I like Idris Jala. In fact, you can say that I am an Idris Jala fan. Just last week, I wrote about him – how impressed I was with his presentation at the Economic Transformation Programme Open Day at the PWTC (read here). Ever since he was roped into MAS, I have been following his story and I liked what I saw. I think he is good for the Cabinet and if you take him away, the average IQ of the Cabinet will drop by 10 points.
Yesterday, however, Idris Jala said something that made me think that he had temporary gone bonkers or had too much too drink. Idris dismissed the need for proficiency in the English language to achieve the Vision 2020 goal of becoming a high-income nation.
He was quoted as saying “you can be a high income economy with the national language (Bahasa Malaysia)”. He cited examples like Korea and Japan that became high-income nations without mastering the English language (read here).
Last week when he gave his brilliant presentation at the ETP Open Day, Idris went on and on about how the private sector would be the main driver of the ETP [BTW, his entire presentation was in English and he even admitted that his Bahasa Malaysia was very poor]. He said he expects the private sector to finance 92% of the ETP projects. To become a competitive nation, the private sector must be the engine of growth, he said. We must be competitive, he said. His mantra was – private sector, private sector, private sector [I also remember very clearly that he never once said that PERKASA would be the main driver of the economy].
I would like to pose this question “Datuk Seri Idris, what is the main language of the private sector ?". Sanskrit ?
Let me quote Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (PAGE chairman) who said “mastering English was crucial in transforming Malaysia into a knowledge economy, pointing out that Bahasa Malaysia was not by any means an international language. Bahasa Malaysia, with all due respect, is not an international language. The only other country which uses Bahasa is Indonesia and they are hardly a high-income nation [BTW, she forgot Brunei but that doesn't really matter]. The mastery of the English language is important for the knowledge behind English. No matter how much money we make, the work force must have the right skills and mindsets”
Datin Noor Azimah also said “in the first place, Idris Jala is where he is today because of his knowledge of the English language. If you were to look at all the bigwigs who turned up at the recent ETP open day, all of them are fluent speakers of the English language. Nazir Razak was educated in Britain. Even his children are getting their education there. Why aren’t they educated in Korea or Japan?”
Yes Datuk Idris, Korea and Japan did it – but most of their growth was during the 1960s and 1970s when the world was still a very large place. Furthermore, these two countries have very large domestic markets and not forgetting their fondness for very hard work Japan was already a super-power in the 1940s – they whacked the shit out of many countries even then [note : even the Japanese and Koreans are now desperately trying to master English].
With advances in communications, travel and the Internet, the world is much smaller now. In this age, English has now become the most important language for science, and business. It is the only truly global language. A question for Idris “would Shell have employed you if you could not speak English ? NO.
With all due respect to Idris, Malaysia is a trading nation. We are really dependent on international trade. I suppose it would be alright if 100% of our trade was with Indonesia and Brunei – then we all only need to learn Bahasa Malaysia and live happily ever after [actually even that is not possible… remember BENDERA morons are still after us]. The language of trade is ENGLISH. For many many years, Malaysia was viewed as an attractive place for foreign investment because we had a rather large English speaking population (not anymore though)
I have attended many international scientific conferences. It is so sad to see many brilliant scientists from non-English speaking countries making mediocre presentations simply because of their lack of proficiency in English. They may be geniuses but to the audience- they are simply no good. If people cannot understand what you are saying, you might as well don't speak. [May be PERKOSA should propose to the UN that all future international conferences should be in Bahasa Malaysia and Urdu only ?]
Ohh.. before I forget, Idris also talked about substantially boosting tourism – to make Malaysia a magnet for tourists. How the duck are we going to do that without proficiency in English ?
I still think Idris Jala is a smart bloke. I do hope he recovers from his temporary insanity and corrects his statement. I bet Ibrahim Ali and his gang of langurs at PERKOSA are grinning from ear to ear at Idris’ statement.
Monyet King also says
1. Monyet King is proud to say that he got an A for Bahasa Malaysia in SPM many many years ago. So, this article is not about downplaying the importance of Bahasa Malaysia as the naitonal language but to stress the importance of English as the global language, and the language of trade and science.
2. English is not only an international language, it is also an inter-galactic language. All the advanced/ intelligent beings all over the universe speak English.
Yoda is 900 years old and very wise. He speaks English
(although he has some problems with his grammar)
Optimus Prime, the leader of the autobots, speaks English
The Elves who are immortal speak English
The Vulcans speak English
Most super heroes (e.g. Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, X-men, Batman, Catwoman) also speak English. The only super heroes who do not speak English are Ultraman (because he does not have a mouth) and Cicakman (because he is rather daft).