English remains our priority

By Aznan Mat Piah

IIUMToday was established in April 2014 with the idea to serve as a useful platform for students particularly from Communication Department to practice their journalism skills. The chosen language is English in line with the medium of instruction of IIUM as an international university catering for students from various parts of the world.

However, recently there was a review of its policy to allow certain written pieces to be published in Malay as well. The line taken was that all news items will continue to be published in English, but we are willing to accommodate feature articles in the form of news features, human interest stories, opinion pieces, commentaries, and literary reviews (such as book or movie reviews). Such writings would encourage students particularly Malay students to articulate their ideas and critical thinking, at the same time, accentuate their skills in research, analysis, interviews and in looking at the bigger picture. We also invite academic staff and lecturers as guest writers to submit their contributions to enrich our editorial contents.

Since this Malay column known as IIUMenulis was launched in December last year, there have not been much response from the students to the idea and few contents on Malay have so far been published. This issue needs to be addressed separately. We should ask why our students are not taking up this challenge or opportunity to polish up their writing and thinking skills in the national language. Are they not competent or not passionate enough to write in Malay? Do they lack confidence? As usual, students need encouragement from their lecturers or mentors. They also need to be constantly pushed.

To have students rewriting news stories in Malay or to embark on translation of news items that have already been published earlier in English would only show work redundancy in the news portal. Nobody in the right frame of mind would want to read the same stories already published in English which are repeated in Malay and published on the same page. Or it simply reflects lack of creativity among the students and the editorial team. Are we taking the easy way out or a short-cut route to be contented by getting students to write brief news items based mainly on translation? Are we not interested in the originality?

It is the proficiency of English that we should be worried about so that students or graduates the university produced would be able to enter the competitive industry in global settings. Surely, we would not want our graduates to lose out in the competitive global environment when they enter the industry. Even the local media industry is looking for graduates with competent skills in English writing and presentation, be it in printed and broadcast media, publishing houses and publications, online media, advertising companies, public relations consultancies, or corporate communication agencies.

After all, much of complaints or grouses coming from the civil service and the corporate sector in Malaysia currently are that graduates of local universities are lacking in their command of the English language both in writing and conversation. “They can’t even construct a full sentence in English without mistakes”, that’s the sort of comment that we heard from those in the field. And this is a serious matter and should be addressed as priority.

Admittedly, we should not be unnecessarily worried about students not being able to write or express in Malay as Malay is our mother tongue. It’s our native language. Given a little push they should be able to perform well in their own language. What more, Malay students after having had their 11 years of schooling entirely in Malay, should by the time they enter a tertiary learning at the university, have had a strong ground or foundation of their national language. Not that we want to cast out our nationalism spirit, but the reality of having to gear ourselves in preparing graduates to be more competent and competitive, also serves our nationalism spirit and purpose in building the nation.

Additionally, students or graduates who would want to improve their skills in translation should attend short courses conducted by professional institutions like the Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia or ITBM (formerly known as Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia or ITNM). After all, translation itself is an art and a professional skill that can be acquired from a professional institution. We should encourage those who are keen to venture into translation works.

While we expect students or graduates to be multitasking in the context of bilingual when they graduate, with already a strong foundation of the Malay language, Malay students in the university should instead be encouraged to articulate their mind and expand knowledge through writing more serious stuffs like opinion pieces or in-depth human interest feature stories or reviews on political, economy, or social context. That would be something to provoke their mind that would be beneficial in developing their intellectual being and critical thinking skills to face the real competitive world in later years.

Retaining English as the medium of IIUMToday should therefore be our priority without neglecting in our efforts to inject critical thinking among students and future graduates to be multitasking. ***

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