Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Patriotism & the English language

There's this misconception here, in this country, that if you choose to speak in English you have no pride in your mother tongue. In other words you are less patriotic.

Not necessarily so, says Raja Zarith, the wife of Johor Tengku Mahkota.

It has nothing to do with us being any less nationalistic or patriotic.

Raja Zarith, who is a Royal Fellow, Faculty of Language Studies and Linguistics, UKM, holds an MA (Oxon) in Chinese Studies.

She has her own column "Mind Matters" in the Sunday Star.

Using English Doesn't Make One Less Patriotic

BANGI: Having a good command of the English language does not make a Malaysian pro-British or less patriotic, says, Raja Zarith Sofia.

Rather, she said, fluency in English and a strong command of it was necessary in the 21st century, whether in daily life, at social gatherings or at work.

“It has nothing to do with being pro-English or pro-British, or with glorifying our colonial past.

“It has nothing to do with us being any less nationalistic or patriotic,” she said when delivering a lecture entitled Going Global: The Use of the English Language in 21st Century Malaysia at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here yesterday.

Raja Zarith said she chose to speak on the topic as she felt it was an important and timely issue.

She said Malaysians must consider the ability to converse in English an advantage.

“We don't have to fear the English language. Studying English as a language won't change us from being Malaysians to being pseudo-English or pseudo-American,” she said.

She said having a good command of English also meant Malaysians would be able to transmit and convey their knowledge about themselves as a society and as a country to people from other countries.

She said this could be done through writing articles, papers, academic and non-academic books and novels about heritage, culture, religion and the arts.

"We can also share and exchange our views about national and world events with foreigners who use English as we do, that is, as a means of communication and as a global language," she added

Read Nuraina A. Samad's entry on "The English Language, Patriotism and...Bloggers" here


MaryKate said...

Hi Kak Ton, me too trying to find you email but not successful.Recvd your comments, no problem. I'm just so glad to have 'discovered' you guys and it gave a totally new dimension to blogging and everything else. Hv got the opportunity to meet Raden and Kerp too so I am equally happy to have known them and all the others. Have a nice holiday tomorow :)

Anonymous said...

Whether we like it or not, English is the most useful language a businessman in any part of the world employs to have access to markets, technology, capital, and training from the outside world.

By sidelining English, we will worsen the inequity in economic opportunities because there is no doubt that those who are fluent in English in this shrinking world of Internet and free trade will have wider employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Yes, we can be fluent in Bahasa Malaysia or in our respective mother tongue without having to sacrifice English.

zorro said...

Maria, my latest posting on Little Iz proves a point....

warrior2 said...

English is just a tool. If everybody understand this, all is well.

maria a samad (kak ton) said...

Dear Zorro,

Yes I read it. So very relevant.

IMO, lil Iz parents made the right decision. I simply detest all forms of "bigotry" and

Akmal said...

Kak Ton,
This topic; a student's view.
I am still wondering, grasping for answer, on how English and Patriotism is connected that far, and even questioning does it matter? I mean, come on, it is just a Language, a mean to communicate. The more we know about English or any other languages, the better. Even our Malay words are originated mostly from outside. I heard about this somewhere before, which I don't know if it is true, that the only original Malay words we have are three; paku, b*b* and besi. Sorry for the second word. But if this one is true, what do you think? To me, I don't care about all this, as it will definitely waste my time. All books I have to read in my study and most of students out there, none are in Malay. So I better keep myself up to conquer this language.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Ton,

I commend Akmal's maturity and depth of perception.

Mastering more languages does not in any way diminishes our cultures. In fact it enriches our understanding of our values. It makes us look into our heritage from the outside.

Not all conventional wisdom that we inherited are beneficial. So, by looking in from the outside, we may become more progressive in seeking the truth.

Each language comes with its own nuances. I learnt human rights is not in the Chinese dictionary. It explains human rights as empowerment of the individual.

Human rights is very vague, but empowering people is more specific.

frankie said...

I'm a non malay but used to score prizes during my school days for my ability to score highest mark in the BM subject year after year in a sekolah kebangsaan. But once out in the job market, these abilities were not translated in job performance and abilities assessment. I am still proud of my understanding of the national language, but I can't cari makan with it.

I came back from the post office today and saw one of the 'charter' pasted at the back of the wall, and in that charter has a very strange word printed big and bold which says " MENSTANDARDKAN " Clearly this is a real abuse of the national language. Is there no BM word for 'Standard'. I felt so humiliated.

maria a samad (kak ton) said...


You posted your comment to the wrong thread. I am reposting it here.

Anonymous said...
kak ton,

I just read kak ena's entry in which she said Bernama did not include Raja Zarith's take on the bloggers.

How come Bernama failed to include the part on bloggers?

Was it intentional because it is a "no no" topic and a blanket ruling from Bernama's top gun, that Zaini guy?

Or was it self-censorship on the part of the reporter concerned?

If the latter is the case, he should be ashamed to call himslef a reporter.


5:22:00 PM

Pi Bani said...

Oh yes, way back in school, whenever we spoke in English amongst ourselves, we would be considered berlagak. And those who considered us berlagak? Well, their BM wasn't all that good either.

I don't see how a language should be considered as a tool to assess one's patriotism. Frankly I wish I have the ability to speak other languages as well besides Malay and English. Nak start belajar sekarang, payah benar nak absorb! Ooops, dah keluar bahasa rojak le pulak... :)

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Ton,

Waktu Magrib over in Sabah is at 6:19.

So, may I wish everyone here Selamat Maal Hijrah.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

learning english makes one a less malay(?). i mean, whadda? its that typical backward malay mentality!

fyi aunty Maria, this lil Izz was the nephew i was telling you about, in your post when adam was circumcised.

Anonymous said...

Japanese leaders and opinion-makers have been advocating that English be adopted as a second official language.

The Japanese are accepting the pragmatic view that Japan's future as a leading industrial nation will critically hinge on its population mastering the English language.

A similar awakening is happening in other Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan and China.

Among especially the youth, there is a keen interest in learning how to speak English reasonably well.

The pressure is getting more intense as young professional people appreciate the value of the Internet in advancing their professional status.

There is a very high correlation between the mastery of English and Internet usage.

mekyam said...

Hi Kak Ton!

Selamat Tahun Baru dan Awal Muharram!

frankie said: "MENSTANDARDKAN" ... Is there no BM word for 'Standard'.

frankie, "mempiawaikan" or "membakukan" would be usable BM equivalents.

As a language professional (I use the term loosely), I personally feel that foreign-word borrowing or co-opting is not necessarily a bad or humiliating practice. English lexicon achieves its vastness and increases its propensity for varied expressions due to this very practice.

The trick is to use borrowings and acquisitions from another language, whether from English or any other, as additions instead of as replacements of existing words in one's language. Synonyms enriches one's vocabulary.

Basically this means, it is not so terrible to use "menstandardkan" as a word of choice, perhaps because that is an easily understood word for the context. The shame would be if usage is because of ignorance of the Malay alternatives.

frankie said...

Thank you for the clarification mekyam, I know there are alternatives for some of the english words that has been 'Malaysianised' in the national language but I wish we can use the original malay word as a way of promoting the BM vocabulary. We can't simply abandon these original words for the sake of the understanding for the people or to glamourise certain words. How can we stand proud of our national language when the government bodies and the mass media tolerates the abuses and the rapes of the language. Bahasa Melayu if used correctly in its originality is such a beautiful and elegant language, let's not lose it.

maria a samad (kak ton) said...


thank you for the greetings.