Thursday, July 16, 2009

Can Malays master English?

I have always been of the opinion that the Malays suffer from some kind of mental block and inferiority complex.

This was something that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tried hard to correct but he failed. In the final days of his reign, Mahathir said his greatest failure was that he could not change the mindset of the Malays.

Yesterday, I was at a private hospital in Subang Jaya and met one of the best heart surgeons in Malaysia because my wife will be going for surgery to remove another tumour, likely to be benign, from her chest area. (For my wife's musings, surf to or click at the link below)

He was a Malay and a gentleman. He seemed to me very Old World, very learned, very courteous and spoke excellent English. Obviously he was trained overseas. He had a laptop and a PDA on his table - obviously he was connected to the Internet generation - and I noticed Chinese paintings on the wall of the consultation room.

I couldn't help thinking to myself that his parents or grandparents must have been farmers or fishermen. Yet he could rise from such a humble background to become one of the best heart specialists in town. His command of English was superb and he must have learnt his science - and maths - in English. If he can do it, why can't other Malays?

A Malay colleague told me that she felt the government had made the wrong decision on the issue of teaching of Science and Maths in English. She said, "Come on, all the knowledge is coming from the West. Just google anything on science and see how many Malay websites you get." How many research papers are written by Malay (or Indonesian) scientists? "Our children will suffer."

She is another example of a Malay who has mastered English - after all she is writing for an English newspaper. I don't think she's from a rich family who could afford to send her for training overseas or private schooling.

In my office, we have another senior Malay reporter who is now editing and rewriting articles and correcting the English of Chinese reporters.

That shows that Malays can be just as good in English as anyone of any other race. That's why I still maintain it is a mindset issue.

I was told that when the government announced that the teaching of science and maths would revert to Bahasa Malaysia and vernacular languages in 2012, lots of Malay students in schools, especially in rural areas, actually cheered and celebrated.

Sadly, there are many, many more Malays who need to change their mindset and overcome the hurdles in their thinking.


  1. Sorry.....who is suffering from mental block and inferiority complex?
    We all suffer from mental blocks too. Where do the Chinese stand on this? I am not sure if all kids view this as a set back (and a set back by our ''standards''because we have been there and done that? and we know better? or do we?)and if only the Malay kids were the ones cheering either.
    Do you know what language the Jews use for teaching maths and science? Or the Germans?
    Surely not all progress and knowledge is from the west.And I thought the west were sending people to the east to learn their medical methods (research done in which language) and Korea has one of the best skin products in the world (which many are only just experiencing)..... you go into their website and its in Korean like they care if you don't buy their products. I am frustrated because I need them to translate it into English (because I am limited).
    A language is a means to an end. Its not the be all. If the kids are desperate (like I was desperate enough to want to get that Korean product) and brilliant enough to touch the world, they will find their own way. We keep shoving things and ideas into their head. They need to think and discover for themselves even if it is in BM.

  2. why bother to understand one policy decision from umno? its a racist party trying to stay in power and enrich its own elitist group. all policies are policies of convenience..with similar objectives.. to stay in power and to enrich themselves- period.

    how about trying to understand why msians pay the highest cost for buying cars?
    how about trying to understand the ongoing brain drain of a nation's brightest brains?
    how about not acting on the attorney general's ongoing reports of mispent of rakyat's money?
    how about nFa on waste of huge sums of money on dubious project?

    none of the above makes sense if you see it from the context of a thinking,functioning govt - but it is practised here, blatantly, openly and ministers go thru these episodes as if it was a normal thing. and that is the key to it...

    it is a normal thing .. for a gang of racist who are focused on divding and ruling, continuously dumbing down of the population, continuously embarking on mega projects.

    and that is why the mass media is such an insidious tool. it's bread and butter is premised on misreporting, erroneous assumptions.
    see wong chun wah's take on the latest macc death.. " dont make assumptions, let .. investigate.. blah2"

    this is the same man who once wrote that the PDRM shd improve lest it becomes refered to as the PRDM ( Polis Raja Di Msia)

    this same PRDM will invstigate?.. and then??

    Umno policy?? PTUI!!!