Calling for the national education system to be reformed to ensure Malaysians don’t fall behind their English-speaking counterparts across the globe, Abang Johari said the country’s education system must be “liberalised” so its people could learn to be multi-lingual.
“Our education system must be reformed. You keep changing the education minister but the policy remains more or less the same. But when we promote English, they say we are not patriotic,” he was quoted as saying by the Sarawak-based daily.
Saying that promoting English had nothing to do with patriotism, Abang Johari said the same status could also be given to the national language Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
“It is compulsory for all to know the national language. Now, (that) China has the economic power, you will need to learn Mandarin. Say ‘wo ai ni’ (‘I love you’ in Mandarin) even if you don’t speak it.”
Abang Johari related a hilarious incident in a showroom, where a foreigner approached a Malaysian in search of a restroom.
“The foreigner asked ‘Can you show me the way to your restroom?’, to which the Malaysian gamely pointed at a sofa and said ‘There you are’ (blinkered by the word ‘rest’).
“Restbah, so you can have your rest there lah. There was a lack of understanding in English. That poor foreigner really had to hold on due to the misunderstanding,” Abang Johari told the audience during the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) Dialogue held at the DeTAR Putra Hall, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak yesterday.
He questioned how the country was going to promote tourism if “English is not there”, adding however that he was delighted that the standard of English among Sarawakians was considerably good.
“Nowadays, all user manuals are printed in English, so how are people going to follow it if they do not have a command of the language in the first place,” The Borneo Post quoted Abang Johari as saying.
For the decades to come, in light of TN50, he said Sarawakians or Malaysians in general would have to look at the whole world as their market, given the borderless digital society of today.
“I attended a conference in Seattle in 1992. Bill Gates invited us to see the ‘House of the Future’. When we entered the house, we were greeted ‘Good morning, welcome to the house’.
“But when some Japanese tried to speak to the one who greeted us, they were told ‘I’m sorry, your pronunciation is wrong’. Only then did we realise it’s a robot with no human relationship,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.
Abang Johari said they were also led to the kitchen where items were delivered by the press of a button.
“That is the future and you will see how our lives will be changed. I’ve seen it, the AI (artificial intelligence), that is going to happen in the future. You have to figure out how you’re going to manage that sort of life.”