Thursday, June 01, 2006

All Malaysians Must Be Fluent In Malay.

Please refer to this headline in Bernama: - 'Government Asked To Expand Command Of Bahasa Melayu To Vernacular Schools'.

A Senator Wednesday called on the government to expand the command of Bahasa Melayu to national type schools in line with the effort to empower the use of the language by the people of all races. Tajul Urus Mat Zain said this was necessary because some people among the non-Malays were not fluent in the language. "Not just that, a number of non-Malay government officers have found it hard to master Bahasa Melayu. Therefore, we need to expand the command of Bahasa Melayu in line with the effort to empower its use. "It is not denying that English has its importance but this matter also has to be considered," he said.

First things first. Is our national language Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia? I'm really confused on this one! At times the media refers to it as B.Malaysia but some crackpot Malay language fanatic somewhere throws a tantrum screaming that it is B.Melayu and lo and behold! it gets changed to B.Melayu. A new minister comes into the picture and says emphatically that it is B.Malaysia and then it gets changed again. We must be the only country in the world to have several interchangeable terms for our national language where even a well read citizen has to ask and still receive no definitive answer. As for the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (are they still known by that name?) they bend according to the political and ideological leanings of their immediate bosses. It would be good if someone in authority could clear this up once and for all. Also, does the Malay language belong to the Malays or all Malaysians? Or do we need to have a Royal Commission on this as well and then have all objections placed on different websites before referring to the Attorney General for an opinion or decision?

Coming back to the topic, there is absolutely no question that it is imperative that every Malaysian must know the national language. Some things are not negotiable and speaking and understanding Malay must count as one of those. That there are 'a number of non-Malay government officers who have found it hard to master Bahasa Melayu' is a matter to be ashamed about. If these people can't speak fluently what about the average non-Malay Joe from Jinjang or Brickfields?

Even at my place of work I come across non-Malays especially Chinese whose knowledge of Malay is abysmal. These people live cocooned lives mixing with their own kind and having little contact outside their comfort zone. They speak only in their mother tongue, listen to songs and watch movies of only their language and if they were to be transported by magic to some part of Hong Kong or Taiwan would easily assimilate with the people there than with fellow citizens here. This is also an attitude problem where they can't be bothered with the others. 'If you want to be with me or befriend me, speak my lingo'. Period.

The only way to ensure that at least the next generation of non-Malays will be 'Malay-fluent' will be to heed the call of the Senator and expand the command of Bahasa Melayu to national type schools. Exercise some compulsion even if the language and cultural chauvinists among the non-Malays gripe. It's better to take some flak now than have another generation of linguistically handicapped citizens who hamper the integration of all our peoples.


Blogger hcfoo said...

Bahasa Malaysia is our national language. Bahasa Melayu is the name of the subject in schools.

2:30 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Fashionasia said...

i think the government is doing a good job making sure everyone can speak BM because whenever we speak english to gov officers they will just ignore and answer back in BM, which in the end forces you to use BM as communication language in government depts.

3:23 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

hcfoo, thanks mate. Now I know!
Actually fashionasia I gave up long ago trying to speak in English at government offices. It just slows down things.

3:51 PM GMT+8  

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