The struggle between keeping cultural identity and adapting to a global marketplace
Continuing our look at the challenges and opportunities with Business English around the world (see the editions on Spain, Brazil, India and Japan), we look at the very unique country that is Malaysia. With a population of almost 30 million people, Malaysia is the third-largest economy in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) but is distinct from its neighbors due to both its history and geography. This very ethnically diverse country—consisting of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai and other cultures—has Bahasa Malaysia as its official language (with English as an active second language), but there are actually 137 living languages spoken in the country! How can a country so diverse in culture and language adapt to the growing demands of the international economy?
An article in the publication Free Malaysia Today gives an overview of this tension between preserving individual culture and adapting to a global marketplace. Compared to its neighbors in the region, Malaysia fares reasonably well in terms of overall investment in education, including a focus on training new graduates in various fields of work. However, as this article points out, Malaysian undergraduates are still struggling with English. The article quotes Marie Aimee Tourres, a senior research fellow at the Department of Development Studies, Universiti Malaya, who says, “It’s crucial for graduates to have a good command of English to ensure they [will] be able to compete effectively in the global job market.”