OF the seven billion people in the world, some 1.5 billion speak English. That is 20 per cent of all humanity. And the number is growing, too. What is more, English is by far the most studied language. Malaysians do not need any better reason to study English. It connects one with another, here and elsewhere like only a global language can.
There is yet another reason why Malaysians should learn English. Employability.
In a survey conducted by the Malaysian Employers Federation in 2016, 90 per cent of the respondent companies said local graduates were not employable because they were not proficient in English.
Little wonder that most of the jobs went to English-speaking graduates of foreign universities. Sadly, one out of five of the 200,000 who graduate from our local universities remains unemployed.
The New Straits Times and the New Sunday Times are English mainstream newspapers for a reason. Because we believe English serves a purpose. And pleasure, too. It is for this cause we have brought this Anglo-Germanic language to the doorstep of Malaysians for 174 years. Our first edition brought the distant world to us.
The world has no doubt changed tremendously. So has the English vocabulary. But our mission has remained the same: bringing to our readers all things English. It is not an English textbook for sure but an English-in-action.
News, analyses, opinions and editorials, like this very Leader. English cannot get any more real. The tactility of the New Straits Times and the New Sunday Times print copies is no different from that of English textbooks. Only more real. We must do more to make Malaysians love this real English.
First, we must stop treating English as a language of our colonial masters. Yes, it is the language spoken by the British who colonised us. But they have long gone. Besides, English is spoken by at least a billion more people who are not English.
Second, we must discard some mind-forged manacles. Learning English doesn’t make us forget our mother tongue. Unless we do not teach it to our children. English will always remain a second tongue, at least in the Malaysian context.
Third, a majority of our children who are taught English at school — and all of them are, at least as a subject — go home to a non-English environment. This we must change. The way to do it is to make the environment English-friendly.
Parents — especially the mothers who tend to spend more time with their children — must be taught English. When a family of people speak English, the language goes places. So does the confidence of the speakers of the language.
Limiting English to schools and universities restricts encounters in the language. Mastering English requires more touch points: home, neighbourhood, community, the workplace and the larger national space. All must help.
English is not only a global language. It is also a language of science, technology and knowledge. Not learning English is giving a well-lived life a miss. So join us and teach Malaysia English. For purpose and pleasure.