Nowadays, the importance of English cannot be denied and ignored since English is the most common language used everywhere. With the help of developing technology, English has been playing a major role in many sectors including medicine, engineering, technology, aviation and education. Moreover, English is the international language of tourism, banking, computing, diplomacy, Hollywood films, and the best song in the world and for the business.
Working experience and English language can produce career opportunities in international markets and regions. Most of us avoided using English language in Malaysia especially in higher educational, as we didn’t see the benefits of having second language earlier on. There are many reasons why learning English could change our life for the better. It is not only to create more career opportunities but we could feel the different as you approach other areas of our life too. Consequently, English should be the medium of communication for higher educational in Malaysia and this will contribute to develop Malaysia into an industrialized in line with the 2020’s vision.
“So, why is English important? After Mandarin, English is spoken by more people than any other language, and is the native language of more than 350 million people. More people speak English than those who speak the Arabic and French languages combined.” - Vance Carson(2007)
In business life habitually, the most important common language throughout the world used is obviously English. In addition to this, almost all business transactions, including emails, contracts, reports, and vice versa are written in English. Thus, if we have the abilities and communicating fluently in English, the job opportunities with international companies will be brighter. The huge Oil and Gas companies such as Exxon, Shell and etc. generally employ graduates whom can communicate in English fluently and orderly. For example, the student who is graduated from a university which took English as a major language will find a better or high-quality job compare to students who don’t know English adequately. In other words, the student who knows English is able to perform efficiently in their job because they can use and understand information obtained from the source given. University’s graduates need to learn English because English is used world widely for various purposes. That means we could practice and experience a great boost to our career by mastering English.
“Some students can hardly communicate when they need a second language for tertiary education or for job placement. University Malaysia Vice Chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim claimed many law students did not have a strong command of English and are struggling in the Malaysian courts”. (Datuk Rafiah Salim)
Apart from that, for those who use internet as their methods of searching information, it could be useful and helpful as the information is mostly available in English. For instance in website, English is used as the medium of communication. English is typically the language of the latest applications version and programs such as freeware, shareware, peer-to-peer, and social media networks. Software, hardware guides and installation manual are usually written in English. For popular electronics and entertainment devices usually are available in English before being made available in other languages.
Many of the most prominent and well known publications throughout the world are printed and written in English. Scholars interested in doing research at an academic level, or working on new scientific developments, should consider the benefits of learning English to read these periodicals and publish their own work. Publication in peer-reviewed journals is often required for someone who wishes to remain in academic circles, and the ability to read and write in English may be necessary to maintain such a position. Even learning about current events often requires an understanding of the language, since so many global publications and news websites use it. So now you know, learning another language isn't just about improving your job prospects, but it will also give you advantages you had never imagined.
Mastering the English Language and its impact on employability
In my opinion, mastering the English language is important because it will give impact on employability in Malaysia. “A recent survey among 30 companies offering 220 jobs revealed that only 11% of the applicants were considered “employable” “A total of 9,300 graduates applied for the positions but some 90% didn’t even get through the door — they were just not considered employable.” – Outsourcing Malaysia (OM) chairman David Wong (2010).
There are many reasons for poor command of English language among students in Malaysian higher education institutions. They are:
1. Student Attitude; 2. Teacher Centered; 3. Lack of Exposure; and 4. Untrained Teachers / Lecturers.
Now, I will discuss more on the four elements of the reasons for poor command of English language among students in Malaysian higher education institutions.
Most of the students experience anxiety whenever they are required to speak in public. This is because of their lack of confident to speak as they are afraid of being laughed whenever they make mistakes. Besides, they tend to underestimate their ability of speaking in English. As a result, the confidence level couldn’t be upgraded and they remain at the same level.
Besides, most of the students tend to point fingers at others for their mistake. For instance, whenever they failed their English test, they will start to blame others for the failure instead of giving themselves a chance to improve. If the students keep on practising this attitude, they are not going to improve their self.
Being defensive should be avoided in order for us to improve ourselves. Nowadays, we can see that most of the students are unable to accept criticism or comments given to them as they take it negatively and personally. They tend to defend themselves by giving feedback immediately and aggressively.
Last but not least, being a perfectionist should be avoided too in order for us to master English language. There is a quote saying that “no body is perfect”. The perfectionist person will be disappointed if something that has been done is not as they expected. As a result, whatever they have planned will be ruined. Confident people are not perfectionist; they will try to achieve success but not perfectionism.
A teacher-centred is one way learning method in the classroom. Lecturer or teacher only provides necessary information and they will lead the activity for presentation and production of learning material. This also can be obstacle to students to master English language. This method of learning actually not giving the opportunity to student to enhanced their English language.
Besides, there is quote saying that “Practice make perfect”, so to make student in higher educational comfortable and fluently speaking in English they need to practice. If the learning environment is using the teacher-centred learning methods, it is impossible for students to practice using English language. This situation also can increase the vicious cycle for Malaysian students that proficiency and mastering English language.
Last but not least, the biggest obstacle those students will have to overcome the boredom and confusion among the students. As soon as boredom sets in, chaos ensues. The lecturer has to know how to deal with talking or minor offences like poking each other or hitting. This will down their interest learn English language. This is because of they are being lectured to all the time.
Lack of exposure.
Exposure can be related with what happened surrounding of us. We can expose through many methods when we need something to learn. It can be through entertainment, music, public and etc.
Most activity organized in the higher educational is not for English language. For example, in University as we can see most of the activities they organized are sports carnival, food carnival, cultures carnival and etc. This does not encourage student to master English. By this situation student in higher educational actually did not expose to English and not aware of the important of English language.
Besides, not only environment at higher education this also happened when student came from rural areas. Exposure to English language is important to increase the awareness how important the English language to students. If the activity from higher institution not facilitating and helping students to master English language it can increase the boundaries among student with good English and average English.
Last but not least, actually most of the English programme in higher education not supported by student. This probably begins when they first heard about the programme and activity. Higher educational students more likely and interested to join other programme rather than education programme.
Untrained teacher / lecturer.
There are several reasons for poor command of English among students. Firstly, teachers who are untrained and who are not proficient in the English language are required to teach the subject. Some of the higher institution tends to employ fresh graduates so that they can employ them with average wages as they do not have much experience.
Secondly, untrained teachers may face the problem of having to cope with large numbers of students in the classrooms. Besides, untrained teachers not exposed to effective teaching methods this can cause the learning environment tedious. Furthermore, there is also an absence of an English-speaking environment in the class.
As a result, most students were unable to score better than Band 2 (below average) in the Malaysian University Test (MUET). These students may find it difficult to cope with their studies when they enter university and could end up becoming mediocre graduates. These also actually contribute to why student in higher educational can’t master English language.
Suggestions to improve the English language proficiency of students in higher educational institutions in Malaysia.
There are several type and way to mastering in English language. In my opinion, an easy way to understand English is more important in higher educational institutions in Malaysia. This not for student only, the institution also need to contribute and support our local student for mastering in English. With the support from institution, this will help student to master English. Actually as student in higher educational, they need to be realistic about their level of proficiently in English. One thing that holds many language learners back is actually trying too hard and tackling something that their brain is not ready for yet. Checking your level with a level check test on the internet, by taking an English language test (FCE, CAE, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL, etc.), or by taking a free trial level check and lesson in a language school will help you to find out where your level is, so that you can choose suitable self-study materials.
Programme for students.
One way of improving the students’ behaviour is by having a seminar programme. This also can contribute for students to master English. With the good of seminar programme this will indirectly make the students aware why important to master English language. For example, this can be done by seminars programme such as raise awareness of the importance of English language. Although we cannot expect to come out of a very short course speaking much better English then when we’re started it, if you’re continue studying a little over the following weeks and months, the knowledge you gained then will gradually come out and mean that your level of speaking and listening are better than before. This positive effect can still be true up to a year later. The programme such as seminar and short courses indirectly can helps students from higher educational to master in English by speaking and written.
Besides, other way of improving the students’ behaviour is by having a meeting with their parents. Parent’s teacher meetings can be an eye opener to both parties. The first parent-teacher meeting may be initially uncomfortable for both the parent and teacher. However, well conducted meeting will move beyond grades or problems that the student may be experiencing. It is the best time for the parents to share their knowledge of their child to their teachers. These meeting are not just to discuss about the students’ performance in academic or how he/she can improve on the subjects which they are not good in. It could also be an opportunity for the teachers to increase the parents’ awareness of their child’s mode of study. Sometimes, teacher knows the students better than parents because they spend most of the time with them. They will only know the performance of their child once the final examination result comes in hand. This meeting also helps both parties to sit and analyse what can be the causes of the students acting or behaving that way. By having this meeting, it is an opportunity for the parents and teachers to know each other too. The teachers will get an idea about the background of the students and parents will also know the behaviour and attitude of the teachers too.
Two way communication.
“Through two-way communication, students and teachers can be informed of what is expected related to child behavior, achievement, and discipline. This sets the stage for establishing shared goals, mutual decision-making, avoiding misunderstanding, and helping student understands how to reinforce learning and reading.” (Esler et al., 2008, p. 927). Teaching is not as easy way as presenting information and assigning work; teaching, like any form of communication, is a two-way street. There need to be some kind of understood relationship between teacher and the students so that the exchange of the language and information results in student actually learning. This is why it is important to have two way communications with the students. Furthermore, this opportunity actually can increase the student by practice using the English language if there is two way communications. One of the best ways to create the two way communication is the lecturer or teacher can use such as icebreaker activities to change the learning environment more fun. The benefit of icebreaker activities include creates a positive group atmosphere, helps student more relax, break down social barriers, energizes and motivated. But make sure the English language is being used by student. This will help indirectly student by practice using English language.
Create the opportunity to practice.
Create can be determine to build, assemble, or produce an object or idea. The act of creating is usually tied to being innovative with existing materials. As what from Wikipedia “Practice is the act of rehearsing a behaviour over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving and mastering it”.-(Wikipedia). So when you combine it “create the opportunity to practice”, you need to find solution how to create the opportunity. For example, try to talk with your family, friends, and people surroundings you; then you also can try to talk even though talk with the mirror. Furthermore, you can listen to a song in English. This also can be good way of learning the words and this may easily memorize and this way of learning can be a good way to understanding how sounds change in fast, natural and informal speech. For example, you can read the “English” journal, magazine, newspapers in English, case study, report, article and etc. You also can read the English books with a lot of dialogue. Dialogue is also much easier to understand than descriptive parts of a book, and is much more like the language you will want to learn in order to be able to speak English.
Induction and course programme.
Induction and course programme also can be done if employ fresh graduate as a teacher or lecturer in English. With the induction and course program this will indirectly make the teacher or lecturer knows the methods to teach student in English effectively. For example, this can be done by programme such as “graduate teacher programme”. For the induction and course programme also can be done in one week induction course. The induction programme for fresh graduate’s teacher or lecturer actually can help student via efficient and effective learning methods for higher educational student to master in English. Thus, Malaysian teachers should undertake measures to move their students to a more autonomous mindset by providing them with the necessary strategies and training. In addition, the findings of the present study indicate a need for Malaysian teachers to pay more attention to students with lower proficiency to break the vicious cycle. This includes providing learning methods interactive and creative activities to student to learn English.
If you are asking me why the English is so important for student in higher education is important to learn, it is because Malaysia is one of the develop country for the technology and the eco system. Most of the technology nowadays is using English such as Computer, Internet, software and etc. It being so important, students are encouraged to learn the English language, since it is likely that it would be encountered in a student’s life after graduate and enter the working environment. The big and the successful organization will be choosing the best of the best graduate and this will include the mastering of English language. Students in Malaysia need to learn English as a second language, so that student also can come, enjoy and participate in other country in life for business opportunities and career advancement. So this will make the student easy when communicate with others from different cultures. So now very clear that, learning English isn’t just about improving for students future job prospects. It also will give us advantages you had never imagined.
“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”‒Sarah Caldwell
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Esler A., Godber Y., & Christenson, S. (2008). Best practices in supporting school collaboration. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp. 917-936). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Sarah Caldwell “10 insporational quotes for learners”. English Quotes. Retrive from http://voxy.com/blog/index.php/2011/04/inspirational-quotes-for-language-learners/ on 17.02.2013
Vance Carson(2007).“Why English Is Important”.The Star Online. Retrieve from http://thestar.com.my/english/story.asp?file=/2007/10/18/lifefocus/18963932 on 17.02.2013
Wikipedia.“Practice (Learning Method)” Wikipedia. Retrieve from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practice_(learning_method) on 17.02.2013
Zaini Jamaludin(2011).“Ownership Structure and Interaction Effects of Firm Performance on Management Commentary Disclosures”.Journal of Global Management. Retrieve from http://www.globalresearch.com.my/journal/management_v02n01n02/JoGM_July2011_V2N2.pdf#page=66 on 17.02.2013.