English is important but not at the expense of Bahasa Melayu

English is important but not at the expense of Bahasa Melayu

No one has ever denied the importance of the English language. If parents want to teach their children English every day, every night, let them do so.

The Chinese send their children to learn English but they still teach Science and Mathematics in their mother tongue. So do the Koreans, Japanese, Thais, Indonesian and others.

But I believe that the best way to build our citizens’ mindset is by using our national language. It will create a difference and the ability to compete.

We have worked hard for 60 years to build our nation, using the language that is on par with other languages globally and its achievement has been well recorded (look at the statistics by experts at the national/global level).

Our weakness in technological development is not because of language. It was caused by weak policies that failed to drive our technological development. We were not ready to sacrifice in developing technology locally – everything was about business and profits.

The implication of teaching Science and Mathematics in English is that we are undermining our own language as a medium to transmit knowledge.

The Malays are undermining their own language. People will only laugh at us. In the future, the younger generation will regret their forefather’s decision.

I would like to again emphasise that English is important now and for the next 20 years to come. We must teach our children to master and communicate in English in order to compete globally.

We need to increase our competence in English but not at the expense of our national language.

After 40 years of spending time with the international community, this is what I believe in.

Datuk Dr Awang Sariyan is a Malay Language Expert from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

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