August 19, 2016

English : an international language for communications

 Arakan Sein

The  news report of English test for the MPs from the National League for Democracy and other parties, which appeared in the 4th March issue of 7-day daily compelled me to write this article. After taking the test from  8-10 March, the MPs will have to attend the  classes according to their respective results. Furthermore, the attendance of the MPs from the NLD  is compulsory whereas those from that of other parties is optional.
So, why is English so important for our MPs? Is it possible to learn a language (English) in a period of short time? Do they concentrate on learning rather than doing their jobs which will keep them fully occupied for the sake of the country.
Actually English is important not only for our MPs but also for leaders from around the world. It doesn’t belong to England nor to the US.  It has become a universal language which is officially used in world organizations such as the UN, World Bank and IMF and  it is used as  an official language even in the ASEAN.
When the World War Two ended abruptly in 1945, the language has become more and more popular with help and participation of the US, Canada, Australia. New Zealand, South Africa and India, keeping the other languages at bay. French teachers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos  are being replaced by English Language ones.
India expelled the British and gained independence in 1947 but has maintained the language—English, thereby producing the world-famous writers such as  V. S. Naipaul, Salmon Rushdie, Vikram Seth and so on.
India-born announcers are often seen on the BBC Radio and TV screens.
Myanmar also expelled the British  with the help of Japanese and gained independence in 1948 but downgraded the teaching of English in schools and colleges in 1965, prioritizing Myanmar-sar as our national language. In the same year Singapore was separated from Malaya Peninsula but English was prescribed as an official language under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew who built Singapore from a fishing village to the most modern state  among the Asian countries.
The result is what we have been facing now: the standard of our English language acquisition is much lower than that of Singapore and other Asean coutries This is a reality ; like it or not  our MPs will have to learn English in order to  be able to discuss with  their counterparts from around the world. I am really thrilled to know about the results of English test for the  MPs who are going to take a test in the learning centres in the offices of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaws As a lifelong English language teacher I wonder if it is possible for hundreds of MPs to learn English in a very short period of time.
English is easy to learn but hard to master because it is a living language. A lot of  new words are added to this language day by day.
But I feel encouraged to know that the levels of these crash courses will be conducted by qualified teachers under the supervision and cooperation between the respective offices of the Hluttaws and the British Council in Yangon. But don’t expect too much from these courses; Rome was not built in a day.
Something is better than nothing. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  I would like to advise the newly-elected MPs not to get discouraged: English is one of your tools; you have already got a lot of other qualities—supervision, management, honesty, hard work and finally trustworthiness from the people  of our country. I would also like to give  an example to encourage the newly-elected MPs who are eligible and are going to attend the crash courses in English.
When U Thant was nominated for the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, the French-speaking countries objected to his nomination because he had a little knowledge in French language.
He studied that language very hard and within a period of six months, he was able to discuss face to face with the then French President Charles de Gaulle.
In conclusion, all the MPs are given a golden opportunity of serving our country in a democratically-elected government and are urged to exert utmost efforts in all the tasks assigned , assuming that learning English is also regarded as a major task  in order to be able to conduct discussions diplomatically with your counterparts from around the world.


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