Multilingualism essential | The star

A GOOD command of languages ​​opens doors for new graduates entering the job market.

Faced with the challenges of globalization and a competitive job market, multilingualism is a crucial communication skill to have, according to academics.

Being multilingual offers a greater advantage for employability, especially in a borderless world, said linguistics expert Prema Ponnudurai, who oversees the Taylor University Center for Languages.

Last year, a European Commission report revealed that employees who speak another language are generally better paid than their monolingual counterparts.

And in 2019, up to 35% of those responsible for hiring or managing people told Forbes that an employee’s fluency in another language leads to extended job offers, interview prospects hiring, promotion recommendations and salary increases.

The article, referencing “The Wage Premium From Foreign Language Skills” survey, highlighted how speaking a second language can add 11% and 35% to one’s salary, depending on the language and the country in which the employees are based. .

Dr. Teh: Multilingualism gives job seekers an advantage.

Secretary General of the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei), Dr. Teh Choon Jin, said fluency in multiple languages ​​is an invaluable communication skill that allows students to easily expand their networks when they enter the labor market.

“There is an element of familiarity when one person connects with another in a common language.

“Living in a multicultural country like Malaysia with multiple languages ​​and dialects, one can easily switch between languages ​​seamlessly.

“As international students from diverse backgrounds and countries flock to Malaysian universities, integration and cultural exchange through engagement where language plays a role will enrich the learning experiences of Malaysian and international students.

“There are also studies that show how being multilingual can improve a person’s cognitive abilities through their sensory processes.

“Being multilingual is an underappreciated but extremely essential skill to have today more than ever,” explained Teh, who is also the principal and registrar of the Asia-Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU ).

Knowledge transfer

But standing out from other job seekers to get a job is not the only advantage of multilingualism. Professor Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi of UCSI University said language paves the way for understanding different cultures, values ​​and belief systems.

Professor Mohd Tajuddin, from the Tan Sri Omar University Center for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Studies, said language is not just a way to order food or ask for directions.

“Understanding another language opens the door not only to information, but also to spiritual, cultural and political understanding, which is essential.

Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin: Language promotes understanding between different communities.Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin: Language promotes understanding between different communities.

“The communication aspect also involves appreciating and making ‘the other’ worthy and if we can’t learn that then we are in conflict with our society.” It could lead to people staying in their own groups, whether culturally or religiously, is not good,” he shared.

Professor Datuk Seri Dr Awang Sariyan, director of the Malay Institute of World and Civilization (ATMA) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said that in addition to expanding career opportunities, the ability to speak more A language enables the transfer of knowledge between countries, promotes better understanding among citizens around the world, and promotes unity, tolerance, and the sharing of universal human achievements.

No nation, he said, should ignore the development of knowledge, science and technology in a world without barriers.

This is vital, Prof Awang said, if the country is to compete internationally.

“Language is the main vector in the context of countries benefiting from the development of knowledge, science and technology.


“There shouldn’t be a ‘clash of civilisations’. Instead, there must be cooperation, knowledge sharing, tolerance and respect among citizens,” he noted.

ATMA was appointed by the Ministry of Higher Education as the secretariat to initiate strategic cooperation between Malaysian HEIs and selected ASEAN countries to develop important aspects of Malay civilization internationally.

This is part of Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad’s recommendation to the government to set up a Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Language Development Steering Committee for HEIs as per Prime Minister Datuk’s call Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to government officials to speak at BM conferences.

Ismail Sabri said that there are over 300 million people in Southeast Asia who speak the language and it is the seventh most widely used language in the world.

“It is my ambition to make BM the second official language of ASEAN,” he said during his closing speech at Umno’s general assembly on March 19.

Promote competence

Teh noted that fluency in any language will only be improved with regular practice.

“There should be activities designed to promote the use of different languages, for example, social interaction using a specific language on certain days or during special events,” he said, citing initiatives such as as local and international students communicating in BM during their visits. an Orang Asli village, a debate or a storytelling session in certain languages, and a month of the national language, for example.

Activities and events focused on promoting the use of languages ​​would enhance social engagement and integration while allowing students to practice their conversation skills, he proposed.

Prema suggested that the design and development of the language curriculum in HEIs be reviewed.

The major global languages ​​for business and commerce, diplomacy, cyberspace, hospitality and science, she said, should be structured into core subjects in related disciplines.

“With this increased emphasis on languages ​​at higher education level, we will be able to create competent multilingual graduates.

Prema: Set up a multilingual steering committee in HEIs.Prema: Set up a multilingual steering committee in HEIs.

“University-industry partnerships with international language organizations are key to exposing students to the real world and improving their language skills in an immersive environment.

“Joint accreditations for these subjects by such organizations will add value and provide appropriate recognition,” she explained.

This level of exposure and qualification will give students the opportunity to apply their language skills in a professional context and understand the importance of being multilingual, she said, while calling on the Ministry of Education to train more language teachers for schools.

Language acquisition, she says, happens more easily at a younger age.

While students currently have the opportunity to study languages ​​like Tamil and Mandarin at primary and secondary levels, the lack of trained teachers means that there is a disparity in learning opportunities between rural and urban schools, she noted.

“We should train more teachers in other languages ​​if we want to promote a strong pool of multilingual talent.”

Teens: learn more languages

“I am one of the few Malays to be monolingual. This is incredibly rare in a country as culturally diverse as ours, and it comes with many challenges. In the private school where I studied, Bahasa Malaysia (BM) was not a priority because our curriculum was in English. For this reason, I didn’t know how much I needed to know the language. It wasn’t until I graduated at the age of 16 and moved into the ‘real world’ that I realized that not knowing any language other than English could pose many challenges. Today, I still cannot go to the government sector or local businesses alone because I cannot convey what I want. I learn new phrases every day in hopes of improving my BM fluency.

Keerat Kaur Wathan, 18 years old

“Hello, Selamat Pagi, Ni Hao, I speak three languages: English, BM and Mandarin. I also tried to learn Cantonese and Hokkien dialects from my grandparents. Although I still have a lot to learn in all these languages, being multilingual has helped me immensely in Malaysia and beyond. For example, since I can draw words in a few languages, I can express my thoughts and feelings more accurately. Also, learning how to quickly translate from one language to another has definitely improved my cognitive abilities. Learning the grammar, vocabulary, and structure of one language can better prepare you to learn another, just as Mandarin was crucial for me in learning dialects. Also, as I study abroad, I stay in a dorm with international students. When possible, I try to converse with my peers in their native language to make communication more comfortable for them. So, I am extremely grateful to have learned these languages. If you are looking to learn new languages, I hope you will believe in your abilities and eventually reap the rewards.

Amélie Lim, 18 years old

“I speak both BM and English, and I am learning to speak Spanish. Although I am far from fluent in Spanish, I am proud to say that I can speak the other two languages ​​fluently. There is no denying that the being able to speak more than one language has its advantages. For example, being bilingual has definitely helped me in my studies. I am able to multi-task and solve problems more efficiently because I can switch from language to another. In addition, it can increase our knowledge of other cultures. We can easily make friends with people from different countries and understand their cultures. Traveling will also be much more fun and exciting because we can communicate with the locals. In conclusion, everyone should make it a priority to learn at least two languages. Learning a new language may seem daunting, but it will help you in the long run. I hope one day I can re fulfill my dream of visiting Spain and speaking Spanish fluently.

Syaza Ahmad Munawir, 18 years old

– All students featured here are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist program organized by The Star’s Newspaper-inEducation (StarNiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

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