Research Project - UEL requirements in the Far East

R. A. Stegemann moogoonghwa at
Sat Nov 6 13:56:23 UTC 2004

Dear Saran,

Thank you for your response. I am happy to learn that your paper was
well received in Japan. That it was received in good company does not
surprise me, as both Japanese and Malaysians are very concerned about
maintaining their respective national identities while retaining their
global competitiveness. This is a likely goal shared by many national
governments throughout the Far East and probably many other regions of
the world, as well. It is for this reason, I believe, that this is the
correct place to discuss both your project and your work in general.

The obvious question is where and how to strike a proper balance
between one's nation's indigenous languages and the English language --
Far East Asia's wide-area, regional language of choice. Unfortunately,
the people who formulate the policies with regard to this balance are
often the same who benefit most from them, not those who carry the
greatest burden as the result of their implementation. Compelling an
entire nation to learn a foreign language that only a small minority of
governmental, business, and academic elite will ever use is a senseless
endeavor both from the point of view of economic efficiency and
cross-cultural communication. Nevertheless, it is exactly this that
appears to be happening throughout the Far East and many other
countries of the world.

As you appear to be well aware, what happens at the tertiary level
affects far more than the tertiary level alone, as every mother's child
will want to do everything possible to ensure that her child gains
entry into a tertiary institution. As universities in the Far East are
few, this means that only a small fraction of those who study English
in primary and secondary school are ever able to make use of their
acquired English language knowledge once they have graduated.

Universal language requirements are pernicious, because they use equal
opportunity as their justification for an unequal division of labour,
wealth, and income.

As you apparently understand, university professors in many Far East
Asian countries are simply not interested in performing translation,
because it takes time away from their publishing in international
journals. The primary motivation for their wanting to publish in
international journals is, of course, dictated by the state through the
state's payroll incentive system. An important secondary motivation is
state sponsored international travel and overseas residency. The state
encourages this behavior, because it enhances its own worldwide
reputation, which in turn facilitates its ability to impose its views
on other states and its own people.

In this regard, you appear to have missed my point about translation.
The Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and the university incentive system were
both created by the state. Forcing every Malaysian child to study math
and science in the English language, because the state has failed to
coordinate the translation activity of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and
Malaysia's university payroll and promotion system properly, is simply

This same notion applies to the disparity between Malaysia's private
and public universities. Although you have not told us the proportion
of students that attend private and public universities, it must
certainly be true that the private universities are attracting the best
English talent among secondary school graduates and that these
graduates have likely received a significant proportion of their
English language education while in attendance at private English
language or tutorial schools. The state will never be able to compete
with the private sector in this regard, so why does it even bother to

The fact that so many state-run university graduates are unable to find
employment in the private sector is, of course, a serious problem for
state-run universities. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the
problem can be efficiently resolved by flooding the entire market with
poor quality English, so that several thousand state-run university
graduates can compete with privately run universities for top entry
level positions in privately run international corporations.

Once again, I am looking forward to your response.


R. A. Stegemann
EARTH's Manager and HKLNA-Project Director
EARTH - East Asian Research and Translation in Hong Kong
Tel/Fax: 852 2630 0349
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