Hornbill Unleashed

June 22, 2012

Bahasa, Mandarin, Tamil or Manglish- let’s all look at the BIG PICTURE

Filed under: Education,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
Tags: , , ,

Bahasa, Mandarin, Tamil or Manglish- let's all look at the BIG PICTURE

Moaz Nair

Like it or not, as Malaysians, let’s first unite ourselves through a common language.

Geographically, Malaysia is situated within the vast stretch of the Malay Archipelago. The lingua franca of which is mainly the Malay language and its other acceptable variants. Every nation, for that matter, has its definitive language, be it China, Japan, South Korea, India or the US.

Language in Malaysia has become quite a delicate matter especially when it comes to education and achieving national goals. If every ethnic group desires an education system that pleases the group then it will not bode well for a nation of ethnic diversity. It would just be insupportable, for instance, if Indians living in Australia or Canada were to demand for Tamil medium schools to be set up in these countries.

Malay language has yet to develop

As for Malaysia, the main language – the lingua franca – is the Malay language. It may not be an international language like English but 95 percent of transactions in the country – business as well as social – are done in the Malay language.

As compared to the English language one must admit that the Malay language has yet to develop into an international language in the business and educational milieus. But this cannot be the excuse to belittle the language. It has its primary role in the Malaysian context to unite the people of all ethnic groups.

A language has both social and commercial functions. As far as culture is concerned, it’s always the native language of every ethnic group that becomes inherently conspicuous in their life. From daily conversation to songs and dances the native language plays an important emotional role. The language here is actually the soul of its people.

We see this phenomenon in all ethnic groups in the country. There are over 100 variants and dialects of languages in Malaysia. It also happens in India where the ethnic diversity is vast. Over 300 variants of languages are spoken in that nation. Despite trying hard to make Hindi the common language English has become a more commonly understood language in the country.

The reason is English plays an important role in the economic and educational domains. They have found it more convenient to use English as the language for education and business. Nonetheless, ethnic groups in India speak or use their ethnic-language for social and cultural purposes.

Singapore’s education system

Singapore started off by having vernacular schools in the state after leaving Malaysia in 1965. This was to please the various ethnic groups in the state. But the leader – seeing the divisive factor in this equation – was wise enough to also have English medium schools.

Despite all the initial fervour for vernacular education almost all parents ended up sending their children to English-medium schools without any coercion from the state.

The penchant for vernacular schools tapered off. Parents realised that it has to be English if their children were to achieve good and internationally recognised education. This could be done in Singapore as the British government had left a useful heritage – the English language for the people to adopt. It’s the same with most Commonwealth countries.

Singapore’s education system today is one of the best in the world. In schools all ethnic groups study in English but are also encouraged to learn their mother tongue. Singapore today sees the culture of the Chinese, Indians and Malays well-preserved despite having English as the language for education.

The Jaffna Tamils

The Jaffna Tamils of British influence in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) of those days too benefited from the English language. The product of which saw the Jaffna Tamils far more advanced than the other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka at the time. Many of those Tamils who now reside in Malaysia and other parts of the world are very successful citizens.

The English language has made them able to access knowledge far better than those who were handicapped by only knowing to speak and write in their mother tongue.

Of course there are other factors in life other than English that can make a race successful, such as adopting a positive value system, hard work, progressive education and a stable political system.

The Japanese and the Koreans are diligent people who also adopt a positive value system. They too have the genetic predisposition (based on scientific studies on intelligence and ethnicity) of being a successful race. They are able to succeed even without having English used as the medium of instruction in schools and universities.

But they are still aware of the importance of English. Many are now English-educated or have exposure to English education. English is widely taught in schools in these countries.

Mandarin will soon become an international language

China has embarked on an ambitious programme for 200 million Chinese to be able to speak English by 2030. English is being taught in schools as a second language and the nation is opening up more universities where English is used as the medium of instruction, especially in the sciences.

Almost all major hotels and organisations in the country conduct English courses for their staff. China is now the second biggest economy in the world and besides Mandarin, English is given prominence in the economic sectors.

Of course learning Mandarin is always an asset to all nations. Like it or not, Mandarin will soon become an international language together with English.

As for now all international transactions are basically done in English – the international language. Thus the English language cannot be ignored as a language for commerce and international communication. It is also a language widely used for tertiary education throughout the world. Over 90 percent of academic stuff – from books to e-journals – is written in English.

The Internet is filled with over 90 percent reading corpus in English. Almost all technological gadgets come with manuals written in English.

Could only speak Manglish

As for Malaysians why stick our heads in the sand if progress is what we aspire for? Teaching and learning of English as a second language in the country has not been effective at all. The most the country could produce today are those who could speak Manglish – an indecipherable mixed language of English words and mother tongue – and could write nothing intelligible in the language after years of so-called education.

Billions of ringgit has been wasted on plans to make Malaysian students proficient in the language but it has achieved minimal results. Malaysians in general do not have the resolve to learn English unlike the Europeans. The flip-flop education policy has further exacerbated the problem.

The country’s education system has disappointed the people.

Every nation has its national language and this must be the pride of the nation. The Malay language is the definitive language of the population and every Malaysian has acknowledged this fact. Every effort must be made for all Malaysians to be adept in the National language but not at the expense of ignoring English and Mandarin.

Malaysians should not be deprived of learning other languages if they wish. If there can be international schools where English is used to teach there should not be any reason why there cannot be English-medium schools in the country.

It’s only fair that those who cannot afford their children to be educated in international schools could choose to send their children to the English-medium schools provided by the government or the private sector.

Dong Zong should the idea on ice

Mandarin is going to be a very important language after English, seeing China becoming the world economic dynamo. But in the Malaysian context building exclusive independent Chinese schools to promote Mandarin and the Chinese culture with an exclusive syllabus may not be in the interest of the nation.

Neither can this be done in any other non-Chinese dominated countries like Australia, Canada or the US. Even Singapore is averse to this.

For the interest of all Malaysians, Dong Zong (The United Chinese School Committees Association) should put on ice the idea of building independent Chinese schools in the country. Not all Chinese agree with Dong Zong’s idea though. They know that it is too sensitive an issue in the Malaysian context.

After all, the economic prowess of the Chinese – relatively the wealthiest ethnic group in the country – has never been dented with or without Independent Chinese Schools.

Dong Zong should instead find solutions to make Mandarin taught more effectively within the present national education system and existing schools. As Mandarin is becoming an important language for commerce propose that Mandarin be taught in all schools.

When Europeans can be fluent in more than two languages within their inclusive national education system, Malaysians too can achieve the same feat if there is a proper progressive education system and supported by Dong Zong.

Malaysia would plausibly be a better place to live in if every Malaysian could speak the Malay language fluently and at the same time could master English, Mandarin or any other third language of their choice.

“Let’s be level-headed. Malays, Chinese and Indians living in developed countries do not demand for the government there to set up vernacular schools,” quipped a Chinese school teacher in Kuantan.

Dong Zong is only a minority voice

“Dong Zong is only a minority voice and should not drive to wedge further between the Chinese and other races. When Malaysians talk about equal opportunity, unity and loyalty they should first understand the reality of the country,” he added.

“We are Malaysians first. Language can be one’s identity but there is a common language that we all should subscribe too to call ourselves Malaysians,” remarked another Chinese educator. “One can persevere practising one’s culture and learn the mother tongue but let our formal education be in the National and English language. Mandarin can be taught in all schools as an important subject,” he added.

“No doubt that the basic objective of education is to open up our minds to all options in life. We need to look at this from the national perspective. Besides the National language we need to learn English and Mandarin,” said a young Chinese graduate from a local university.

“Dong Zong does not represent the majority voice. It does not represent Barisan Nasional. Nor does it represent Pakatan Rakyat,” jibed a Chinese educationist.

Be that as it may, Mandarin is going to be a very important international language after English. It would be apt for all Malaysians to be proficient in Malay (the National language), English and Mandarin.



  1. I wander which English school is the best in the world? I guess that best are in UK and US, but who knows?

    Comment by Skola Engleskog — August 11, 2012 @ 12:53 AM | Reply

  2. UMNO led BN is using Education and the Civil Service as political tools to divide and rule the nation.

    Comment by Sabri — June 23, 2012 @ 12:43 PM | Reply

  3. Can anyone recommend me a good English School? I have heard that there is much more English schools abroad than in England it self? I gues that English language is truly an international language.

    Comment by Skola Engleskog — June 23, 2012 @ 12:15 AM | Reply

  4. I think if we were parents we would like our kids to know Malay, English and Chinese. If your race is not chinese and you go to the trouble of speaking fluent Mandarin it really impresses but we don’t know if it would give a an actual business advantage or not.

    Comment by fakemalaysianews — June 22, 2012 @ 8:43 PM | Reply

  5. Najib said this in Sarawak as reported by The Star:

    “One of the unique features of the Government is its willingness to develop an education system based on the wishes and aspirations of the people. We have decided to leave it to our people to choose the type of education for their children,” Najib stressed, adding that no other country in South East Asia had this kind of policy. Values like these are taught in Chinese schools and I assure that Chinese schools will remain and continue to remain as part of our national education system”


    Comment by Shasha — June 22, 2012 @ 1:14 PM | Reply

  6. I have no issue with Bahasa Malaysia as a subject to be taught in all schools. My children and grandchildren will have no issue with BM as a subject too BUT do not use BM as a political tool to influence the thinking of the rakyat in general and the Malays in particular for BN ‘s expediency.

    Comment by Lee Kim Yu — June 22, 2012 @ 11:41 AM | Reply

  7. All the Top Politicians from BN were all educated in ENGLISH ( locally and Oversea ). Now why are they so against teaching in English ? Very selfish altitude. The possible reason I can think of is they are worried that with the better English educated Malaysian, the abilities of these Politicians to manipulate their ways around issues pertaining to corruptions, human rights etc would be tough.

    Comment by gagojackman — June 22, 2012 @ 10:07 AM | Reply


    Comment by ANTI-MALAYAN COLONIALISM — June 22, 2012 @ 8:40 AM | Reply



    (more detail at
    WikiSabah News: Labuan’s broken promises
    Jan 08, 2011
    The frustration climaxed with about 1000 students at the UMS Labuan International Campus staging a peaceful demonstration. The second RM1.5 mega methanol plant could not operate in full capacity because of the water …)

    Published on: Sunday, April 04, 2010
    Labuan students staged demo cos nobody cared
    By: Student

    NOT many will disagree that the recent demonstration by more then 1,000 students of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Labuan International Campus has done the island favour.

    It has awakened the authorities on the seriousness of the problem on the island which had been dragging on for months without even the MP raising it in Parliament.

    The demonstration was effective because there followed an immediate allocation of RM500,000.

    Why could not this be allocated earlier?

    The allocation was for the installation of additional storage tanks and upgrading the pipeline.

    The water department is also now monitoring the quality of water supplied by water trucks daily.

    This was another issue highlighted in the demo.

    Additional to this, the Department revealed plans to tap water from a river and having more tube wells.

    This definitely is a good idea because even when the second subsea water pipeline is built to transport water from Padas river it should not be fully depended upon.

    We must have alternative sources in case the river cannot cope with demand or technical faults occur at the treatment plant in Beaufort.

    The university had been in Labuan for 10 years and the students were never known to be vociferous in their demands. The facts that they had to stage a demonstration to express their frustration showed that the students had been stretched thin on the issue.

    I disagree with the local Member of Parliament Datuk Haji Yussof Mahal who, in his meeting with the UMS students, said they should not have resorted to a demonstration but used channels.

    Going by the reports the students have used the channels available to them but there had been no results.

    As such they had been compelled by perhaps, ineffective representation of Labuan’s peoples problem at a higher level. The water issue was never known to have been highlighted in Parliament.

    The logic is simple – if leaders don’t do their work that rakyat would do it.

    Moreover in our country peaceful demonstrations are allowed.

    Even BN component parties usually demonstrate in the front gates of foreign embassies to get the message across.

    It should also be noted if matters could be settled through discussion and action taken, the UMS students would not have sat under the sun for hours.

    It was all because they had not heard anyone except NGOs from here speaking up for Labuan on the water issue.

    Comment by INFOMAN — June 22, 2012 @ 8:18 AM | Reply

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