Hau tu spik Malaysian

A billboard in Klang for the new Port.
A billboard in Klang for the new Port.
Malaysia is constantly grappling with the role of English in the country and in the Malaysian language, Bahasa Malaysia. On the one hand, fluency in English is highly prized. The government’s latest initiative to improve English skills is that Math and Science courses will now be taught in English medium. On the other hand, English vocabulary is flooding into BM, which bothers many, especially when it displaces perfectly good BM equivalents. The newest Blog on my roll is MacVaysia, an English teacher in Rawang. He writes a lot about the language situation here, BM and English and …Manglish. Here’s an excerpt of some of his thoughts on the subject:

So what’s the fuss about? Well, the people raising the alarm are concerned not about English in Malaysia, but about English in Malay. They are alarmed by the large number of English words that are in common use in the Malay language. RTM has even banned some Malay songs that contain English lyrics, and the newspapers frequently contain letters from people upset by the use of English words in Malay TV and radio broadcasts. It is true that the average conversation between Malays will likely contain several English words, or at least words that are derived from English. Here’s a very short list of some common words:… Read the whole thing here.

There’s no such thing as a pure language, as he points out. English vocabulary is half Latin. BM had equal parts Arabic and Sanskrit before the flood of English. When I first visited Malaysia, I didn’t know any BM. But between my rudimentary Arabic vocabulary and my father’s Hindi, we could decipher a good deal of what we saw. So I don’t find anything inherently wrong with English entering now. It’s just a little too rapid, and perhaps a little too eagerly adopted. I submit for your consideration this photo I took a while back while driving through Klang. It’s a billboard for the new shipping port set up to challenge Singapore. Any non-Malaysians want to hazard a guess about what it says? Yu tu ken spik Malaysian… [Click the picture for a larger image.]


10 thoughts on “Hau tu spik Malaysian

  1. This is funny! But it gives me hope that I can possibly communicate with the Malaysian people when I come visit. ~ Mommo

  2. This is one of those discussions that will surface once every few years. This must be the third or fourth tome I see the debate taking some prominence in the local papers.

  3. There is an excellent poem written in Mangled English in Salleh Ben Joned’s second edition of Poems Sacred and Profane.

    It is also a social commentary on what is wrong with Malaysian society. He’s not not poking fun at Manglish, just for the fun of it.

  4. that nice. kopivisian montok dika om mintutun no dot kinorohingan totopot. i xda byk komen tp teruskan/?

  5. wa alaykum salam –

    yes, the adhan is called out loud 5 times daily from all mosques and musallahs. Usually the mosque has a loudspeaker. Local tv and radio stations also broadcast adhans or at least a short reminder that the time for salat has come.

  6. As salaam alikum,
    My wife and i are tryiing to find out if they call the Adhan in Malaysia… I know that some may see this as a very silly question.. but the fact is … we don’t know….

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