Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Bahasa Melayu Dilemma

"Today, Malay racists held a massive rally to oppose UMNO's language policy and critics government's for belittling the status of Bahasa Malaysia. How should Hishammuddin respond to it?" -A Dubious Political Issue, By TAY TIAN YAN/ Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily


This is in response to the above article from Sin Chew.

When Dong Zhong demands teaching in Mandarin - they aren't racists. But when Malay Literary laureates demand the same out of concern for the future relevance of our National Language, they are "racists"!! That's so convenient isn't it?
It is my opinion that those who demonstrated weren't racists - not by a long shot, for they had very valid arguments to their case, against the proponents of English only science & Maths (S & M ) education.

Someone in the online discussions said they/we are preparing the future generation to compete "globally" - that's plain hogwash - especially when our standard of English is so bad, and you cannot learn English from Science and Maths.
Let's get real here - just how many percent of our students will actually be competing globally? 5-10% max? And so the 90% have to be faced with a learning (and teaching) impediment, due to their poor command of English?

English can only be learnt through increased utilization - yes - but you learn it through listening, reading, writing and speaking the "English" of Queen's English, and not the "English" of S&M (more so, when these teachers can hardly string a proper English sentence).
And once your language is proficient, you can easily transcend the linguistic barrier, when necessary, so as to acquire further knowledge in these subjects - that too, only should the need arise.

Firstly, nobody said that English cannot be used to teach S&M - but there is no reason why teaching of these subjects in Malay or Mandarin should be abolished. The option to learn in vernacular languages should be kept open. Meanwhile efforts should have been made to train sufficient manpower to teach S&M in English to willing students. this could have been expanded gradually over time, without really imposing it upon the "unwilling" students.
It is fine to be teaching in English to all those will be exposed to English in their daily activities or in their society - but to the man who may be "academically challenged" and doesn't plan to go beyond the confines of his "comfort zone", is this "linguistic punishment" warranted? I certainly don't think so.

The national Identity depends a great deal on Language and the Arts. The progress & complexity of a language and the arts also define "culture"and "sophistication" or "simplicity" of a people.
In the long run, the viability of a language is determined by by it's commercial viability - how would one feel for one's country, should somebody say that "Your National Language is nothing but Redundant!"?
So now - what exactly does the Ministry of Education under Hishamuddin hope to achieve by abolishing Malay/ Mandarin as mediums of instruction?

It doesn't augur well for the morale & image of the nation, and for national cohesion/ identity, if no effort is made toward the preservation and progress of the National Language (in this case - Malay), as a viable commercial language.
For this reason alone, all those who held the demonstration the other day have my moral support.

Having said all these, it is my opinion that the Govt has made no serious effort at promoting real knowledge through the Malay language or any other - it has simply been used as a political instrument to hoodwink the masses thru the mind-numbing "Ketuanan Melayu" rhetoric. Thanks to them, the academic/literary achievements of our many "NEP products" linguists from our "universities" is a testament to this fact.

This hasty decision to IMPOSE English upon the masses, stinks of a cheap political gimmick in the name of "progress", to preserve one man's legacy. One that belongs to a megalomaniac with ulterior motives. Incidentally, he thought we learn English in Science and Maths classes, and that linguists and academicians (and everybody else, actually) are nutcases.

This half-baked and divisive idea was his, and a great many unthinking Malaysians who would demand a "Bangsa Malaysia" without a doubt, have bought it!