GEORGE TOWN, Oct 10 — Malaysians are losing out in the global arena due to their increasingly poor command of languages, especially in English, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.
He added that while focus must remain on bolstering Bahasa Malaysia, the country’s national language, equal stress must be given to making Malaysians polyglots.
“It is sad that we are losing our edge in English as this is an important language when it comes to information technology and science,” Lim said in a news conference after launching an international students conference at Trader Hotel here.
He noted a vast difference in the command of the world lingua franca between today’s generation of Malaysians and their elders from two to three decades ago.
“Our command of English is becoming weaker and poorer and what the government has done to improve the standard of English here has not succeeded,” he said.
Lim, who is also the DAP secretary-general, urged the federal government to think of alternatives to improve the standard of English as he argued the current system is not effective.
While he agreed with Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on the need to strengthen Bahasa Malaysia, the opposition lawmaker said it is equally important for Malaysians to improve their command of English and also to pick up other languages.
He was referring to Muhyiddin’s recent statement that the use of Bahasa Malaysia should be expanded on a larger scale at institutions of higher learning in the country.
“It can’t be denied that our national language is important but in order to compete globally, we also need to have a good command of English and also other languages,” Lim said.
The Bagan MP pointed out that most Malaysians are already multi-lingual as they understand Bahasa Malaysia, English and their own mother tongue.
“Malaysians are already linguists but I feel that it is also good that we learn more languages,” he said.