Saturday, October 5, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

The talk by some vocal Chinese in Malaysia about the importance of English as an international language is pure propaganda. It has not real basis.

The only reason why they want to use the language as the main medium of instruction in the schools in Malaysia is because they want to obliterate the use of the Melayu language, which they know most of them cannot master.

However, even if the Melayu are forced to study and speak in English, they will excel more than the Chinese who can never speak or write in it as well as the Melayu can.

In Chinese-dominated countries which were also under British rule, such as Hong Kong the Chinese there did not bother to study English and the main medium of instruction in the schools is still Chinese or Cantonese.

Even Singaporeans are speaking in Chinese more than English and all their major television and radio programs are also in this language instead of English.

Most of the Singaporeans speak English which is passable and not exactly perfect. And if they are interviewed on foreign television programs, chances are what they say has to be subtitled since they do not pronounce English words well.

The demand by the Melayu and other patriotic non-Melayu in Malaysia to have the ‘sekolah kebangsaan’ as the only school in the country has basis, and if the students are to be forced to master the English language, they can do it within this one education system.

Many workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and other countries speak good Melayu which is a lot better than most of the Chinese despite them not studied Melayu formally.

The Mandarin and Tamil school systems have also not created the Chinese and Tamils who are proficient in English as much as they are in Melayu.

Since many of the Chinese and Tamil students drop out of the vernacular Mandarin and Tamil schools early, the level of their understanding of Mandarin and Tamil is very low.

It is also the same with the Melayu and the others who drop out of the ‘sekolah kebangsaan’ after Form Five, whose understanding of Melayu is also low that many cannot write in the language well.

Yet, most of them can still pass their driving tests to get their driving licenses which is given in Melayu.

How on earth did the Chinese and Indian taxi-drivers and petty traders get their driving licenses when they do not speak or write well in Melayu? 

The other reason why the Chinese do not favor sending their children to the ‘sekolah kebangsaan’ is because of the strong emphasis on Islamic studies and Islam, so they feared their children could be compelled to revert to Islam.

The truth is most of the Chinese reverts to Islam are those with the vernacular Mandarin school backgrounds. Check with Perkim and watch their programs at 11.30 a.m. every Friday on TV2.

And if there are parents who could afford to send their children for ballet and piano lessons and excel in them, then surely they too could have sent their children to English lessons.

Why didn’t the Chinese parents demand the government also provided the children with those ballet and piano lessons too? 

Hong Kong was returned to China from Britain on 1 July, 1997 and Macau from Portugal two years later, after they were colonized by the two European superpowers of the day for so long.

They were under the colonization of Britain and Portugal for 99 years as opposed to Malaysia which was under them for a mere 176 years.

Britain benefited much from the colonization of Hong Kong and all the other more than fifty countries that provided the country with their natural resources while planting their social, cultural and not counting religious biases on the locals or natives.

Portugal on the other hand, was not so smart; while their country remained backward, Macau was able to develop.

Their experience in governing Macau for 99 years had caused Macau to be developed, but Portugal remained backward. And today even within the European Union, Portugal remains as one if not the most poorly developed country in the EU.

At the same time Portugal did not leave much legacy in Macau as did Britain in Hong Kong.

Portuguese may be the official language in Macau as does Mandarin, and English used to be the official language in Hong Kong as did Cantonese, yet, there is no loss for the locals that did not seem to favor these languages.

There was and also still is no clamor by the local Chinese to get their governments to have a single education system which uses only English or Portuguese as the medium of instruction.

The problem is that these countries are Chinese-dominated.

Whereas in Malaysia, the Melayu population is not yet overwhelming with the percentage of the Chinese which is still large enough to allow them to exert any demands on the Melayu who they have by design or by the mistake of the Melayu themselves, have been fractured to force them to be grouped into two or three groups, all of which clamor for the support from the Chinese who they have appointed to be the kingmakers of the country’s political system, which is sad.

Yet, at the same time, the propaganda some Chinese have been using to say that English is an international lingua franca which is integral to the further development of the country is nothing but propaganda.

Some Melayu have also swallowed such propaganda and have appointed themselves to be the unpaid and unofficial spokesmen for the British who do not care for their personal sentiments.

The truth however, the Chinese in Macau and also Hong Kong do not care for English.

And on my recent visit to the two countries I found it so difficult to find a Chinese who could speak English.

I was lucky to be able to see some Filipino maids or those working in the travel industry in the hotels who I could approach to seek information and direction.

Even the Chinese staff at the hotel and airport do not speak much English. If they do speak the language they do it in a thick Chinese accent.

No Chinese in Malaysia has ever compared to the situation in Malaysia and in those two countries, to see if English had become too instrumental in the economic development of the two countries.

Even when Hong Kong was under direct British rule for 99 years, the main school system was still Mandarin-based, so those who could speak English were so few.

And the number of the Chinese in Hong Kong who can speak in English today is even less, with the more Chinese from Mainland China who have come to seek a better livelihood had come to Hong Kong so in the end they are able to overwhelm the original inhabitants of the country who speak in Cantonese so much so that they too have to study Mandarin to be able to communicate with the Mainland Chinese.

Yet, both Hong Kong and Macau are countries which can be said to be developed economically with the people experiencing a modern lifestyle while speaking in Mandarin or Cantonese.

This goes to prove that the mastery of the English language does not automatically allow any country to become developed.

If this logic is good, then why is the Philippines still not at par with Hong Kong and Macau?

There are many Filipinos who are able to speak in English although they may do so with a thick Filipino accent which is influenced by the Spanish upbringing.

Being under American occupation for a while after the Spanish left, the Filipinos were able to study English, but their country is still not so developed.

And on a more personal level, why then are there so many African-Americans and also Native Americans who speak excellent English who can be considered to be economically backward compared to the Caucasian Americans?

Even Singapore which had stressed the importance of English has not proven to the world how the language could unite all Singaporeans, especially with the many Chinese who still prefer to use their mother tongue.

And the television programs especially the dramas and travelogues and magazine programs are all in Mandarin and not in English.

If the Singaporeans speak in English, it will have a strong alien accent and not in proper English that we know today, so much so that what they say in interviews is subtitled. And they are not the ordinary Singaporeans, but the professionals such as engineers.

There are not that many places in Singapore and also Malaysia where one can speak proper English.

So even if one can write well in the language, one can still speak in the language with some alien accent.

And it is not just accent which is wrong with Malaysians and Singaporeans when they speak in English; it involves a host of other issues relating to their social and cultural upbringing and historical influences that can cause them to behave like idiots if they confront true English men or women and if they are in England or any other English-speaking country.

So if there are some Chinese and also Melayu in Malaysia who think if the people are excellent in English, only then the country can fully develop, they can go to Macau and Hong Kong and see for themselves how this is not true.

The people of Macau and Hong Kong can do away with English and they can still develop their own countries as much as the other developed countries in Europe and Japan, South Korea and even China which sends their ‘taikonauts’ to space speaking in Mandarin.  

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