English
is one of the languages which are being used by Malaysians for communications
at the present moment, as a result English has become an important source in
Malaysia’s ‘ethnically and linguistically fragmented society’ (Mandal, 2000). In
vogue, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country with at least a hundred languages
spoken nationwide (Decraw, 2005). It is consequently, prevailing for Malaysians
to be bilingual or multilingual speakers (Jamaliah, 2001). Malaysians derives from
a variety of ethnic groups. The common majority ethnic groups are Malays,
Chinese and Indians. Thus, in order to communicate, these people of various ethnic
backgrounds socialize or communicate using a language or languages which all of
them are able to speak. The national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu. It is
one of the communicative language in this country. Besides that, English also
plays a great significance role in Malaysia. In other words, in Malaysia, most
formal or informal transactions in every aspect of life are carried out
utilizing either Bahasa Melayu or English (Norizah, 2014). English became the
means of communications in certain activities, studies and job situations
particularly in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu. Research has
shown that wherever there is multilingualism in a context, for example, in
Malaysia, code switching is most likely to occur between languages (Richard,
2010). Before Bahasa Melayu was declared as the national language of Malaysia,
English played a significant role (Jamaliah, 2001). English was first
introduced in Malaysia through the trading process by the English East India
Company which then spread into religious and educational activities from the
early nineteenth century (Jamaliah, 2001). English medium schools were built
and all subjects in schools were taught in the English language. Bahasa Melayu
was declared the national language after independence in 1957. When the new
education policy was implemented in 1971, English became the second most
important language next to the Malaysian National Language, ‘Bahasa Melayu’ as
stated in the report of the education planning committee known as the Razak
Report 1956 (Asmah, 1992). In 1971, with the operation of the new education
policy, all former English schools in Malaysia were progressively transformed
into national schools that used Bahasa Melayu as the main medium of
instruction. All school subjects such as Mathematics, Science and Geography
which were previously taught in English, had to be taught using Bahasa Melayu
as the language of instruction. The entire process of changing over the medium
of instruction was completed in 1980 (Asmah, 1992). Despite all the changes,
English was a compulsory subject to be taught in school. However, in 2003, the
Malaysian government made drastic changes by implementing the teaching of
Mathematics and Science in English at the primary school level. Realizing the
importance of English language, the Malaysian government also implemented new
curriculum to expand the English language learning as a means of progressing
the younger generation towards being able to compete with the current global
community. One of the main reasons why English is an important language because
in the global economy, most employers prefer their employees to be able to
speak and write in English fluently. For instance, many multinational company
prefers their employees to be able to converse in English in the right way.

This
idea sparked a continuous debate over the effectiveness of using English
instead of Bahasa Melayu. In general, the changes were made to achieve the
Malaysian Vision 2020, which aims at developing Malaysia into an industrialized
country. To achieve vision 2020, higher competency in English is needed as
English is a global language unifying people from different language
backgrounds. Nevertheless, in 2012, the medium of instruction for Mathematics
and Science was changed to Bahasa Melayu. In order to satisfy all parties,
Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu & Memperkukuhkan Penguasaan Bahasa Inggeris
(MBMMBI) was introduced to upgrade students’ English language proficiency.

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