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I cannot agree more with this writer here on the need to be able to speak English well when expressing ourselves at the global level. Not only what  we present  to the international audience  but how we articulate is equally important. The use of  suitable words, the understanding of  technical terms, good pronunciation, body language and appropriate emotion go a long way in making a point.

The first few days of the press briefings chaired by the Head of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) appeared chaotic with him moving here and there while making points though his English is good but his nervous mannerism was stressful to watch. The other three guys could also speak English but at that early stage of MH370’s disappearance they appeared hesitant. I remembered the army guy was saying about a “reciprocal turn back” by the jetliner but the following day he retracted the information.

The DCA Head was restless and at times appeared wanting to get away from the briefings in a hurry leaving reporters exasperated for information. If only he could have been more briefed himself before appearing to answer those questions fired from all around him! I felt there was a lack of coordination between Malaysia Airlines and the DCA. even the last words heard from the cockpit of MH370 are not correct, from the laidback unconventional “Alright, goodnight” now today 01 April has been changed to ” Good night Malaysian 370″,  I really don’t know what to believe now. There were so many so called ” facts” which needed to be changed.

The situation was much better with the Acting Transports Minister leading the press briefings. Many people including the foreign press have praised the Minister for his calm handlings of the international press. His “flawless English” and ability to take unprepared questions in English are admirable. I don’t think other Ministers apart from Khairy Jamaluddin ( the Oxford-educated Minister of Youth and Sports) could carry themselves in such a heated situation. I cringe at the thought of Zaid Hamidi (Minister of  Home Affairs), Liow Tiong Lai (Former Health Minister) and some other ministers with their poor command of English, leading such an international briefing.

If PM Najib who is said to be “leading from behind” doesn’t see the need to equip our children with English, I fear future leaders and civil servants would not be able to handle the international community with such finesse. Well, you can talk in Bahasa Malaysia but imagine your information being lost in translation!

I remember attending an international meeting in Thailand when the Governor of the province’s welcome speech was so badly translated that the he kept correcting the translator and later he just had to speak in English himself  to get his points across. We the audience were roundly confused till we heard it from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

MH370’s disappearance has many lessons for Malaysians to learn from and certainly good communication is one of them. Unless PM Najib thinks laterally, I don’t think he will reconsider the need to make English an important lingua franca in our education system.

English medium schools were ceased in 1982, that is 32 years ago and if a student who learnt in English was 18 then, he would be 50 now and would be among the last who could really speak and interact in English relatively well. In 10 years time, we will have half-baked English speakers. That is why those below 50,  now becoming associate professors in Universities and a few was interviewed on Television about  MH370’s disappearance spoke atrocious English, as lamented by the above quoted writer.

The abolition of PPSMI (the teaching of Math and Science in English) is a shortsighted policy that will affect our future generations facing a fiercely competitive world. The lack of ability to follow technical instructions will surely set us back in the scientific and technological fields.

Just imagine, even the flight simulator of the MH 370’s captain has to be sent to the United States  for analysis. We are just not capable in many hi-tech areas and yet so shamelessly arrogant. As the Malays say “bodoh sombong” (stupid but arrogant).


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