Monday, July 11, 2005

A letter to my ex-teacher on science and mathematics in english...

In a response to an excellent mail from my ex-teacher, here's my piece on the recent teaching of science and mathematics in english move.

Dearest and respected K****, sir.

Thanks loads for finding the time to remain in touch, even while being on a hectic schedule that you might have, being on the road, in a hot country like Malaysia. It's murder on me as well!

Anyways, I do take your point on the Lingua Franca of the world these days, and agree that English has been, in the correct day and time, being used by loads of different nationalities in order to communicate on common tongue.

Malay has always been the lingua franca on this part of the world since the olden time, and it was even recorded that the traders from Arab, India and China did communicate using Malay during their transaction at that particular time. The only major difference was that Malay was written using a script borrowed from the arabic, known as 'Jawi' in this region.

Familiarity with the 'jawi' script has also helped most malays to embrace the religion of Islam, by virtue of the ease in reading the arabic holy book, Al-Quran. This was also helped by the fact that Malays are known to be loyal subjects to their rulers, and the conversion (some Muslim refers to use revertion) to Islam by the Malay sultans.

Anyways, the slight worry that I have on the sudden emphasis on the teaching of english to the current generation of students comes from the real observation of the difficulties faced by students whose mother tongue is not english, and have only been exposed to the language through this official classes shoved down their throat!

It is natural for individuals to think and react using their own mother tongue, and there are only a few exception to this norm. I have a hypothesis that individuals from non-english mother tongue with no other use of english in their life (other than the formal english, science and maths in english classes) will find difficulties in expressing themselves. I know I will be proven right if and when someone do actually compile the data in their research, soon.

I reckoned that I could be included into the exceptional class afore-mentioned. Born to both malay-speaking parents, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to english language at a very early age, as early at about 7 years old, through the reading of comics, Beano comes to mind automatically. I graduated into Enid Blytons and further into other works by famous writers, Alexandre Dumas, Anthony Hope, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and not forgetting the one and only William Shakespear. It was self driven, but was helped by the encouragement through the monies provided by my late mother, a bi-lingual nurse, who, in herself, would rather be dead than caught speaking other than her mother tongue outside her workplace. She was a nationalist who prides on speaking her own dialect of Kelantanese.

I have also been in touch, officially or not, with others who share the same articulation in english language as me, and the similarities in their english language discovery to mine is very haunting! All of them read english at a very early age! Most of them, as well as me, have reached a very advanced stage of english proficiency even without leaving the shores of Malaysia. Being in a country where english is the first language helps a lot to further the level of proficiency.

Another factor that might have been of help is the exposure to the listening and speaking skills caught by watching english programs from BBC, especially the comedy series!

I hope my ranting has been of some help to you to understand more of the situation in Malaysia, as well as to appreciate my concern to the latest development. I also have some reservation about the introduction of the emphasis to english at a time when the country is in a political turmoil caused from the newly-found freedom voice of intelectual Malaysian, tired of UMNO-MCA-MIC lead government failures and short-comings. The ruling executives might have devised a scheme through this introduction of new requirement, whereby more time to be spent by youngsters of these days in pursuing academic excellence will somehow make them oblivious to the sorry state of the country. They would just let the country being run continuosly to the dogs by the ruling executives.

On closure, I hoped that you have enjoyed reading my mail, as much as or more than you have enjoyed your stay in the country so far.

Looking forward to more correspondence from you, my respected teacher!

Truly, Once a student of yours is forever a student of yours,



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