Posts Tagged ‘English’

Researchers at Oxford University have compiled a list of the top 10 most irritating phrases or expressions that people use in everyday language.

‘With all due respect’ to Oxford, ‘it is not rocket science’ to say that these phrases are the most irritating. While I ‘absolutely’ agree with them that some of the phrases are indeed irritating, ‘I personally’ do use a few of these phrases. This is not a ‘fairly unique’ finding although I agree that ’24/7′, ‘at this moment in time’, somewhere in the world someone is using one of these phrases. While ‘it’s a nightmare’ for linguists, ‘at the end of the day’, I am sure you’ll agree that there are phrases that ‘shouldn’t of’ been included in the list.

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One of my favourite news sites is the New York Times and one of my favourite Op-Ed columnists is Thomas L. Friedman. This week’s article by Friedman is entitled “Time to Reboot America” in which he talks about America needing a not just a ‘reboot’ but a national makeover. He talks not just about the crumbling infrastructure in America compared to Asia but also about policy failings and all the things that have gone wrong in America. For example:

“To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions”.

While reading this I can’t help thinking about all the things that are wrong in Malaysia & why we just cannot seem to get things right. Unlike American we are ‘infrastructure Kings’ because we just love to build, build and build somemore. So we have highways that often go nowhere (have you tried the Silk Highway from Balakong to Kajang? Hardly anyone uses it & it really goes on & on like the Hume Highway between Melbourne & Sydney, but this is still in the Klang Valley). Who the hell built them anyway & for what purpose, I wonder?

We have great telecom infra but poor quality broadband; light rail and monorail links but the coaches are packed like sardines at peak hours and there is hardly any parking space at the stations; we have hundreds of colleges & universities (and this strange thing called a ‘University College’, whats that anyway?) producing such poor quality graduates that they are not just unemployed but unemployable; we have billions in research grants with no commercialisation and few patents of value; we produce few things of significance other than oil, palm oil and medical gloves (which are mere commodities); we don’t have enough people that do things that  “could improve the lives and productivity of millions” as Friedman says and we have politicians and teachers who think progress is teaching science and maths in Malay, Chinese or Tamil.

We do have many bright and creative people but the narrow minded politics of the nation drives them away and benefits only our competitors like Singapore and Australia. Sigh!

We need to do more in Malaysia. Like improving meritocracy and hiring the best to do the most important jobs, regardless of their political inclinations, race or connections. We must teach our children to think and be creative and we must improve their language skills especially English so that they can learn Maths and Science in English and keep up with progress and not be left behind. We need to reward people who do the right thing, in politics, business, education and in society not ostracise them because their race or politics is different from that of the ruling party.

As nations rise around us and make great economic strides like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia or Cambodia or do the right things politically and policy wise like Singapore & Indonesia we get increasingly left behind because of our narrow politics or backward policies and poor command of English.

As a diverse and multicultural nation we have so many things going for us. Its time we made it count. Its time we did the right thing and as we move into 2009 with a new Prime Minister waiting in the wings I hope we will. They say time and tide waits for no man. Well progress doesn’t either.

I will share my thoughts on these issues with you as we enter 2009 and I remain ever optimistic that we will make good in the future. I have to be or I would have not returned to Malaysia after my PhD. Lets hope I made the right decision…..

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