WORKERS in the 21st century should be competent in several languages in order to stay competitive.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said being multi-lingual would not only give workers access to the latest technology and information, but also provide them with an added advantage in an increasingly multicultural and diverse work environment.
“More doors will be opened to a workforce that is competent in several languages.
“For example, graduates who are fluent in foreign languages can assist the country in exporting Malaysian higher education.
“They will be better able to convey our aspirations and talk about educational resources in the language of prospective international students.
“They can also convince them of our sincerity and high academic standards,” he said at the opening of the international conference on Issues in language teaching and learning for non-native speakers held recently.
Congratulating Matsuyama Shinonome College in Japan and Universiti Teknologi Mara's (UiTM) Academy of Language Studies for organising the first collaborative international conference, he said it was important to share success stories in language teaching and learning.
“Through such exchange of ideas, we can create effective learning environments for our students,” he said.
UiTM has been involved in the teaching of Bahasa Malaysia and English, as well as languages like Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Italian and Thai, he added.
While there was a lot of information and research available on second language learning, there was a dearth of such work in the learning a third language, Dr Shafie said.
“It would be interesting to find out how learners who are used to the Roman alphabet cope with learning a third language like Japanese or Chinese that has its own characters or writing system,” he said.
UiTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Abu Shah said the university was grateful to the governments of Korea, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany and Italy for their support in developing its foreign language programmes.
“This support has come in various forms, including the setting up of a building, provision of air tickets, scholarships, expertise and more,” he added.