FROM a young age, we are taught to respect our elders, as well as greet relatives and friends of our parents as soon as we see them, then remain silent for the rest of the visit.
Opinions should not be voiced out as it is seen as “showing off” and kurang sopan (impolite).
Speaking in English when we go back to our hometowns is a definite no-no, as we are Malaysians and our culture comes first.
Although these principles should be valued and cherished, they may be the Achilles’ heel for our youth, who are trying to get ahead in a competitive, seamless world.
According to a survey by JobStreet last year, many fresh graduates fail to impress would-be employers due to their poor command of English (64 per cent) and communication skills (60 per cent).
“In order to voice opinions credibly and with substance, our youths need to be exposed to a wider range of information and data, but they seem to be more concerned with matters that directly impact them, and less keen to know about what is happening on a global scale,” says JobStreet regional communications head Simon Si.
“They should make full use of information and point of views available online, as, digitally, we are on a par with other countries.
“Youths need to form opinions and be ready to discuss them knowledgeably. Learn to have glo-bal macro point of views, with even greater general knowledge.”
He says JobStreet runs job-hunting seminars and talks at campuses, and helps candidates prepare for job interviews, especially in answering frequently-asked questions (FAQs), which is a major concern with today’s youths.
“Although there are many resources available, fresh graduates must invest the time to practice the tips they learn.
“For example, a typical question at any interview would be ‘tell me about yourself’.
“While that may seem like a simple question, it can trip many people up. Work out a reply beforehand, test if the reply is impressive enough and then learn the answer by heart.
“This way, a simple but important question can be answered confidently to impress the interviewer.
“The same should be done with all frequently-asked interview questions. Preparation (or lack of it) makes a big difference in a job interview’s success.”
One of the reasons why our youths are timid and introverted in interviews or elsewhere is because they are not exposed socially to communicate in English, says English Speaking Union of Malaysia chairman Tunku Dara Naquiah Tuanku Ja’afar.
She says youths are also not taught to give opinions in schools or have group discussions.
“Having regular English group discussions helps immensely.
“There has to be a minimum of a once-a-week session when they must speak English at all times, even during recess and sports activities. We should make it compulsory by implementing a grading scale, which will be reflected in their report cards.”
She says it is in the Malaysian culture to be humble and not force the issue in any conversation or argument, leading youths to be noticeably timid.
“To overcome this, lecturers should have a class on communication skills and group discussions that cover a wide subject area, especially in general knowledge.
“I also blame this problem on the school system as it does not encourage students to voice out their opinion freely without negative consequences.
“Children are taught not to answer back; these are our Asian values. However, there is the other extreme where children are kurang ajar (disrespectful) because parents neglect to teach them manners. There has to be compromise, and we have to be moderate in drawing the line where and when necessary.”