Good command of a language allows students to master a chosen field. FILE PIC

HARDWORKING children who practise rote learning may do well in school exams, but often struggle in colleges or universities when critical thinking is required.

Whatever knowledge they gained from books or studies are of little use, if not well understood. There will be no application until their importance is realised. The most important knowledge and skills students must acquire are language and communication skills. Mastering a language is necessary to learn fast and well, and thoughts can be clearly expressed in speech and writing.

A good command of a language would allow us to master a chosen field, if we put our heart and soul to it, be it in science, psychology, business or humanities.

As most commercial fields use English, those who excel in this language would achieve greater success in business or career.

All Malaysian students study English, at least as a subject, and their proficiency could easily be gauged by their pronunciation and enunciation. Whether they are schoolchildren or university graduates, asking a Malaysian to count from one to 10, and you are likely to hear “wan, too, tree, for, figh, sick, seben, egg, nigh, tan”.

Are teachers or lecturers speaking in the same manner or are they not bothered to correct wrong pronunciations? If so, they would not know the importance of enunciation. My granddaughter hardly spoke a word until she was 2 years old. Earlier, we tried getting her to repeat words in Cantonese or English, but she would just smile. However, we were shocked when she started speaking, as she spoke in complete sentences with perfect pronunciation and enunciation.

For example, when she said “look”, the k was clearly audible. She did not need us to teach her as she had the best tutor in the form of an idiot box, but not so when it is switched on to children’s educational programmes.

She taught herself English. Her sentences were complete, the grammar correct and pronunciation and enunciation would put many adults to shame.

If parents truly want their children to master English, all they need to do is have an additional TV set with English educational programmes switched on. Children are like sponges. They learn easily. They soak in information from the stimuli surrounding them. Between birth and 3 years of age, the human brain increases to 80 per cent of its adult size. What a powerful fact. This is such a crucial point in development for children, therefore, it’s important to foster their learning during this age period. Healthy interactions between a child and his environment is essential to developing strong communication skills that will last a lifetime.

I recently conducted training for young adults, who wish to work in the travel sector. English was used as the medium of instruction, as it is the lingua franca of the tourism industry. Decades ago, I noticed that many who studied in national schools would omit pronouncing the “s” for plural words, such as licences, reports, accidents, repairs and claims.

This time, one of the trainees read all the above plural words as if they were singular. When told to pronounce correctly with the “s”, he repeated the mistakes. Even when asked to pronounce first “report”, and then “reports”, he still pronounced both as “report”. I then remembered I could not spell his name correctly on the first day and had to make several changes when writing on the whiteboard.

My first attempt was based on how he pronounced his name, and two more attempts when he spelled it. He had a common name. But he could not even pronounce his name, he kept dropping a letter.

I had a childhood friend of the same name and I remember him well, as he gave me a scout belt which I wore proudly in primary school.

It is sad, but that’s the reality.

C.Y. Ming


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