Deputy minister’s national language proficiency questioned

Teo Nie Ching, Deputy Education Minister

Shaira Idris
Written by Shaira Idris

PUTRAJAYA – January 31, 2019: What is the difference between penurunan (reduction) and pengurangan (decrease)?

While it is universally believed that these two words are synonymous to each other in Bahasa Malaysia and English, a point of contention regarding this was made by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

Teo  responded to the so-called misunderstanding surrounding a report about an alleged 72 per cent reduction in the government-funded allocation of food supplies for boarding schools by explicitly stating that it was reduced, not decreased.

The 72 per cent reduction meant was a decrease in allocation, not a reduction, said Teo in her Bahasa Malaysia statement posted on both her official Twitter and Facebook pages yesterday.

If you cannot puzzle out what Teo was trying to convey, you are not alone because her assured response ultimately drew much flak from netizens, many of whom ridiculed her command of the national language.

“Kah kah kah… The proficiency level in the national language of a “big shot in the Education Ministry…” How ironic. Did you get a credit for BM when you took SPM?” reads a sardonic reply by netizen @EnKojak to Teo’s statement.

“This is a failure in BM (Bahasa Malaysia). The Education Ministry should  come up with a policy where all Malaysian citizens are required to pass BM” wrote Irwansah Idris on Facebook.

“I’ve read so many times trying to understand the (Teo’s) statement above… I think my mind has become dense because I just cannot comprehend it but when I read all the comments here, I am convinced that I’m not the one who’s dense,” Abu Hurairah wrote also on Facebook.

Aside from lambasting Teo for the lack of clarity in her sentence, there are several critics who presume that she may have mistaken the word “penurunan” for “pengagihan” (distribution), which they assert is the more appropriate term that should have been used instead.

Among the netizens who addressed Teo’s inappropriate word choice were @play3r_two and @camancher2012 who wrote “I believe the word “distribution” has a more lucid definition compared to “reduction” or “decrease” and “You mean “distribution”, right? “Penurunan” is not the appropriate Malay word here, am I right @DBPMalaysia?” in their tweets, respectively.

Another netizen, Iqbal Ikhwandy who commented on the issue shared Teo’s status on Facebook with the caption that reads: “Everyone is confused with this statement. YB Deputy Minister Teo Nie Ching, I feel the choice of word in your statement is wrong. It’s not “reduction” but “distribution,” which is more accurate, is it not?”



About the author

Shaira Idris

Shaira Idris

Shaira is a 20-something accidental journalist who's currently still adapting to the world of journalism and learning the ropes of her job.