Effects of language policy on indigenous's learning of English

Jeannet Stephen jeannets at ums.edu.my
Mon Mar 15 16:34:00 UTC 2004

Dear All,

I'm intending to do my PhD and I'd be sincerely grateful for any help,
direction, guidance
and comments on my topic. I've been following the lgpolicy list keenly and
I've enjoyed
the interesting information and discussion (and follow-ups) by all the
scholars on the list.

I'm interested to do research on the effects of a country's language policy
on the indigenous' learning of
the English language. Sabah  is a very multicultural state with over 40
ethnic languages (one ethnic language is already being taught in the school
and in the university) and the English language is taught right from
pre-school up to university level. However, the ethnic languages nowadays
are only spoken mostly by elders and in the villages. Some ethnic groups
are doing efforts to revive and use the ethnic language amongst their young
generation (for example, the Kadazandusun language by the Kadazandusun
Language Foundation). The English language is not often used by the
indigenous because it could very well be a third (sometimes 'second' or
'foreign') after the national language, Malay, and their mother tongue. The
achievement of the indigenous in English language learning still left much
to be desired. At the same time, ethnic bodies encourage parents to use the
ethnic mother tongue as their home language. The national language, Malay,
is also a necessary academic requirement for entrance into  working life or
for further studies at the local universities or colleges.

I believe that the major languages in Sabah (Malay, English and ethnic
mother tongues) play important roles for the young generation of Sabahans.
The current situation however doesn't seem to reflect these roles. It would
seem that one is more important and emphasised than the other. At present,
a good measure to help the then declining performance in the English
language subject has been done by the government which is to have Maths and
Science taught in English to Primary 1 (7 year old) schoolchildren and Form
1 (13 year old) students. A few reports have indicated that this measure
helps to uplift the learning of the English language in schools. In the
university, the indigenous undergraduates represent quite a number of those
who are required to take English proficiency classes again in university.
Of course different socioeconomic background differentiate indigenous who
do well in the English language and those who don't.

Within the context of Sabah, I intend to identify the effects of the
language policy on the indigenous' English language learning. Also, to know
the perception / attitude of the indigenous (parents, teachers, the
students) towards the language policy in relation to English language
learning by indigenous children. I would be very grateful if you could
advise me on any similar studies, books, or articles or any comments /
suggestions that would help me plan and carry out my research.

Thank you very much.


Jeannet Stephen
Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge & Language Learning
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Locked Bag 2073
88999 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
Email: jeannets at ums.edu.my
Tel.: (6088-320000 ext. 5031)
Fax.: (6088-435708 attn. Ms Jeannet Stephen)

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