LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Jul 2018 9pm

Is Bahasa Melayu A Dying Language?

PIC: Berita HarianPIC: Berita HarianI AM a Malay but was sent to a private kindergarten that uses English as a medium of communication. My primary education was also at the same school.

It was a struggle for me. At home, I hardly use English as a means to communicate so I quickly felt out of place at school. I felt more comfortable expressing myself in Bahasa Malaysia.

At present, I have a nephew and niece who articulate themselves in English most of the time. They even have a distinct English accent when they speak.

Looking at how they were raised, I don't see much difference as compared to my upbringing. But what’s different is that their TV diet would comprise of Playhouse Disney and other English-speaking children programmes.

Amazing, I thought, that children now pick up the English intonation and also a wide range of vocabulary from what they watch on TV!



A shame reality today is that we Malaysians have a conflict in our identity, particularly in language. If you ask me to differentiate between Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia, I would say there is no significant difference, except to the label.

According to Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Nik Safiah Abdul Karim, a well-known linguist at Universiti Malaya's Akademi Pengajian Melayu, both Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia are the same language.

"Bahasa Malaysia was created because of it being used in Malaysia by people from different races. Bahasa Melayu on the other hand is usually addressed to the language of the Malay race."

The rebranding of the language is mainly because of the multi-racial groups in Malaysia. In other words, the change from Bahasa Melayu to Bahasa Malaysia is because the government of the day wanted to represent all of the races in Malaysia.

"However, from a scholar's point of view, I disagree with this. We should have retained the language's name as Bahasa Melayu because in our Federal Constitution, Bahasa Melayu is the official language," she said.

Good point. If we look at the English language, it is spoken in many English-speaking parts of the world, but never do we call it as the American language, the Australian language, the New Zealand language.


PIC: englishteachernet.blogspot.comPIC: englishteachernet.blogspot.comENGLISH over MALAY?

It is undeniable that English has a vast influence all around the globe. In simpler words, English is worth learning and the doorway to knowledge, looking at the global economy today.

Bahasa Melayu clearly is out of league in comparison to English, Mandarin and other spoken languages. But it's unfair to sideline Bahasa Melayu altogether.

Nik Safiah said the progression of Bahasa Melayu in terms of the number of speakers is of course very limited as it is only spoken in South East Asia and also some parts of South Africa.

She said that Bahasa Melayu has a rich history of formal and informal expressions.

"Bahasa Melayu can transform spoken language from a 'bahasa longkang' to a science and technology language," she curtly said.



PIC: englishteachernet.blogspot.comPIC: englishteachernet.blogspot.comAs an overseas graduate, I would say having to know more than one language is a great advantage. You will begin to appreciate each language as they have unique qualities. Apart from Bahasa Melayu and English, I am also an intermediate French speaker, a language I studied since high school.

Both Bahasa Melayu and English should be studied and conversed by everyone in Malaysia. Some might think that Bahasa Melayu is outdated and the current trend is to speak in English. English is the 'in' language.

While words like 'amuk' is derived from Bahasa Melayu and is incorporated in the Oxford Dictionary, we should remember is that every language in the world has words adopted from another language. There are many words in the English language such as 'faux pas' and 'routine' that are words derived from other European languages.

The key here is to master the language. Not that the language is outdated but it is merely problem among the speaker.

Scientific research found that being fluent in two languages, particularly from early childhood, not only enhances a person's ability to concentrate, but might also protect against the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive decline.

As Malaysians we are being raised with Bahasa Melayu and English as part of our education system. This should be seen as an advantage.



PIC: enlishteachernet.blogspot.comPIC: enlishteachernet.blogspot.comLanguage is an identity and it is so important that you need to preserve the language you speak as a birthright. In our case, Bahasa Melayu is the language of national importance.

As a Gen-Y Malaysian, I feel that Bahasa Melayu is my identity, especially when studying abroad. This unique quality is something I am proud of and I would not want my children to lose their sense of identity to their country in the future.

You can't say that Bahasa Melayu is backwards simply because it is not spoken widely. Having said that, I feel very proud to see some English people converse in Malay back when I was in the UK.

When asked about the current trend of youngsters who prefer English over Malay, Nik Safiah said that soon they will have no unique identity and the patriotic feeling for the country.

"It is sad to see this trend and it is unhealthy for the development of our country," she admits.

"I won't deny the importance of English today, but conversing in Bahasa Melayu is not an option. It is not to be sidelined and treated as a second class language."


At 24, I began to realise the reasoning behind my father's decision to send me to an international private school. Not that he wanted me to be shaped into a 'blue-eyed' person, but being a genius 18 years ago, he had thought further of the importance of English but not denying the relevant of knowing Bahasa Melayu as part of your identity.

So if you're a Malaysian, speak Bahasa Melayu as it is Bahasa Malaysia.