01 July 2012

With a sigh ( Pt 12 ) – English for Employment


This posting was prepared last week but a more personal matter took precedence. I regret for the delay.

                                       From NST 18-6-2012

 The front page of NST of 18th June carried an eye-catching headline, “Undergrads to boost their English skills”.

It seems that from September a new system will help to prepare local undergrads for the working world. According to the report, essentially, students will learn English according to three tiers –

English for Employment,

Intensive English and

General English

This was reported to be a ‘strategic plan to enhance proficiency in English among public university students’.

Then it went on to report that ‘university faculties can also opt to conduct theEnglish For Specific Disciplinesubject to enhance students’ comprehension of their field of study’.
It went on to talk about ‘classroom learning’ and ‘beyond classroom learning’.

And so on , and so forth ……..
Towards the end the report went on to say, ‘all these roadmaps are designed to boost students’ confidence in communicating in English.
“Subsequently, this will heighten their competency level and create holistic human capital.”
At the end I had to ask myself what I was reading about. Do we now realise the inadequacy of the standard of English in our education system? Must we devise ‘roadmaps’ like the famous ‘roadmaps’ towards peace in the Middle East?
This is indeed a very futuristic and fantastic plan which aims to prepare a graduate for the working world. I never knew there were so many parts and categories in learning English. I was never taught that English for Employment. During the thirty years of my working life I used the same English to say good morning to all levels of office colleagues, used the same language in conversation at the bus stops, and used the same in the board room – of course, minus the four-letter word and those associated with it. I was stumped only on one occasion when a fashionable English lady begged to excuse herself from our dinner table ‘to powder her nose’. That seemingly innocent phrase prompted me to give a furtive glance at her face wondering what had gone wrong with the powder on her nose! I should have attended a course in English for Social Occasions. That phrase is not unlike the Malay expression ‘ Saya rasa hendak kesungai ( I would like to go to the river).’
And here I am drawing a long sigh, unable to make head or tail of the newspaper report. Perhaps some enlightened visitors may be able to tell Pakcik in a simple English language what the ‘roadmaps’ are all about.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
In her younger days, my Mama had always wondered why did she need to learn two types of English lessons. One was English for communications, the other was English 121. No difference at all....but of course one came with Cambridge cert while the other was lumped with other subjects in the SPM cert.
Seriously, if the younger generation had been taught proper English at school, especially the basics, they can apply it anywhere. At tertiary level, the undergrads should take it upon themselves to read more so that they can improve their grasp of the language. They refuse to even read a simple newspaper, so what hope do we have? News portals, while good for latest information, the language used made me cringe.
Your experience about the lady who had to go powder her nose left me in stitches. Yeah...sometimes not understanding metaphors can be harmful. My Mama once was reprimanded by a superior for using the phrase Top Dog to describe a particular Captain of Industry. Just because that person took things literally. purrr....meow!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. English is English; however you are going to use it, wherever you want to use it. Language proficiency in any particular field is a lifelong training and not something that can be taught as a two month course. This is indeed a crappy situation to be remedied with crappy ideas. Let’s go back to the root cause that has led us to our current sad state, rather than trying to remedy the symptoms.

aliya said...

Dear Pakcik Hassan,
I'm not surprised at all. Students can automatically enter Form 4 these days although they fail all subjects in PMR. And despite being unable to write a proper grammatically correct sentence in English, some students do pass that subject in SPM level.
The problem with our education system is, there's more emphasis on reading and writing [70% of marks for English 1119 is on writing essays and summary]and less on public speaking. Hence we have undergrads who can't speak good English, entering universities with a low band 2 or 3 in MUET.

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
I'm stumped! It's all a measure of personal interest. If you wish to improve your English just read, read, read! Anything at all! There were obstacles before that 'I can read but I'm not sure of the pronunciation' Now the internet has everything. Sound is no more a problem. Read day and night and use the right word at the right place, nothing bombastic. Anyone can do it! Give a target of say,3 months and see the improvement. Please, for heaven's sake stop writing 'besday' for 'birthday' or 'xlike' for 'don't like' or things like that. Try it and develop the interest. It'll go a long way! This is what I would tell anyone who wants to improve his English!


ninotaziz said...

I am sorry, but while your article should really bring out the indignant me, at the frivolous ideas constantly bombarding us nowadays, I could not stop myself from laughing out loud!

This reminds me of the waitress who could expertly take orders in the Queen's English, yet was stumped when was asked where she came from as she spoke excellent English (a little bit like my french - I can write french poetry but can hardly speak coherently!)

Just incase you are thinking of the girls, here is our little Ikesha and Ilena :


che mamat laki minah tonggek said...

after all, the best solution will be "back to square one"

Al-Manar said...


Ha ,ha, now a cat is talking about her mother, a top dog too in that charity organization.

We, the old timers, will have to accept that English has evolved to a fantastically complicated world language. There is special English for everything. In Malaysia our top-notch professors, who have a lot more grey matter than us, are pushing ahead to create that special English to beat the rest of the world.

Al-Manar said...


'Remedy the symptoms', you said. I like that expression. We are indeed in a 'crappy situation' but can those flying in the thick clouds see the airstrip? I am glad you feel strong enough to express it here. Thank you.

ahmad humairi said...

Assalamualaikum Tuan,

Terima kasih sudi bertandang ke teratak hamba.....kecil tapak tangan, bulan jatuh ke riba saya tadahkan.

Bahasa Inggeris - kelemahan saya. Begitu kelebihan di pihak tuan. Moga sering berkunjung ke sini akan meng"improve" penguasaan saya dalam Bahasa Inggeris pula, insyaAllah.

Al-Manar said...


I regard you as having been well trained to teach English. Until I read your message I did not know about that the 70% marks. I have fairly successfully taught English purely on the bases of need; namely wide range of vocabulary, essential grammar, identifying typical English expressions and ability to construct sentences without purely depending on direct translation of Malay words and phrases. I try to make them pronounce English words properly. It is my regret to realise how poor these rural children are in oral. I simply do not care for the highly acclaimed erxam ‘format’ that I hear so much about from teachers. It is the same with Maths and sciences. Teach what needed to be taught, never mindf the exam 'format'.

In a rural area like where I am children are habitually reserved in speech, withholding their opinions. It is my belief that schools around here should make children participate in activities like oral speaking, reciting poems and acting on stage to rectify this inherent weakness, instead of forcing them to take games etc to score points in extra-curricular activities. With limited time, being a one-man show, I simply have no opportunity to do these other than making them read alaud in class, in turn, correcting wrong pronunciations.I use simplified Jane Eyre, Heidi etc to meet my need.

I will soon need to know about the new exam-free system introduced this year for Form 1 pupils. I simply cannot imagine that all subject teachers can be relied to assess performance throughout the years until SPM. Of course, as you say, children can get promoted to Form 4 even without to pass PMR exam. Hence, by simple logic, why do we need exams? Ha,ha - I see more mess coming.

ninotaziz said...

On this point, I agree whole-heartedly. I believe with ALL MY HEART that kids should indulge in play-acting, story-telling and drawing always. Whenever they have spare time.

I adore it when I here drama and theatre performed in our bathroom, garden, living room and on the stairs!

First, kids must be brave enough to speak. Then, comes the time to correct their speech!

Al-Manar said...


So you detest that modern way of spelling; besday, xlike etc. How about emosi, produksi, spekulatif and hundreds of such English words officially bastardised and found in our great Dewan Bahasa Dictionary? I suspect it is no longer fashionable to say ‘ Kita boleh ramal yang banyak lagi perasan marah akan berhasil dari perbincangan ini.” – Saya rasa yang lebih canggeh munkin, “ i boleh buat spekulasi banyak emosi marah yang akan menjadi produksi dari diskusi ini.”!

You and I belong to the old school of reading everything we can lay our hand on. You may be wrong. We have banned Playboy for obvious reasons. But who cares for Playboy when one can get more juicy writing and pictures by Googling? So, dear Hank, you may not be right to say read ‘anything at all” unless, of course, you mean to include potential specialists in human anatomy!

Al-Manar said...


What two lovely and lively kids they are!

I know your love for play-acting etc and I feel truly sorry the educationists around my area simply cannot see the merit of such activities in helping to rectify the main weakness in this semo rural environment, ie lacking in verbal/vocal expression.

Al-Manar said...

Cikgu Humairi,

Satu hari saya serahkan sebuah karangan dalam bahasa Melayu kepada Cikgu Ali Jusoh. Bila tiba kerumah saya beberapa hari kemudian dia ketawa. Sambil menunjukkan banyaknya garisan dibawah ayat ayat yang salah dia berkata, " Haji, tulis saja lah dalam bahasa Inggeris. Ini bukan bunyi Melayu .....!"

Jadi saya lawati blog blog dalam bahasa Melayu yang bermutu, penulisan dan isinya. Biarlah terliwat (betulkah ejaan ni - lewat atau liwat?) saya hendak juga memberbaiki seberapa yang boleh. Saya cuba menjadi guru warga mas tua. Mahulah belajar pandangan guru guru professional (apa Melayunya perkataan ini?).

Ada satu masa dalam kelas saya terkeluar perkataan " ... jangan beri kemaluan kepada ..." Besarnya ketawa budak budak lelaki dan tersipu sipu pula yang perempuan. Tahulah dimana silapnya. Belajarlah. Lain kali tiada lagi yang memalukan (betul?)

Al-Manar said...

Saudara Che Mamat Laki Minah Tonggek,

Maaf, saya hampir terlupa memberi kata kata aluan kepada saudara yang amat intimewa ini.

Indeed, back to the square one may be the answer to all this hu ha. You must have such an intense view on this issue to express it briefly. I honestly thank you for expressing this and hope this is not the last time to see you, one having such a eloquent name.

Wan Sharif said...

Somehow i have to agree with the cat... And honestly I loved your comments to Cikgu Aliya...
Teruja juga saya bila saya dapati Abang Hassan ingin memperbaiki mutubahasa Malaysia Abang Hassan.. Nasib saya agak baik kerana saya meminati cerpen dan puisi Melayu.. Mungkin juga kerana di tahun enam puluhan ada orang membeli surat khabar bahasa Melayu di Pulau Duyong untuk saya pinjam sekali sekala ;)

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

We have our weaknesses. One of mine is written Bahasa Melayu. I was good enough to get an A in my Cambridge Senior School Certificate. But that was in the old Zaaba's grammar, spelling and all. Furthermore my strength was in Jawi script, aggain the old script. Our cerdek pandai have changed the Jawi spelling as well!

I do not think I can ever master today's spelling and grammar. That author Ali Jusoh was right that I should forget trying to write in Malay. My sentences in Malay reflect English structure!

Itulah Ayah Wang. Doh tuer tok sedor kediri. Nok belagok macang orang muder.

abdulhalimshah said...

Dear Pak Cik,
All these so-called "Road-maps" are pure rubbish. There is only one English Language for all purpose, which is aimed at making yourself understood by the English speaking world, no matter in whatever profession and occupation.

i amsterdam said...

It's obvious that the system fails. We need to revamp the system beginning in Tahun 1.

Just to share with you - English subject is introduced in Grade 7 (equivalent to tahun 5) in Dutch primary school, and yet the Dutch speak fairly good English. So where does our system fail?

Al-Manar said...

i amsterdam,

Other than teaching of a language a teacher does not only need the overall command of the the subject but also exposure to native speakers. Many Malaysian teachers of the new generation are very lacking in these two areas. They are qualified on papers but personally I see weaknesses among teachers teaching English. And of course the syllabus itself shows inedequacy.

Europeans are multilingual by nature of their social life, mobility etc. Malay and English are two languages very different in sentence structure, and Malays in general do not have the opportinity to interact with English speaking people.

Indeed we need a lot of revamping.