English As Second Language

English is a second language for the majority of Malaysian. Of course there are some people who have English as their first language since they are born in families who communicate in English in their daily lives. This is commonly found in urban areas where parents are mostly professionals and well-exposed to English.

Having English as our second language, we will usually think in our first language (BM, Chinese, Tamil, etc) and later translate our ideas into English while speaking or writing. Therefore, the interference of the first language will always be evident in our discourse. Most of the time, we will struggle before we could actually speak or write. Don't take this as a weakness. Now that we have already identified the problem, just accept this fact and adapt to the situation.

My suggestion is to be simple and straight forward. Bare in mind that we are translating from our first language. Imagine how difficult it is to translate something like this:

"Memandangkan keadaan ekonomi yang tidak menentu pada masa kini, seharusnyalah kita berjimat-cermat dalam berbelanja demi memastikan masa depan yang lebih terjamin dan selesa."

I have always told my students that English is the opposite of Bahasa Melayu (this is my own point of view which is based on my own experience). We can be ambitious and use flowery language in Bahasa Melayu because we are able to think and speak, or think and write at the same time with less effort. However, when we try to use flowery language in English, we will usually give up. Why? It is because we will not have sufficient or precise words to convey our ideas. By being simple and straight forward we will find that it is not that difficult to speak or write in English. Wouldn't it be easier to translate something like this:

"Dalam keadaan ekonomi yang tidak stabil kini, kita mesti berjimat cermat demi masa depan yang selesa."

By being simple and straight forward, it will also be easier to control the grammar especially the tenses. Moreover, we will also make fewer mistakes in sentence structures. Sometimes my students produce sentences that make me feel dizzy in their essays; I can make sense of these sentences but they are very not English. They are merely Bahasa Melayu structures with English words in them. I will have to read and reread before I could actually understand the meaning. Besides, it is better to use simple words rather than the complicated ones. Sometimes we are trying too hard. Being ambitious, some of us look up for bombastic words to be used (in essay, speech or presentation) but ending up using words that are not suitable with the context of the sentence even though the meaning might be correct. Well...sometimes less is more ladies and gentlemen.