The status of English as an international language in Malaysia: perceptions and attitudes of language educators and language learners in tertiary educational institutions

2017-05-18T02:24:49Z (GMT) by Ali, Fatimah
As English speakers travel and communicate within or between communities around the world, English language has become an international language. The term “International language” in this sense does not refer to one particular variety of English; instead, according to Sharifian (2009b), English ‘with its many varieties, is a language for international and intercultural communication’. He frames EIL (English as an international language) is a new paradigm for critical thinking, research and practice. Unfortunately, in the Malaysian context, much research h still needs to be done to explore the perceptions and attitudes of Malaysians towards EIL and WE (World Englishes). This present study aims to investigate the status of EIL in Malaysia. In order to gauge the status of EIL in Malaysia, it is first imperative to ascertain the overall perceptions and attitudes of English language educational community towards issues related to English language such as language ownership, perceived conflicts between English and Islam, the struggle between English language and Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, as medium of instruction in educational system and its function as a lingua franca in the multi-ethnic and multicultural society of Malaysia. The objectives of the present study are to address those issues and to investigate the perceptions and attitudes of the English language educational community towards EIL as well as the potential implementation of EIL as a new teaching paradigm at tertiary educational institutions in Malaysia. Three main research questions were used as the basis for conducting this study and a mixed methods research design with semi-structured interview questions and two sets of survey questionnaires, one for students and one for lecturers, were used to collect qualitative and quantitative data. Forty-six participants for ten mini-focus group interviews were recruited from one technical university and two teacher training institutes. The survey questionnaire aimed at students was administered to 175 respondents at two technical universities and two teacher training institutes, while 34 English lecturers from twenty public universities responded to the online lecturer survey questionnaire. The findings of this study have successfully answered the research questions and provided significant theoretical and practical contributions to enrich the literature of EIL and WE from Malaysian perspectives. One of the most important findings is the discovery that a majority assert ownership of Malaysian English which indicates a paradigm shift towards the conscious use of a nativised variety for group identity and social interaction (Azirah Hashim, 2014). English is viewed positively by Muslims participants as a tool for ‘dakwah’ (preaching) and to build ‘ukhwah’ (friendship/close relationship) among Muslims and non-Muslims from different language backgrounds. However, it seems that the issues surrounding English as a medium of instruction in schools and universities and as a lingua franca among Malaysians will continue to be debated until the problems with the decline English language competence among educated Malaysians have been successfully resolved. There is also a felt need for an EIL teaching paradigm to better equip English language learners with intercultural communication skills and meta-cultural competence (Sharifian, 2014) in the globalised era.