Posts Tagged ‘english’

English rules

I just read: Unseen gap in ecosystem, and techies in their cocoons. English is brought up as an issue. 

English is the medium of communication. You can code in whatever computer language exists, but if you can’t write your weekly reports, you can’t write commit messages, you can’t write proper comments in your code and you can’t communicate with the rest of your team via email, you have failed at communication. 

Malaysians can excel if they improve their English. Period. You learn English in school but its not enough. I’ve seen Malaysian Computer Science syllabi that teaches English at university level. Apparently it is not enough. 

This is a policy decision. The government is choosing to push their agenda forward by ensuring that the people cannot converse in English. English is like teaching the man to fish. As long as you are given fish, you are going to be dependent on the ruling regime.

English is key. If you can’t get your message across, you will destroy whatever pitchdeck you have. 

So are non-English speakers are severely undervalued? No. Not even in a team of non-English coders. Let’s say they all speak Bahasa Malaysia. When they hit a problem, can they solve it by Googling it? Can they read documentation in another language and comprehend it? (Note: this is different if your team of coders speaks Russian, Japanese, Korean, etc. where there’s plenty of local language content being created).

At a previous company where we hired people from over 30 countries, and 70% of the people worked at home, what we did was pay for English language lessons for employees that couldn’t communicate in English. You were hired on the basis that you were a good coder, but you also had to complete English to be able to communicate with everyone involved.

I’ve taken this lesson to heart. Anytime I’m consulting with a company where the level of English is subpar, I ensure that the key people get tutored in the language. Not only does it help them grow, it helps in my planned obsolescence – they are empowered to solve more by themselves as I teach them more technically, and as they can now find solutions themselves as they grok the English language.

Filing taxes online in Malaysia

Executive summary: If you make a mistake in your e-filing for taxes, you have to print out the tax form, submit supporting documents, write a cover letter, and send it over to the tax office, anytime after the tax madness of pre-April 30, is over. Read on, for the tale.

So, if you’ve been following my tweets, you know I’ve been a little under the weather lately. Plus I just flew back from San Francisco. No, I do not have swine flu, its just sinuses acting up. Nonetheless, the government of Malaysia’s, Inland Revenue Board (LHDN/Hasil/tax office) doesn’t believe in excuses, and had set an April 30 deadline (showing them my passport, I doubt would have been any help).

Much like Suanie, this is my first year of filing taxes. I thought I’ll try the e-Hasil method, which is basically e-filing, right in your web browser.

First up, the system is available in English. OK, the content is mostly available in English (its filled with Bahasa Malaysia at the top, with the English text, in small print), and the buttons are all in Bahasa Malaysia, but you can guess what needs to be done.

Getting my e-filing PIN was easy. I just went to a very crowded LHDN office, and asked the nice lady over the counter. I’m surprised she engaged with me, entirely in English, without any complaint. I got my Tax ID, my e-filing PIN number, and some instructions.

Upon going home, I attempted to get it all working. Its pretty easy, if you can get connected to the site (I ended up tunnelling my traffic – and Gareth warns that the servers do crash). It really did take less than 15 minutes. I just input my salary, how much I could deduct (charity, books, and medication for parents — who knew sporting equipment counted too? Time to buy some this year.)

And then, the next day, I realise I had made a boo boo. I had not input the maximum deduction for EPF. Why? Because the software didn’t translate it properly, and it did only say “KWSP”, not “EPF”. So there’s a RM6,000 deduction, making my taxes not seem in order (in a way that benefits me, might I add — this should add to my refund).

The site, is all written in ASP. There definitely are some checks, via JavaScript in some fields. It works fine using Firefox on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (I got to test it all — my parents too, decided to go the e-filing route this year).

Now, noting that there is already some JavaScript, why not, at the field which asks you about EPF (or KWSP as they put it), there be an alert? After all, if you’re paying taxes, you’re definitely paying for contributions to your retirement, to the EPF/KWSP.

To make matters worse, once you’ve submitted the form online, and “signed” it, you can’t amend it. I called up the Shah Alam office (because all other numbers went to hell), at 03-55103202, to ask for help. I must shout out to Twitter user, @derekw who had already emailed the tax office before with regards to a similar question. His email to me, was really useful.

I got transferred three times before I got to someone that spoke English to me. His instructions were simple: write a cover letter, state your case, attach the print out of the tax return, plus attach the document(s) required to support your claim. In my case, the nice bloke told me to just write the cover letter, and attach my EA form, which comes from my employer. And he said, don’t bother doing it now, just do it anytime next week (or later, even), since the offices are all too crowded now.

So, that’s been my tax tale. How can all this be improved? What’s good, what’s bad?

  • Good: it works with Firefox. It also seems to be cross-platform. It could be worse — like some Windows based software, that will make you vomit
  • Bad: its written in ASP, and uses Microsoft technology (Windows 2000, IIS 5). Spending money of the rakyat should be wiser, and using proprietary software, is bad.
  • Bad: servers need to scale. Failing, or being slow, under traffic, is just unacceptable. You don’t need “extra” machines, so maybe some form of scale-to-cloud, during peak season.
  • Bad: there are some checks now, with JavaScript, but there should be more checks on mandatory things (case in point, my EPF problem)
  • Good: Its bi-lingual.
  • Bad: the English interface needs improvement. Buttons need to be translated properly
  • Bad: editing your tax returns, should be available, till the deadline, in the respective year
  • Good: PDF’s are generated of your receipt, as well as your tax form

Again, thanks to the Twitterverse being helpful: @ShaolinTiger, @derekw, @kamal, and @mikefoong. In other news, I can heartily recommend you read: Why should we pay income tax to the BN? and the running commentary there, as well as on Suanie’s post.

Define: camwhore

Google needs this in their dictionary. Thank goodness, the Urban Dictionary offers several opinions on what it is to be a camwhore (thus, practising the art of camwhoring, or to camwhore).

See: narcissism, media whore

Synonymous with: attention whore

Ref.: Wikipedia:Cam_whore, On whoring oneself

N/B: camwhoring has nothing to do with prostitution. How often have we seen people charging for viewing pictures or videos of themselves? Maybe I’m surfing the wrong sites… but I’m pretty sure its generally free for all to see.

Unless of course, you remember JenniCam (yes kids, the Internet did exist in 1996 :P) Today, iJustine, and call it “lifecasting”. A decade ago, we called it camwhoring. Terminology…

Maybe, Paul McFedries needs to add this to the WordSpy… go read an entry, like one on brand sluts, for instance.