The magic of ignorance - English a false prophet?

hsmr at hsmr at
Mon Jan 24 09:49:57 UTC 2005

Fellow contributors,

It is nice to learn that others interested in Far East Asia are participating in this forum, and I welcome the contribution from Samuel Moses, as a result. Nevertheless, I am concerned about his approach to the discussion. Like Anthea, he uses vague and unsubstantiated numbers that may be an expression of personal experience and feelings, but not necessarily an accurate description of the larger objective reality in which those feelings and experience were obtained.

I have lived in the Far East for more than twelve years and have substantial experience in discussions over the internet conducted among ex-patriots. As these latter tend to live in a community unto themselves they also tend to distort the objective reality of the host country in which they live.

I have provided the forum with a substantial amount of evidence obtained from the IMF, ADB, and the Department of Statistics of the Malaysian government in an effort to avoid this intellectual trap. Certainly, I would appreciate, if we could use those statistics as a framework for further discussion.

Several people agreeing about a matter that is clear is not the same as several people agreeing. In short, when Moses says that Anthea is right on target, it is important that we know what that target is.

If it is the number of Malaysians who believe that English is necessary to their own and Malaysia's future, then I would like to see the evidence. If it is a question about the reasons why they believe this, then we need to come to a better understanding about what is meant by "an ignorant and self-serving elite". What Malaysia needs to secure its own future in the global community is another question. What an individual Malaysian might require to secure his own future in his own society is still another.

Certainly, Finland provides us with an interesting contrastive case study, as it, too, is a country that was once colonized.


> From: Moses Samuel <mosess at>
> Date: Jan 24, 2005  03:32 PM
> To: lgpolicy-list at
> Subject: RE: The magic of ignorance - English a false prophet?
> Anthea is right on target. And in Malaysia (and in many other countries in Kachru's 'outer circle' I guess) it looks like Phillipson's 'linguistic imperialism' auguments against English may not have widespread support.  Here,  many people would regard English working as a 'partner language' with Malay, the national language, not necessarily against it.
> Moses Samuel
> University of Malaya
> On 24.01.2005 02:36:41, Anthea Fraser Gupta <A.F.Gupta at> wrote:
> >Stan said,  "I wonder how much of this push for English comes from "an
> >ignorant,
> >self-serving elite". Maybe the the intelligent, outward-looking masses
> >are
> >pushing for English as well."
> >
> >Absolutely.  It's important to say  that probably everyone in Malaysia
> >agrees that all schoolchildren should be taught English and Malay (the
> >controversy is in the how). And a large proportion of the population of
> >Malaysia already speaks very good English (and most of the rest speak a
> >useful amount of English).  We are NOT looking at a place where English
> >is known only by a tiny 'elite', but one where English is already known
> >by the majority.
> >
> >Schools have to teach all sorts of stuff, some of which some of the
> >learners will never use again (I personally have not done a
> >differential equation since the age of 16). Education is about offering
> >children opportunities and choices, not about limiting those
> >opportunities. I say, keep on teaching differential equations and
> >English and history and all sorts of other stuff too. However, in
> >Malaysia, lots of people need English for all sorts of work and social
> >reasons, because English is a Malaysia language, not a foreign one.
> >
> >Anthea
> >
> >
> --------------------------

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