LANGUAGE barriers might put some people off.
It all started when Rasyidah Abu Johan was a curious five year old.
There was a language divide between Rasyidah and her Chinese classmates during piano lessons.
As a result, she insisted that her parents enrol her in a Chinese vernacular school so she could learn the language.
Today, the 32-year-old Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) graduate reads the Chinese news on RTM.
“My music class had many Chinese kids and I wanted to play with them but we couldn’t talk to each other.
“As I grew older, I realised the benefits of learning Mandarin, especially when you have a business.
“One can deal directly with suppliers and there are also more choices on Chinese websites.
“And of course, it’s a value-added skill to one’s resume, ” she said.
She joined RTM in 2011 as a programme producer.
“I was encouraged by my editors to audition for the Chinese news segment due to my proficiency in the language, ” she said.
However, she felt she wasn’t ready for the task.
“It was a challenge to overcome my anxiety of speaking in front of a camera in Mandarin.
“Many of my colleagues helped me through my ups and downs.
“The best part of my job is seeing how accepting people are towards a Malay newsreader for the Chinese news segment, ” she said.
She added that some of her favourite reports include stories that speak about unity, animal welfare and new medical technology.
It’s common for the public relations graduate to receive surprised looks from strangers when they hear her speak in Chinese.
The reactions are however always positive, Rasyidah said, with people asking how she learnt the language.
“In learning a new language, it is important to have an environment that allows beginners to communicate and grow.
“In a multicultural country like Malaysia, it’s easy to find such an environment, especially in learning Mandarin, so grab the opportunity while you can, ” she added.
Rasyidah believes that the more knowledge one accumulates, the better they become.
Similarly, Department of Mechatronics and Biomedical Engineering lecturer Ng Wee Kiat said gaining multi-disciplinary knowledge is important.
Ng was the adviser for the team of UTAR students who won the Keysight Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Challenge grand finals held in New York last year.
The UTAR team, which comprised Lim Wen Qing, Yap Sheng Yao, Tan Kai Siang, Au Jin Cheng and Khor Jun Bin, outdid nearly 300 participating teams from around the world and were ranked at the top alongside leading universities like Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The group won with their project entitled “IoT Detachable Waterway Monitoring Device with LoRa and Self-Sustainability”.
The team was inspired to design the water monitoring system to prevent major chemical incidents such as the ones in Pasir Gudang last year.
They were crowned champions under the Smart Water category and won a prize of US$25,000 (RM104,862) in cash and US$25,000 (RM104,862) of select Keysight Technologies test equipment.
“What the students learnt throughout their preparation for the competition is more than what we teach in the classroom as it involves cross-disciplinary learning.
“Involving yourself in things that are multi-disciplinary will open up different paths for you to discover, ” he added.
An international competition like this, Ng said, is good exposure for students to compete with peers from other countries.
In the era of artificial intelligence and fourth industrial revolution, developing different talents and passion is important, UTAR president and chief executive officer Prof Dr Ewe Hong Tat said.
Echoing Ng and Rasyidah, Prof Ewe said many jobs today involve multidisciplinary work, which require employees to have multiple intelligences and skills.
“It is important to not only provide students with knowledge and skills from within their programmes but to also train their soft skills, develop their talent and build character to prepare them for the challenges in work and life.
“We must provide an environment to encourage, share knowledge and enhance their skills to enable students to better themselves, ” he said.
Universities and industries must work together to develop competitiveness among students, Ewe said.
This will prepare them for the global market, he added.
Commenting on building varied skills, Prof Dr Ngeow Yun Fong encouraged health sciences students and graduates who are more interested in research rather than clinical practice, to pursue their interests.
The UTAR Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences senior professor stressed that youngsters should go where their interests lead them to.
This should be the case even if others may not see the rewards and satisfaction they feel.
“Always be open to more opportunities, ” she said.
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