Most Malaysian parents are very concerned about the command of their children’s English which is arguably the most important language in the world. It is hard to deny the importance of English today. The number of English centres that have grown over the last few years in Malaysia is strong proof that English is being highly valued because of its real and perceived usefulness.

The ability to speak English, in Malaysia at least, is becoming more of a necessity rather than a source of competitive advantage. Which corporate job position in Malaysia does not require its candidates to have some basic English language skills?

Knowing English qualifies us to apply for most jobs but it does not give us an advantage over other candidates. However, knowing an additional language other than English, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil and Hindi in the Malaysian job market can be a powerful source of competitive advantage.

Which additional language then should one choose to acquire? Personally, I feel that German is a worthwhile language to acquire – especially for middle and lower income Malaysian families who want (but find it hard) to send their children to study in the ultra-expensive countries such as the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Start them young, say from Form One or even better, in primary school.

One hour of German every day – thirty minutes in the morning, and thirty minutes at night. By the time they finish Form Six, they would have mastered enough German to apply for entry into universities in Germany most of which do not charge tuition fees to their students – both domestic as well as international ones.

I did not know about this when I was a student then. Had I known that most German universities are free, I would have learnt it to save my parents their hard-earned money that was later spent on my Australian university degree.

Make no mistake. English is more of a necessity than a source of competitive advantage, in the Malaysian context at least. As for German, it sure is a wise investment. The return on this investment is at least four-fold. The social and professional benefits of knowing an additional language, a free world-class university education, and a much higher chance of being employed by German multinationals such as the likes of Bosch, Mercedes Benz, Siemens, Bayer, Volkswagen, Porsche, Heidelberg, SAP, Allianz, Karl Lagerfeld, Merck, Roche, GfK… I’ll let you extrapolate from here.


This article is contributed by Ken Soong the “Good Meh???” guy.

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