English has always been a language of concern in our country, especially for the fact that we are considered as a nation whose proficiency in English is fairly good. However, in my opinion, this consideration is greatly flawed.
Their standard of English is a shame in itself.
It is indeed discouraging to know that while we pride ourselves in being a multi-linguistic society, meaning that one is able to converse in at least two languages (Bahasa Melayu and English) or more, our mastery in languages is somewhat poorer than anticipated. We see that people, in general, are able to write well, but they are not able to speak just as well as they could write.
My main focus here is on English, and although we take English as Second Language in our country, still its emphasis as a medium of instruction in schools and universities is great enough for an enormous amount of attention.
It is simply appalling to see students, especially university students (including those in my campus) who are expected to have a good proficiency in English, to be making mistakes that are now considered unforgivable in terms of language. To make the most fundamental errors in grammar such as the subject-verb agreement "is" and "are", tenses and so on are simply an atrocity in itself. Our teachers have taught us English since kindergarten or primary school, and to see the fact that throughout their eleven years or so of education and yet their English is as if they have not even gone for the first lesson in English is simply unthinkable. Is English such a difficult language to learn? If people of other nationalities can master English, why can we not do that as well?
What discontented me very much is the fact that during presentations, people often stumble themselves groping for words in their vocabulary, and while doing so selecting words that are not suitable in terms of meaning and perhaps even grammar. Also, it is disheartening to see that students, especially university students, making the simplest of pronunciation errors and though they know that their pronunciation is wrong, they never made the slightest effort in correcting themselves. How would you pronounce "determine" and "lethal"? I tell you the truth, out of 10 students who are tested, I can say that at least six of them will get either one of the words wrongly pronounced, with the word "determine" being mispronounced the most.
Come on, people! A lot of us are university students now, and we are required to make a lot of presentations. One way to impress your audience is the proficiency of English that you possess. If initially we say that while presenting it does not even matter if your English is broken, that is because we believe that in the early stages of presentation, you might be nervous and this can cause some difficulty in structuring your sentences. However, by now, since our medium of instruction is only English, our proficiency should reflect those suited for at least a Band 5 or Band 6 standard of English, according to MUET grading, more so as we have had English lessons all this while for the past twelve or thirteen years of formal education!
As if the poor proficiency in English among students is not enough, even lecturers themselves have such a poor level of English, and I am not just referring to lecturers in public universities, but also private universities such as Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP). UTP has always prided itself in having the best amenities and facilities for students and staff; it is indeed undeniable, but the standard of English that a lot of students and lecturers possess here is simply a mockery of themselves. Quite a number of my lecturers make lots of grammatical and pronunciation errors. Some say, "How do I say you?" when he or she really meant "How do I put it for you?" or "How do I explain it to you?" As a lecturer, it is expected that they are able to converse in English almost flawlessly. Needless to say, quite a great number of our local lecturers themselves urgently need English proficiency classes. They may refuse to take it due to reputation reasons, but if I were the chancellor of my university, I do not care tuppence about their reputation! To have lecturers and administrators whose English is poor would ruin the general reputation of the university as a whole. It is far better to send these lecturers for English training courses, degrade their images for a moment and then send them back to work with a new and better impression formed.
A good proficiency in English is vital especially to academicians who need to impart knowledge to students. Lecturers with poor proficiency in English may be prone to giving wrong information unintentionally due to the wrong words used, or the misinterpretation that may be caused. As such, lecturers, who definitely have much more exposure in terms of linguistic development, should and must have a good level of English. They must be able to speak and present like a Band 6 or Band 7 MUET candidate. The requirement seems very high, but extremely necessary.
I am tired and fed-up of being appalled by the standard of English portrayed by so many students and lecturers in my campus. Even the authorities themselves make silly spelling and grammatical mistakes while issuing bulletins, notices or announcements.
I am indeed sad to say that while the English teachers have put in their hearts and souls in the teaching of English to students, little do they realise how much they have failed miserably in ensuring that our standard of English is on par with many other countries around the world. The Ministry of Education on the other hand should raise the standard of English in terms of grading and marking for papers, as well as setting a stringent assessment scheme. It is definitely necessary to lower down the number of A's for English in PMR and SPM examinations. The A that they obtain in their public examinations simply does not reflect the standard of English that they possess. Their standard of English is a shame in itself.