JOHOR BARU – Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah has called for serious intervention to improve English among younger Malaysians due to the “dramatic and drastic” decline in proficiency of the language.
She hopes for concerted efforts to create opportunities for young people to study both written and spoken English and take their place on the world stage.
She said such effort should not be solely on the Government to reverse this trend but efforts of the English teachers, non-governmental organisations and corporate entities are needed to band together to take proactive action.
“It can be done. English can still become the language of knowledge and communication among Malaysians,” she said at the Royal Press Office at Istana Bukit Serene here.
Speaking in her capacity as Royal Patron of the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA), she urged all concerned to motivate and inspire students to speak and write in English.
“My dream is to see young Malaysians pursue education at world-class universities like Harvard or Oxford and go on to become CEOs of global companies.
“To achieve such goals, they need to learn the English language,” she stressed.
Raja Zarith said that in schools now, students do not speak the language for fear of being mocked for trying to be a mat salleh.
“The perception is that if you do not speak Bahasa Melayu, you are not proud of being Malaysian. So they retreat and don’t speak English,” she said, hoping that national education policymakers would consider placing more emphasis on English in schools.
She said many Malaysians, having mastered English, have made the nation proud by holding distinguished academic or corporate positions abroad such as Dr Afifi al-Akiti, a lecturer of Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford.
“We have lost more than a generation of people who simply have no confidence to write or speak in English but it is not too late.
“There is still hope, let us work with the policymakers to reverse this trend,” she added.