Whither the national language?


Whither the national language?

Whither the national language?

Thursday, December 15, 2011
  • school language
It's usually possible to tell what kind of school someone went to just by the way they speak Malay.

KUALA LUMPUR: Well-known jounalist and blogger Datuk A Kadir Jasin published a post today in which he lamented the inability of many Malaysians -- including some Malays -- to speak the national language.


In his post, entitled 'Whither the National Language?', the blogger said that it's usually possible to tell what kind of school someone went to just by the way they speak Malay.


Giving the example of a Chinese reporter who called him for an interview, he said, "It was clear from the accent, grammar and tone of speaking that this reporter studied at a Chinese school and had very limited exposure to other races," he wrote. 


"On the other hand," he said, "I have a Chinese 'student' who did a degree at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and studied at Sekolah Kebangsaan Petaling Jaya. This student cannot speak Chinese."


He said there are also many Malays who can speak neither Malay nor English well.


"There are Malays from national schools who can only speak Malay in their thick local dialects," he said.


"They know just enough English to pass examinations, but there are many who can't even pass."


"Unfortunately," he added, "their Malay isn't much better."


"Then we have a group of Malays who aren’t fluent in Malay either because they didn’t speak it at home or because they went to international schools or private schools that didn’t use Malay as the language of instruction," he said, adding that this group includes the children of government ministers and wealthy Malays.


The blogger pointed out that his own children went to national schools that were in mixed-race, urban areas, so they were fluent in both Malay and English.


He then brought up a report that DAP Member of Parliament for Bakri, Er Teck Hwa, is not fluent in Malay.


"In that report, Er admitted he was forced to work hard because he wasn’t fluent in the national language," he said, "because he had studied at a Chinese school."


"Personally," the blogger said, "as a product of National Language Month (1965 and 1966) and a regular user of Malay and English, I’ve long lost confidence in Malay’s potential to become the universal language in Malaysia."


"The failure to implement a National Education System is the source of this weakness in mastering and using the Malay language along with the worsening racial polarisation in our country now."


Citing the fact that National Language Month still has to be held every year -- more than half a century after independence -- he said, "It’s no exaggeration when I say that not only have we failed to eliminate the racial polarisation left over from the divide-and-conquer ways of our colonisers, we have made it worse."


Read the full post (in Bahasa Malaysia) HERE.