Recently, I wrote a response to an article urging English teachers in Malaysia to teach only in English. Aside from my response there were at least one other who wrote a very well thought-through piece.
An English-only approach was a common sentiment you would find in language pedagogic textbooks and manuals published decades ago. With the expansion of applied linguistics, the current community of language educators and scholars acknowledge that the language learning process involves more than just picking up new language knowledge and abilities through immersion. Gone are the days when language is just considered a cognitive exercise. These days, we have other affective variables to consider such as anxiety, stress, motivation, and the list goes on. This was the idea that I had hoped my write-up would convey. How wrong I was. Not only did nobody understand what I wrote, I got a few interesting comments as well. I doubt that anyone who had read my article, or the one that I was responding to, or any of the other articles written in response to what I wrote, or to what I was responding to, would read this blog post.
So, what did I have in mind when I responded? Frankly. I was not quite sure, since I emailed that the first thing after I got up on a Sunday morning. I went off to organize an alumni get together for my Faculty. The next thing I knew, I was getting FB messages congratulating me for publishing. Thank you, but I don't think I had really "published" anything. I'm pretty sure MI is interested in creating dialogue, especially controversial ones, and quickly uploaded the draft I had sent. Hey, who doesn't want to expand their readership?
But let me tell you what I had in mind the night before, when I wrote the response. I had in mind to inform readers of MI that language learners, especially those who come from a multicultural country, do not enter the language classroom as blank slates. They have a stock of words, a pre-existing lexicon, which is waiting to be manipulated and used to the max. God has given us creative abilities and the intelligence to use old information to make sense of new ones. Some people call this common sense, by the way. This was my first point. I said we should not refrain our students from using their first language, or native language, or mother tongue (whichever term you think is politically correct). But never did I say we should teach in students' language (although in some instances where you have real beginners, some instructions in the students' language may be necessary).
The second point was merely a presentation of sociolinguistic issues pertinent to the linguistic ecology of Malaysia, or of SEA for that matter. I do believe that Malaysians are proud to have our discourse identity, and I do believe also that we know that there is a variety that we need to learn if we want to be understood by other speakers of English. I thought that this was quite clear in the paragraph where I described us as being schizophrenic, being torn between two sides. Why do I say this? Because from a World Englishes perspective, Malaysian English could become a real deal, just like how Singapore English is becoming a real deal, and these real deals would be equivalent to the real REAL deals in the likes of American English or Australian English or...
Nonetheless, what's done is done. The article is out there. Perhaps I'll lose my job after this? I don't know. Otakpusing, in his/her comment on my article, implies that I should be fired.