Language skills, especially English, are far more important than most people realize. Even in countries where English is the spoken language, or is one of the predominant languages, some people may have poor language skills.
Most important work language
Increasingly, English is becoming the most important language for business globally, even in non-native English-speaking countries.
The four language skills
Employers look for proficiency in the four language skills which are reading, writing, speaking and listening. According to Cambridge English, the most important language skill in most industries is reading, followed by speaking.
International journals, contracts and instructions are in the English language and that is why reading skills are by far the most important in the legal, financial, medical, business and engineering world. Articulating in proficient English is also a crucial element for many of these careers, while the service industries (hospitality, travel and leisure) also require spoken English.
English skills and employment in Malaysia
The number of students rejected by employers, because their language skills are inadequate, is quite high, close to 48% in Malaysia, and proficiency levels differ between the public and private sectors.
Interview assessments include an English assessment and the biggest problems faced by Malaysians are limited vocabulary and the inability to structure proper sentences. This causes problems in communication during the interview.
There is a misconception around learning English with many people thinking that vocabulary and grammar are the most important aspect of the English language. Students need to also learn listening and communication. Difficulties arise because of the differences between the Malay and English spoken language which include different stress patterns and intonations.
Communication in English can be perfected when students get the opportunity to practice in real-life situations, where they can boost their confidence and enrich their vocabulary.