There is another good way besides speaking to the taxi driver to offer a good look into the life of a country and that is to read the local paper. Regarding the issue of the multi-lingual capability of the Malaysians, here are some paragraphs extracted from an article entitled "Our diversity holds the key" in the Sun today:
"The fact that most Malaysians speak at least two languages is itself proof that every individual has the ability to communicate effectively in more than one language. But if we define "mastering" a language as having the ability to speak as a native speaker would, then I would say that this is an unrealistic goal to begin with. Malaysia has never been a homogeneous country and historically, the people have been open to foreign influences, in all our lifetimes, different communities have spoken various tongues in varying degrees of fluency..."
"Given our multicultural society, it may never be possible for us to fully 'own' a language. One may speak Malay better than English, another may speak English better than Mandarin while a third may speak Tamil better than any other tongue. Rather than continuing to suppress our diversity, we should consider promoting it..."
The writer was responding to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's lament of the poor command of English among many Malaysians and challenged the notion that the country should choose only one language and stick with it. I totally agree with the writer that the linguistic diversity of the country, just like its cultural diversity, is something to be valued and protected at all costs.