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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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English language is a global language acts as a “lingua franca” which a common language that enables people from different backgrounds and ethnics to communicate. Thus, the appearance of English language as the international language for global business had effects in many workplaces across Asia. In Malaysia, the role of English language is important for communication between people especially in higher institutions and businesses. As English is the second language in Malaysia, the focus is on producing learners  with  the  ability  to  communicate  effectively  in  different  social  and  professional  contexts. However, many Malaysians have difficulty communicating in English in the workplace, especially when it comes to business-related matters. As an experience person in working field, I am totally agreed with the statement. Therefore, this report will focus on some issues and possible causes of the issues. In addition, some example and explanations of actual situation will prove the issues and the solution will be discussed at the end of this report.

English communication skills are important in the management   sector as stated in different job advertisements. Mastery of English oral communication skills is an advantage to employees in their workplaces. Malaysian employers have drawn attention to the disagreement between graduates’ English skill based on their English language examination scores in SPM, MUET or university language courses and their actual performance during job interviews. Typically, an excellent score in SPM or MUET English does not explain into an excellent performance in English during the employment. This                                situation not only incompatibility with the standards applied by universities and industries, but also the lack of a valid method to measure graduates’ English potential. Thus, the issue of many unemployed graduates of Malaysian higher education institutions have invited many deep discussions in print and electronic media. (A. Kadir, 2005)

Most employers nowadays required to have employee with communication skill in English Language. It has been proven with some of working sectors such as engineers which can be studied and analyses from engineers’ involvement in communicative events in engineering. Engineers need to use English language in order to perform their workplace responsibilities. For instance, Kassim and Ali (2010) distributed questionnaires to engineers working in 10 Malaysian multinational companies to investigate the types of communicative events where engineers need to have with English oral communication skills. As the result, events such as formal discussion of work related matters, giving oral presentations, networking, instructing, explaining and demonstrating were mostly using English Language. Most of these communicative events, the engineers will need to sell ideas and to convince another person of their own ideas using English Language. Nowadays, very sectors and company requires to having employees with good English communication skills as it is a must for the better changes in our economies development to compete globally.

Somehow, most of employees who use English as their second languages are having many problems in having English communication such as fear of mispronunciation or misinterpretation of their communications especially when it comes to business-related matters. Several situations happen while having a business conversation such as lack of understanding of the question asked, which required a lot of repetitions form the client. The conversation might become awkward and take times to deliver the information especially when having long pause during conversation because of low fluency and low confidence and nervous in using English Language. (Fatimah, 2012) Eventually, these situations commonly take place between employees especially while having discussion among client with different uses of native language. Therefore, the client might have less confidence towards the employee credibility to join venture in working together. Looking depth to this issue, having feared to communicate in English somehow derived from other factors.

Some situation usually happened in the conversation that requires the employee to make deals or discussion with client who using English as their native language. For instance, a graphic designer should have good knowledge and skill in English because sometimes they must deal with customer who natively communicates in English. Mispronunciation or misinterpretation in communication while dealing with customer can leads to unproductive work such as wasting time in designing the wrong idea. Mispronunciation may require a lot of repetitions form the client. Each of every design terms such as “resolution” and “header” should be clearly present and pronounce to the customer to avoid misinterpretation. Workers should be more confident when communicate with the client to gain their trust as they will work together for a number of period. Employees sometime might get stress on these problems because it relates to their working performance. However, it should be solves with some English training on how to pronounce words correctly.

However, many Malaysians have difficulty communicating in English in the workplace. This issue is not only applied in oral communication; it is applied to both oral and written communication. Written communication should be clear and purposeful with correct words, to avoid any misinterpretation of a message. It provides a permanent record for future use and it also gives an opportunity to employees to put up their comments or suggestions in writing. Poor writing skills lead to low quality of reports and work presentation in form of written task. But the issues here, too many employees failed to write a good report with comprehension and conception of ideas, composition, language accuracy and vocabulary. Most of company employer nowadays encourage to hired an employee that have English communication skill as the documentation needed for the client especially for international business were documented in English Language which can be understand by most client globally. A good and understandable document must be perfectly written using good vocabulary, comprehension and grammar. Somehow, the employee faces a difficulty to achieve the standards since they use English as their second language.

When it comes to the native causes of poor English written communication, individuals need to analyse the whole situation. There are a few other causes of poor written communication in the workplace. The major cause in having problem writing in English is lack of education and knowledge about English Language. Knowledge is power, and without the proper education employee will not be able to move forward in their career. Although most of the employees were hired with good English examination result, it does not mean that the employee will be good in writing English report in their career. The employee should know how to apply grammar and vocabulary effectively in their writing. This problem not only happened in small base company, it happened at most company in Malaysia. Base on some research at some working sectors, existing studies on workplace are found to be investigate writing among bank executives. In addition, the prominence of English as a second language is a challenge for Malaysians (Nur Ehsan, 2011). Regardless of writing being an important and frequent task in most working sectors especially in business matters, the writing problems were reported in many research studies.

Based on the research, the employees were generally not provided with any assistance with consider to writing the documentation report in English language (Nur Ehsan, 2011).  In order to have better English writing, extra courses on how to have better English communication might help in producing good writing. Some training can be very effective as well, where the employee can work on improving her writing communication skills without worrying about making mistakes in front of clients or co-employee. If there are no opportunities to improve English skills, the employee can become slow in her working performance. It's important to provide opportunities for English communication improvement, such as workshops or an English coach. Some training might help employees to be more confident in producing a good and effective reports and presentation for the clients.

However, some of these problems occur by reflecting on the company and employer itself.  By referring at The Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. If the manager and executive staff have poor English communication, then chances the employee that use English as a second language will also suffer from poor English Language communication is higher. Bad managers do not allow their employees to communicate in English Language effectively in the workplace because the managers also having problem in communicate in English. They would rather try to control or manage all the small parts of their employees rather than the other employee sees their weakness. Thus, employee not motivated to expand their English communication skills in the workplace. As a good employer, motivation session should be held between employer and employees. Communicate well and often. Having training sessions together with the employees and some regular meetings can all be used to present your motivation to your employees.

Another cause that makes the employee difficult in speaking English especially in business matter is that the environment does not support the employee to speak English frequently. The environment here means the people outside the workplace. Those people may think that the employee just want to show off when they speak English for daily conversation. An employee also feels they will be judged or made fun of not using grammatically correct English, or if they will be judge for imperfect written reports, there may be a breakdown in communication. The response form surround people makes them loose their self-confidence to improve their speaking. Since the employee do not want to be rejected by the people around them, they maintain use their native language in daily conversation. Thus, the worker is having lack of opportunity to speak in English which makes the worker unable to communicate in English fluently when having conversation with client.

Bad English communicating skills somehow will leads to bad English writing skill. As a result, employee may have problems to communicate effectively with client either in writing or oral communication using English Language. However, if an employee is surrounded by concerned co-workers who help the employee through her English communication difficulties, it can increase the chances of effective English communication. But if an employee feels she is in an unsupportive work environment, she may down emotionally and begin to look for other job opportunities. Having a different group of employees is important, yet providing a sense of connection to employees through an informal work as a family is also very important. To be able to effectively work on improving English skills, the employee should feel comfortable in her work environment and not be afraid of making a mistake in front of co-employee.

As the conclusion, the difficulty of communicate in English at the workplace among Malaysian especially when it comes to business-related matters are seriously discussed among researcher and some studies has proved this problem occur by some causes that has been discuss previously. The causes seem affected from diverse possibilities. Some of employee hired with good English language examination result but still having problem in English communication and somehow this issue is getting worse when the employees having low motivation and encouragement from surround people. Thus, the causes derive the employees having low self esteem which lack of confidence to communicates in English. These causes will eventually affect their working performance. Some causes also derived from the not-so- care attitude of the employer towards their employee. Potential of having good employees with good skill of English can be obtain once all of the causes stated being solved motivationally by a range of technique and help form professionals from various groups such as having training and workshops or providing an English coach for the employees. Hence, the quality works form the employee will be encourage increase. By that, misssunderstanding and misinterpreting ideas between employees and the client while dealing in business matter will often less take place.

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