Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Colonial Language

None of the Malaysian citizens at present can deny the fact that English is a colonial language. Just ask the elderly who used to live over the era of British occupation for instance, of course they’ve long instilled the attitude of hating the colonizers. After Portuguese and Japanese, historically, British was also one of Malaya’s colonisers. Therefore, I guess it makes sense if the English language is categorised in the column of ‘Colonial Language’. 

In spite of the fact that it’s a colonial language, Malaysia is one of the countries in the world that puts high belief that English is significant. The ‘faith’ has led to a big consequence towards the country after independence in 1957 whereby English has been officially declared as the second language. It is evident that English has been long taught and is a compulsory subject to study at schools, be it primary or secondary schools.

Recently, the Ministry of Education has suggested that it be passed in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exam or else students won’t be qualified to acquire a piece of the SPM exam certificate later. Is it the government’s urge in order to ensure students primarily the Malays will be concentrating on the colonial language in earnest? Or this action will only cause the Malay students fail to procure the SPM exam certificate and finally fail to get a job neither at the government nor private sector. Have a think!

A lot of educated parents have been aware of the importance of English nowadays. In addition, there are some parents who make English as their daily communication language at home. Consequently, their children whose nationality is Malay aren’t fluent and proficient in their mother tongue. This shouldn’t be happening! In the book ‘An Introduction to Sociolinguistics’ written by Janet Holmes, it is believed that the demand of a worker to use English much more is among the biggest contributor to language shift. Yet, speaking in a foreign language 100% and ignoring our own native language constitutes a foolish step which may lead to language loss.

Speaking about language loss, the habit of speaking in a foreign language is a main factor that contributes language death. Would you be happy when your own mother tongue dies? Of course, not!

Do you know that the group of immigrants often face this kind of problem? This includes immigrants to the United States, Japan, Australia and so forth. Mostly their children are bilingual for being able to speak more than one language. However, should the mother tongue be never spoken at all, the coming generations will turn to be monolingual and more disappointingly, these future generations only know English. Even worse, they’ll get confused with their own identity. What a shame!

Were I a parent, making Bahasa Melayu and English as the main languages in my family institution is really awesome. At least, my children wouldn’t undergo any difficulty in mastering both languages. Recalling a friend of mine who was born in the United Kingdom, her mother usually speaks Malay at home while his father speaks English. That has made him bilingual. Living in a foreign country like the United Kingdom, of course at school, he has no choice and has to study fully in English. This is because English is the language used when speaking to his classmates and teachers.

I feel amazed and impressed because their parents have strong identity as a Malay. They too speak Malay although their children study in English at school.

What makes me astonished and surprised is when some Malaysian parents who are too obsessive about the coloniser’s language by prioritizing the language at home. This sounds really risky for the children as they tend to lose their identity as a Malay and will probably be facing the problem of identity later. What’s the point of being a Malay if being unable to speak Malay fluently?

It isn’t wrong to converse with children in English. Plus, they should foster it. Anyhow, don’t forget the national language which is supposed to be proud of. Also, make sure that the mastery of both languages lies on a very satisfactory level.

Thus, parents are encouraged to speak English to their children but mother tongue can never be left behind. By using both languages, this will help children master both languages fluently and the problem of English mastery among Malaysians will no longer happen. So disadvantageous if there’re people who’re too fanatic toward Bahasa Melayu who totally ignore the significance of English in today’s world.


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