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.]