Saturday, February 07, 2015

Why some Chinese Malaysian don't speak BM fluently

We use language for our convenience (and mother tongue is for us to know our root). Knowing as many languages as possible is confirmed beneficial to everyone. Everyone knows about this and acknowledges this. Unfortunately it is always not easy to pick up a new language because everyone has different language learning ability.

Things have turned bad when a language is being used as a National Symbol. And this is not going to help. Let me take one closest example, during the era of Kesultanan Melaka, Bahasa became the "Lingua Franca" in this region naturally, not because it was granted the status as "Bahasa Kebangsaan" then only it became the Lingua Franca.

The sense of patriotism is not really important because what matters most is YOUR life journey. As I understand, the concept of Nationalism is even not encouraged in some religions such as Islam because such concept can be manipulated to oppress a certain group of people. Nationalism is a  young thing. It was used to "unite people" to fight the colonized power. Now the colonized power has gone, the spirit of nationalism is gone as well.

Malaysia has been progressing very well since independence because we are a country of multi-cultural, multi-religions and multi-languages (Of course all this while some Nationalist don't really like this and they are still trying to change the face of Malaysia). Among all ASEAN countries, we are only behind Singapore. Those "One language" nations such as Indonesia were stuck in deep shite for many decades due to their "mono" policy. Fortunately their newer leaders saw the importance of "pluralism" and hence lifted all the barbaric language-ban policy (Indonesia President Gus Dur abandoned the Chinese language ban), and since then these nations started growing fast and now they are even chasing us. Now the Chinese education in Indonesia is growing very fast. There is even a University in Thailand that uses Chinese as the teaching medium.

Some Chinese do not speak good Bahasa simply because they have no chance to practice it after graduated from secondary schools. For those Chinese who managed to work in Government or GLCs, where Bahasa is the primary work language, they can speak very good Bahasa because they are using the language daily. The thing is not many Chinese get to join Government and GLCs as most of the positions are reserved for Bumiputra only.

Therefore a lot of Chinese have to "cari makan" in the private sectors. And everybody knows that English is the primary work language in the private sectors. To the Malays, it is not a problem for them to work in private sectors because their mother tongue is Bahasa. They still have much chance to use Bahasa in their daily lives.

To increase the importance of Bahasa, Bahasa has to first become a "knowledge language". Books published in Bahasa should cover many areas such as modern science, western philosophies, eastern religions, new age beliefs, personal development and etc, don't just cover Islam only. Bahasa readers must be able to find books or articles written in Bahasa in their area of interest. Of course this is for long term, the ultimate goal is to replace English as the primary work language in private sectors. English is nobody's mother tongue here in Malaysia.

Today, all types of schools in Malaysia are already forced by the government to make Bahasa Malaysia a compulsory subject. What needs to be done is to revise the course content and the teaching methods. Conversation skill should be emphasized rather than reading/writing skill, because conversation sounds more useful to students when they enter the society. We don't need to increase the number of hours to teach BM, we only need to change the way of teaching and improve the the content.

Also, for Malaysians whose mother tongue is not BM (including Iban, Kadazan, etc). BM should be taught as "Second Language" . The "Second Language" concept is not something new in the Teaching Profession, it has been widely researched and has been implemented in many countries.

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