Learning English has its advantage - Labour Law Blog

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Dec 30, 2011

Learning English has its advantage

One day I was at one of the popular fast food restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. There was a line of about five people queuing to buy their food and drinks. I noticed that the person who was taking the order spoke in Bahasa Malaysia to all his customers which was perfectly fine with me. After all, we are all Malaysians and we have no problem communicating in Bahasa Malaysia. It wasn’t long before a family of four stood behind me. Clearly, this family was not from Malaysia. I think they were from a Middle Eastern country. When it came to my turn, I decided to see if this person taking my order would be comfortable conversing in English. Unfortunately not, he spoke to me in Bahasa Malaysia. Before anyone starts accusing me of being bias or racially inclined, I would like to state that the person who was taking my order was not a native speaker of Bahasa Malaysia (ie: he was not a Malay person). I spoke to him in Bahasa Malaysia and he gladly took down my order.

When it came to the next customer, the Middle Eastern lady gave her order in English. While she was doing that, the person at the counter was scratching his head. When she finished giving her orders, he asked her in Bahasa Malaysia which meal set she was ordering. The Middle Eastern lady looked confuse and asked him whether he spoke English. He didn’t quite understand what she was saying and repeated his earlier question. To be honest, I was quite amused to watch from where I was standing. I was still waiting for my food when I decided to interrupt and asked the lady to repeat her order so that I could translate it for the gentleman at the counter. Suddenly both of them looked relieved. When my food and drinks arrived, I decided to excuse myself and quickly find myself an empty table. Just when I was about to sit down, the Middle Eastern lady came up to me and said, “Excuse me, do you mind helping me to translate what the man is saying. I have no idea what he is talking about”. So again, I went up to the person at the counter and enquired what was he trying to convey to the Middle Eastern lady? Apparently, he had run out of coins and was asking the lady whether she had any coins with her. Most of us would know that the word for coins in Bahasa Malaysia is “duit syiling” but to a foreigner they do not have the slightest clue when the word “syiling” is mentioned.

So what I have learned from all of this? I strongly believe that the people at the front line should have at least some general command of the English Language so that they are able to communicate with non Bahasa Malaysia speakers. It was quite surprising to me that a fast food restaurant such as the one I went to did not put someone who has some proficiency in English at their counter. I wonder why? I did ask a friend of mine and he said it is quite difficult to find workers nowadays, so they have to make do with whoever they can get. By saying this, I wish to compliment the A&W Restaurant in Petaling Jaya. I have noticed that the A&W Restaurant have on board a good team of people ranging from the able and young to senior citizens and people with disabilities. This shows the company does not discriminate in its hiring and is indeed a caring company that one can be proud of.

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