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Hi. I am Professor Puan Sri Dr. Rohaty Mohd Majzub. Currently I am a Professor in Faculty of Education.I love to interact with everyone and learn something new. I believe in meeting a new friend everyday.However at times i am disheartened when other bloggers used my website to advertise their websites on google or abuse my website by changing the content of my articles.This is an unprofessional act. I hope this will stop. Thanks to those who participate in this website.I really appreciate your time and ideas.You are invited to visit my other websites: http://rohaty.edu.my http://rohaty-school-readiness.com http://rohaty.keciciran.edu.my


I am looking forward to share my personal and professional knowledge and experiences related to social-educational issues and challenges locally and internationally. I believe that much can be generated and learn cross culturally deriving from the varied diversity found in the education systems. Thus i welcome any thoughts, ideas, opinion and feedback on any educational issue which can contribute to both understanding theories and building educational implications. Issues can be very controversial but we have to address them open mindedly and creatively.My present interests are in child development, adolescent psychology,educational governance and policies and the science and art of teaching and research.Once again you are most welcome!!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Last week i went to schools supervising my students doing their teaching practicum. There were seven of them all ladies. I managed to reflect on what they commented about teaching English and the challenges they went through. The common observation was that students wanted the teachers to use Malay while teaching English in English lessons.

Wow???I got the observation before when i went to Remove Classes(By the way the Remove Classes are still around ensuring a smooth transition from vernacular primary schools to non vernacular secondary schools) I remembered the teacher at the remove class saying : Girls "" Ini cherek=kettle""""Ini water=air" "Ini sejuk=cold""Ini panas = hot" I asked why ???She replied because if she did not use Malay the students would not be able to understand. They demanded that the teacher used the mother tongue (in this case Malay).

Thus this brings us to the pertinent question" Should the mother tongue be used or avoided in teaching English as a Second Language? And how frequent should you use it to ensure students understand what you are talking about? Sometimes?Half the time?frequently?Most of the time? And of course this phenomena always happened in the class where students are very low achievers and ill disciplined. There are of course many methods in second language teaching which include the Grammar Translation Approach.This approach was historically used in teaching Greek and Latin and later modern languages.

So what philosophy do we use? Experienced teachers told me that if they did not engage the help of the mother tongue well the lesson would involve a lot more time; the students were indifferent and psychologically were not there. Equally in teaching subjects such as Science the students will say "Tak Faham lah""Cik gu boleh pakai Bahasa Malaysia"(Translated "I do not understand" "Can you use Bahasa Malaysia")

At the university too a lecturer mentioned that in Engineering classes the students looked blank when explaining the terms in Engineering in English. Socio-economic status also relates to language proficiency.The former explains values and upbringing.My student also remarked the class she was teaching would be very dull and unresponsive if the students could not interpret what she was teaching.

And of course it was vey difficult to motivate them to participate in class.How did i learnt English? Wow we have to go back in memory lane. I remembered we learnt by doing. The teacher said "Stand up" (and she asked us to stand up after she demonstrated the action. So "sit down and thus we sat down" _) And i remembered using the series " A Man and a Pen"etc. Subject experts stated that we can use the mother tongue up to a certain extent on a restrictive basis to explain complex linguistic issues . Another teacher remarked it is advisabble to use the target language instead of the mother tongue so that the students have full initiative in learning the new language and is less dependent on the old.

But learning new things can be very challenging. When we learn new subjects or methods the old learning seeks to interfere with the rules of the new and vice versa. Thus my daughter Zuraidah was so capable of speaking English in Los Angeles to come back to Malaysia showing off her praiseworthy english but after two years started spelling according to BM 's spelling .Thats where new learnings attacked the old learnings acquired.

What do we do here? Teachers suggested that we should explore the different methods of teaching so that it is more creative and meaningful because learners learn in different modes and styles. Diversified and differentiated teaching is the slogan to effective teaching of second language. This would help overcome the "Use the mother tongue "approach and uphold "We use English only approach "plus some interesting teaching techniques. Still we have diehards who still believe we should use the mother tongue as a viable teaching aid. One rematked "Well students dont understand and they were frustrated and this leads to your frustration" "And we need students to understand because it reflects on us as the teachers' which also means Teaching equals learning.

I guess translation is needed here to help clarify terms and glossaries and to expediate teaching. So what is our verdict? Use MT (mother tongue or Not?) The answer very much depends on the socio cultural context of the learners one have whether low IQ or not, from high SES or not, proficiency in two languages or not as well as the teacher variables such as teacher confidence and self efficacy and knowledge on teaching techniques.


  1. salam Prof.
    your article has sparked me to reflect my 14 years' experience of teaching English. I myself use MT but only to a certain extent because I don't want my students to be dependent on their MT when learning English (but I tend to use a tad more when i get exasperated with them!) I feel the use of MT is also psychological, as I'm a Malay and when i enter a class where majority of the students are Malays, they tend to feel comfortable because their teacher is also a Malay and they prefer to learn English in Malay (in fact, they demand you to speak in Malay!)But it's different when a Chinese teacher teaching English enters the same class. They are less demanding and the teacher gets to teach English in English!(This is a daily school where most of the students are low achievers in English). I guess English teachers teaching in good schools (excellent academic achievement), elite schools (schools where most of the students come from high SES) or boarding schools do not face this problem. And indeed, the teacher variables and knowledge certainly play a role too. It's time to cook up some interesting teaching strategies to teach English and give our MT a rest!

  2. Dear Prof Seri Puan,

    I'm Lim Pey Tin, I really impressed to read this article as this is the hot issue now. Learning
    English is really depend the learner's sosio cultural.I'm teaching in the kindergarten which is English Medium and giving the English tuition for the primary school students. For the kindergarten case, 70% of my student are Malay, 20% are Chinese and 10% are Indian. Anyway, 90%of them also cannot speak Englsih before they join the kindergarten. Normally after one year, they will comunicate each other with English eventhough they are 3 years old. I found that they learnt English by 'doin g'. "They have to learnt how to gain the information from English and react on it.The teachers always give them a lot of chances to speak Englsh.So they able to speak it after one year.For the tutorial case, I try to apply it on them , but unsussessfully as they have a lot of things have to cope eventhough they are 7 years old. So i always have to clarify terms and glossaries by using their mother tongue. . Or else they will be left out in their school. Anyway i found that their vocabulary is better then those time not using the English for their science and Matematic. I have very agree with Prof's article that using the MT or not using MT (mother tongue or Not?) The answer very much depends on the socio cultural context of the learners.

  3. Good evening Prof ,

    I am Harmilee Kaur , your ex-student and a secondary school teacher. I read your post on the use of Malay during the teaching of English and would like to share my thoughts about it. The teaching of English here, as we all know, is not an easy task. English being a second language , and to some a third , is capable of making the teaching and learning process a 'painful' process rather than an enjoyable one. Such teaching and learning process actually leads teachers to frustration often breaking ones enthusiasm to teach.
    So , should the ever so useful and convenient mother tongue be used to avoid teaching and learning from being so 'painful' ? MY answer to this questions is NO. Malay should not be used during English lessons. Sometimes ? Yes but not in every sentence. In your blog Prof , you wrote that one of your practical student translated almost every word she said in Malay simply because the students told her that they did not understand English. In a way , they are indeed smart students. Why take the trouble to learn English when the teacher will eventually translate the words? By using this method , when will the students ever learn English ? I believe that once a teacher starts using this method of teaching , students tend to 'shut down' when it comes to the English words because they know, that the translation of it will come soon after each word. So, students will not make the effort to learn English because they understand the Malay version of it perfectly well. Hence, by the end of the lesson , the objective to ensure that all students understand the lesson successfully fails unless ofcourse, the objective is written as ' By the end of the lesson , students should be able to understand 3/5 translated words'.
    How do we overcome this problem ? Well , I usually roughly draw pictures on the black/ white board to explain the meaning of words that students do not understand. Sometimes I use pictures. Yes, I am sure some of you must be rolling your eyes and saying that it's easy for me to say but trust me , it works. Just to make sure you don't end up drawing the whole text out on the board , make sure you choose a text that is familiar with your students....a teacher teaching a particular class will know the student's level. By using this method , students will be able to associate the pictures with the words taught and tend to remember better. Of course , as mention above , it is acceptable to use Malay sometimes , for certain words ...especially words that can not be drawn on the board. But then again , we do have the dictionary , don't we ? I rather the students use a Malay-English dictionary then translating the words into Malay for them. After all , do remember it's all about the quality of teaching and learning and not the quantity !
    Most teachers , as mention in your blog Prof , prefer using Malay because it is saves time. There are some teachers who are die hard fans of the ever so popular Grammar Translation Method. These teachers , those who uses Malay most of the time , often wonder why their students show no improvement at all...perhaps they should stop using Malay while teaching English.... :)

  4. Salam Prof.
    I am Liyana, now doing my teaching practicum at one school in Port Dickson. Based on my experience as a trainee teacher, i totally agree that students' level and socioeconomy status really affect the use of English in the class. I am teaching students with low level of proficiency. They could not even understand the words such as introduces, revision and so on. i could not ask them to bring dictionary as majority of them come from low ses family. So what can i do are: to use simple sentences in giving instruction and doing fun activities while teaching.I believe that teaching English should be in target language.

  5. salam prof..
    im fatihah..practical teaching in PD gives me one good experience of teaching low SES students. based on my experiences, they cant understand almost all what we are saying..it is like talking to the wall,when the students cant understand you..to avoid using so many malay words in my teaching, i used gestures, so that they will, at least get the idea of what we are saying..

  6. Hi, Prof...
    i'm Azrene, also one of your supervisee at PD. From my experince here, i think my students are very familiar with the language itself, that means all of them can speak (even in small amount of eng)and can understand my instructions. this maybe because most of the students in my school are from intermediate and high SES and the environment in this school itself. i think, every schools which have mix race students are very positive towards learn in english as well as speak in english. compared to my hometown, in Terengganu, most of the students are from intermediate and low SES which do not help them to 'be friend' with the language. their environment do not encourage them to speak in english in daily conversation even in english class. the problem that i face here is classroom management, esp for form 2 students. they are very naughty and loud! so, everytime i go to the class, i must prepare some games to back up the lesson because they sometimes don't feel 'like to learn'. so, to overcome the problem, i prepare some 'tongue twister' or 'proposition game' or 'hang man game'for them to enjoy the lesson as well as the language itself.
    Thank you

  7. Salam Prof,
    im Miela, i think it depends to the teacher to vary their methods in teaching English. i did use BM in my English classes because the students demand the use of BM. to make the lesson comprehensible, the use of BM really help me a lot. Besides teaching Form 1 and Form 4 classes, i also teach the studnets of remedial class who have difficulties in reading and understand English words. in this class, the students cannot understand both BM and English language. What should I do? the school provided the teacher the flash cards for this students to make they understand better. because of the language barriers, i use physical responds to make they know what they learned. so, besides translations why don't we use simple English and some gestures? (^^)

  8. Good day Prof,
    I am Mageswari,
    This method of teaching has been around since I started teaching. Teachers sometimes feel that they need to use translation method in teaching to make their students understand better. This method is considered as an old method of teaching but sometimes it is useful.

  9. Hi Professor,

    I think the issue of students not being able to understand spoken English has a lot to do with the teacher's skills in 'grading' his or her own language to suit the students' levels. There are in fact various ways for a teacher to convey his or her messages in class eg. body gestures etc. - translation should really be the last resort. Besides, the teacher is also expected to reduce their TTT (Teacher Talk Time)in class. I believe the problem is because this aspect of teaching might have not been emphasised enough in teacher training programmes.

    I've also written about the similar topic of my teaching experience in China in my blog http://eltcafe.blogspot.com/2009/06/to-speak-or-not-to-speak-english-to.html

  10. I don't mean to promote my blog here, but I have just written about 'how NOT to use translation in class' in my new post at


    I hope teachers and the Ministry of Education could really view the issue of overusing translation in class as a problem to language acquisition.

    Rather than spending a lot of money on hiring foreigners to teach, we should probably invest more in teacher education and research.

  11. Using malay language in teaching english to the students have its own pros and contras. for example, when we are talking about something in English, and the students seem not to understand much ( or at all), we can use several malay words to describe the issue, and i believe, sooner or later they will get the words. however, if we use that method often, they will feel lazy and passive, since they do not put their effort to understand the teaching content. therefore, i think the best way to help the students is the teachers can use simple words that are familiar to the students' ears, and as stated on the above comment, teacher can use their own gestures or act the meaning of the words. they also can explain the meaning by giving examples, that related to the words. if possible, avoid using malay language, so that the students will take English as a serious matter, and they have to give their own best to fluent themselves, and able to use the language for communication outside the classroom. -a118958