Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Manglish for Science and Mathematics

I know you might think that this is a joke story or some kind of cynical commentary on the arguments that are floating around the issue of teaching science and mathematics in English, but it is not.

I promise you this is a serious suggestion.

First let me clarify that Manglish in this instance does not refer to the mangled wreck of English as spoken or written by Malaysians who are less than competent with the rules of the language but rather a mix of Malay and English words and sentences, much like the conversations that we have among friends.

Technically this is known as Rojak languge, it is not currently allowed on RTM and tightly corralled even on private radio and television stations.

Let us examine the reason why Tun Dr Mahathir (TDM)wanted maths and science to be taught in English.

In the 1990s people were complaining about sliding education standards and they were especially worried that many of our students were simply not up to mark when it comes to commanding the English language, mathematics and science.

TDM thought that he could kill all three birds with one stone, use English as the teaching medium for the two key subjects. The argument is that English is the international language and also the language of technology so it saves the student trying to understand the clunky translations of technical terms.

It was thought that more regular use of the language in the classroom would help students become more familiar with it.

I don't buy this argument fully and at the time many people also protested the policy, for various reasons.

After a few years of implementation, those who protested continued to argue that the policy is victimising millions of rural students who now find science and mathematics doubly difficult because they cannot even penetrate the language of instruction, among other reasons.

With the announcement that the Government is working on a soft-landing of the policy, which basically means those who are already going through PPSMI will continue to do so until they come out of the schools system.

Many urban parents, some say as many as 75,000, as evident in the number of likes on the facebook page of PAGE, the organisation that has been most vocal in championing PPSMI.

BTW, I want to make it clear that PAGE is based in Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Damansara, where my son goes to school and I have no problem with PPSMI because my children considers English as their first language.

So we are now back to teaching science and maths in Malay. This is great for the language but what can we do to help our children to enjoy bilingualism as their  birthright?

In my mind there are two possible course of action:

We can open up the Malay language and allow more English terms to become part of the language

We can use Manglish to teach science and mathematics.

I understand that language or education purists may cringe at the idea but I think that we are at a point in human history where language and culture is mixing at a rate that has never been seen before.

In all our visions of the future, whether reflected in the writings of futurists of our own civilisation hundreds of years into the future or in the imaginings of science fiction writers of advanced extra terrestrial civilisation entire planets speak the same language.

I am not suggesting that this will happen anytime soon but it is certainly not strange for language to thrive and prosper through additions and adoptions from other tongues.

After all, the English language is the ultimate bastard language which dips its tongue into the vocabulary of hundreds of other languages and make new words as their own.

If we freely adopt scientific and mathematic terminology from English and simply use them in the classroom then we are able to introduce them to our young at an early age without making the learning process itself a lot more difficult.

If we take a further step of allowing science and mathematics to be taught in Manglish, then we are introducing the language rules of English gradually, giving them a chance to use short phrases correctly in confidence.

Anyone learning a new language can tell you that the hardest thing is saying out the words loudly for the first time, because no one wants to sound like an idiot who can barely speak.

By using Manglish, we are helping the students to make use of the skills they learn in English class and apply it in daily life, which is probably the easiest way to convince them that learning another language is a worthwhile endeavour.

In fact I believe that Manglish should now include short phrases from Tamil, Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic and other key languages that Malaysians use.

I think if we do this, there is a chance that we may become the birthplace of the first truly global language that can take over the role of other languages for planet-wide communications.

1 comment:

  1. idea kau ni terlalu crazy it might they say in the movies