How should we judge a government?

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no
responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options
I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?
Corruption is so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

How to improve English when there is no wish for exposure?

Ideally, to learn a language, it is best to be in a country where it is spoken, and you had to learn it so as to be able to communicate with others in your daily life. But I had come across Malaysian students who did their degree courses in Britain but without much improvement to their standard of oral English. The main reason was because they tended to stick to their Malaysian circle of friends and made no effort in mixing with the locals.

When my daughter Cheng went to Japan as an exchange student, with the little Japanese I had learnt before, I knew more Japanese than her. But being thrown into the deep end (enrolled in a top Japanese high school), and with encouragement and help from her host mother, she managed to pass Level 2 (skipped elementary 4 and 3) after one year. Similarly, during her first summer holiday (Essex University), she travelled in Mexico to learn the Spanish language (for this she got exempted from Elementary) and passed her optional language paper.

In Malaysia, there is now an effort to re-introduce English as a compulsory subject in SPM in 2015. Many believe the students are not ready for it, but how can we, if we do not make an effort?

At a local restaurant where I used to go for dinner when alone, the boss's wife would ask me for help in her sons' English homework. They have two sons studying in a Chinese primary school, and normally they are seen doing their homework while watching television... but only Chinese programmes. I advised her to switch to English news (it was after NTV7's English news at 8, but TV2's was on at 8.30 pm) so that her sons can get some exposure to English, and she replied, 'They won't understand the language'. She did not make an effort because 'The legend of Kublai Khan' (in Mandarin) was on.

The above scenario sums up what is wrong with some people's approach to learning an important language. As a reminder, China is the most populated country in the world and because of this, Mandarin is the most used language. But in terms of internet use, English is the top language used, so anyone who wish to widen his or her knowledge has to learn this language. We cannot rely on translation because news on discoveries are being transmitted in seconds, and nobody (even those well versed in English) can claim to be able to know everything published or posted in the internet.

In terms of communication between two persons, I actually had trouble communicating with the woman, who speaks Mandarin and Hokien (she could be Teochew), while I know little of Mandarin and some expressions are easier using Cantonese which she has trouble understanding. I cannot find a common language or dialect between us, to discuss on certain topics. She would not even know the topics if I mentioned in English or Bahasa Malaysia terms, though she could communicate in BM in her normal work. In fact, with the basic BM I know, I find I can communicate better with a Malay than with her because there is a common language.

From my personal experience, I found that even with an A2 in General Paper (English) when I did my HSC, my oral English was not good enough. Before the results, a close friend who borrowed my class essays (having heard I got As) commented: 'The writer of these essays and you, seem like two different persons'!
When I was working in UK, my boss actually asked me if I think in English because I was  normally slow in reply. Even now, it is common for most of us to think in terms of our own mother tongue or a local language and translate it to English, which is not as natural as a native speaker. By the way, there are now some young Malaysians who are being brought up by their English-speaking parents, and they actually think in English. Most of them do not know their own dialects!

Speaking English is just like speaking a dialect, so a person who can speak in English may not necessarily be literate (able to read and write). Even with educated Britons, I found my spelling better. Once, I asked a colleague how he would spell the word, 'supersede'. He spelt it as 'supercede' and I was confirmed right after checking with a dictionary. He said he was so sure of his own spelling of the word that he would not even think of looking it up. In fact, this particular word is one of the most commonly misspelt words, even now, by journalists or even editors.

It is easier to be able to read than be able to write, because the former relies on recognition while the latter requires more knowledge. But a person who is good in writing may not necessarily be good in speaking the language, especially if he or she did not practise enough.


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