that is due in 2016 and I think that it will be too late.
The history of English language in our country would require us to ponder back during the colonization years where the British tried to implement the language in the schools, thus the schools like Victoria Institution was formed. The British colonial education system introduced the teaching of English in Malaysia in the 1960s and it is still entrenched in the current Malaysian educational system (Asmah Haji Omar, 1992). But back then, most of the Malays are skeptical and worry that the language is a bad influence.
As stated by Venugopal, the learning of English language in Malaysia began during the colonial times as a tool of socio-economic mobility and education enhancement (Venugopal, 2000). Time has passed and now English is regarded as an important tool for students to apply and get a decent job with a nice pay. Most companies will hire students who are competent and able to communicate using the language. It is an added value towards their college or university degree. But surprisingly our Malaysian students are still lacking in mastering the language thus the unemployment rate is still very high.
We have fresh graduates but they are all unemployed just because they could not master the language. According to an article in The Star, “Skills and internal practices of a company can be taught but you need to be proficient in English to learn. We need an intervention programme to ensure a supply of skilled labour. ” (The Star, 2010). The graduate students in Malaysia are very skillful and have a good result in their hands but due to lack of English communication and social skills, they are not able to apply or get the job that they want.
Inside this report, we would discuss about the four main reasons on why the students in tertiary level are having problem in mastering the English language. Reasons of why Tertiary Level Students are Not Mastering English. Non Supportive Environment for the Students to Study Let us admit it, our Malaysian people are still a little bit orthodox and old fashioned. We would be shocked whenever a new culture from the West came into our country. We might be shocked because yes we are Muslims and we are bound to our religion rules and regulations. Some might think English is a vulgar language to learn or it is a sin.
But luckily some of the important people in our religion are beginning to realize the importance of having preaches and prayers in English. Basically English is just a language and nothing is behind it. It shows a level of supremacy and education if a person is able to learn and speak the language. Moving on, I believe that our Malaysian students are struggling in learning the language is not due to the orthodox Malays but it is because of the non supportive environment of people around them. Malay language has always been the mother tongue amongst us so it is always hard to learn a second language without our first language influencing it.
Students who are better in speaking English are often regarded as snobbish or arrogant. People would always look down on the person who tries to speak in English and they will somehow make fun of them and mock them. They are often labeled as trying too hard or acting to be cool by speaking English. This demoralizing situation and mindset is very upsetting to the person trying to converse in English. In the end, they might end up not wanting to learn the language at all because afraid of being mocked by their peers.
It has been proven that shyness affects performance in the language; the less shy the learners are the better they perform (Hamayan et al. 1977). Upshur (1968) has confirmed that the most efficient language learning occurred in informal situations outside the classroom when the learner must make communicative use of the language variety to be learned. In order for the learning of English to be easy and sustainable, the students must not only practice the language in class, in fact they should try to practice it at home and with friends.
Some studies have shown that families with different socio economic income have different influence towards the students. Usually students who came from a well and high socio economic status, they tend to use the English language more in their daily conversation. At the same time the general feeling is that the ability to speak English is regarded as a sign of belonging to a higher social class and a symbol of urbanization although not all urban people are English-speaking (Asmah Haji Omar, 1975). In other words, the usage of English amongst students in Malaysia or generally the citizen of the country, they need a lot of support from the nvironment and people around them. Mostly people who shun other people when they start to speak English are just people who are actually have a low knowledge on the language so therefore by shunning others from speaking, they feel safe because they do not have to speak the language with them. Negative Perceptions towards the English Language Moving towards the second reason on why students on tertiary level of education are having problems in mastering the language is that they have negative perceptions about the language.
We have to look back from the start where the students are still in secondary school. Back then, the language was not being so well enforced by the school or by the government. The English subject was merely a subject and there was not much reinforcement or hands on activity related to the language. This was probably due to our Malaysian school system which has always been exam oriented from the olden days. Students are willing to learn all the subjects including English with just one thing in their mind – to pass the exam with flying colours.
Due to this exam oriented education system, our students are not given enough chance to really study and use the language because they are always drilled with grammar and thousands of essay examples just to make sure they can write well so they will have better result in their examination. This way of learning is called rote learning where repetition occurs and it is not good because things that are repeated but not practiced will soon be forgotten. In addition, perceptions towards the language come within the students themselves.
Whether the students are aware that it is important for them to learn the language or not, it is up to them. They need some sort of motivation to learn the language according to Brown in his book, learning of a second language is a complex process, involving a seemingly infinite number of variables. (Brown, 1994). Students need to know that English is a very important subject and they will use it in the future not only for examination purpose. So they will have to find the drive in order to learn and improve more on the language.
In the excerpt written by Asmah, she states that this language is a language of international diplomatic and commercial relations as well as a world language for dissemination and exchange of knowledge and technology. (Asmah, 1982). If students have enough motivation, they will be able to change their perception towards the language and they will realize that they must learn to love English language dearly because it will help them in the future. Lack of Exposure and Interest amongst the Students I believe that with the correct amount of exposure amongst the students, they will be able to learn and master the English language much better.
To learn English, it will take a lot of various approach and strategy for the learners or students to be able to become proficient in English. But sometimes, the work is not only in the hands of the learners, but the teachers too. They must provide enough materials and teaching aids that relates towards the language to help enhance students’ interest in learning it. Fun and interesting activities are needed in the classroom so that the students will be able to grasp the subject well. Amusing activities to be done in the classroom are like drama or skits where the students are able to engage and communicate with each other using the language.
In learning using drama, it will ignite the students’ interest in learning because not only they can walk, run and act with their friends, they are able to communicate in a fun and enjoyable way. On the other hand, the teachers or lecturers can use extrinsic motivation as a way to teach the students to love English. Williams and Burden’s (1997) social constructivist model identified four key factors which influence the learning process – teachers, learners, tasks, and context. As you can see, learning the language involves those four aspects and they are often inter-related with each other.
Teachers who are enthusiastic in their teaching will always have their students’ attention therefore they will create a rapport thus making learning more meaningful. To make an English classroom meaningful, the teacher could bring interesting movies and drama to the class and show them to the class. Most of us students are visual learners so by showing interesting movies in class, the students will be interested to learn the language. After they watched the movie, prepare some exciting quiz for them to answer and the teachers can include some prize for the person who managed to answer the quiz with full arks. Afraid of being “Othered” by their Peers Surprisingly, the English language has two different sides. In which the sides are those who speaks the language and those who do not. Most of the students have this sense of belonging or trying to be in a group, whereas it could be seen that students who can speak English will have out with only people who can speak too and vice versa. They tend to act and think differently too, most of them who are fluent in the language are much more open to anything and they are quite liberal.
The group which can speak English tend to be more loud and they are brave to speak out what is inside their minds whereas the other group who cannot speak the language are much more shy and cautious in voicing out. According to an education journal, their founding was that one of their respondent, which was Kat, an Indian respondent claims that she has been labeled “mat salleh celup” by her relatives for speaking English better than Tamil, and “there’s like a stigma attached to it, if you’re Indian and you don’t speak Tamil, it’s kind of prejudice actually, they start thinking you’re perasan…” (Su Kim, et. Al, 2010).
This was a good example that those who speak English will be deemed negatively by their society or race. Even some of the Malays would be labeled as “not Malay” just because they are able to speak and use the English language very well. Society acceptance towards the people who speaks English is crucial so that those people who are better than other people will be able to teach them on how to improve in English. The people who know English better than the other will not be afraid of being “othered” or mocked if the society knows the true importance of the language.
Suggestions Educate the Society on the Importance of English Back to the root of the problem, that is the society. The society needs to be educated on the importance of English. When they know it, they will be able to realize that it is not good to mock people who try to speak the language because it would bring so much benefit not only to the person but to the society too. A person who knows English language well might bring the society to a whole new level, whereas he or she could open up a class and teach other students who are willing to learn English.
The society needs to know that English is no longer related to those orthodox and olden days of thinking where it is related to bad things and Christianity. Yes it was back then, but now English is being used as a medium for socializing, communicating, doing business and such. It is being used in such a wide variety that people should know how to utilize the language well. When people know the importance, they will start to learn the language for the betterment of themselves and their society.
Those who are able to converse and use the language well are highly respected and notable amongst the society. They also have higher probability of being hired by a company rather than a person who is not able to speak English but only have good grades. In conclusion. good grades and the ability to communicate well is a plus. More Campaign and Enforcement by the Education Ministry We Malaysians, loves our Malay language very much up to an extent that we have a lot of promotion and campaigns to instill awareness amongst Malaysian about our mother language.
The education ministry should do the same too, start by implementing campaigns from primary schools so that they will start to love English from an early age. As the Malay saying goes, “melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya. ” Campaigns are important in educating and instilling love towards the English language amongst students and people in general. By creating for example, an English month in school so that the students will have to speak English for a month is a good move.
Not only by speaking, during the whole month, a lot of activities must be held to attract more students in learning English. The school can do an English drama competition, or choral speaking or just story telling. Simple activities can be done but they must be done by using strictly English. Students can be “fine” for not speaking English during the month. Not only have that, enforcement of making the English subjected as a compulsory subject to pass in the SPM is a good move, because students will find the importance of being able to do well in English or else they will not get the certificate.
The campaigns should involve parents at home because most parents condone or did not practice the language at home. It should be a two way communication and parents should be able to teach and make English as a practice at home to ease the learning of their children. Conclusion English is an important language to learn in this ever changing world. The world is so vast right now and basically everything is just a click away. So students should be able to learn English wherever they are, and by learning the language they will be able to sell themselves to future employers and companies.
Not only that, students should realize that by learning English they will be able to improve their lifestyle and became much more respected amongst their peers. Those who are able to speak fluently should also educate their peers to not condone other people courage to speak and learn English. To conclude the report, I believe that learning English is a lifelong process and one can always improve themselves because they are no limit in learning the language nor learning itself.