Friday, April 18, 2008

Terrorised Language

While you are reading this, there are languages that are being buried

Why did I start blogging in the first place? It all started as a means for me to express my thoughts and to discuss and review things that going on in this life. When I first started, I never knew the force that backs blogging activities. Was I ignorant or was it coincident that during that time blogging was not as popular and widespread as today? I don’t have any idea.

A lot of things change after we left high school and I am not exempted from it. For instance, it has been two years since I last wrote in Malay, owh, save only when I sat for CTU 551 (Tamadun Islam dan Tamadun Asia) and did my assignment for CTU 553. Lately, thoughts have come across my mind and much of the discussions that took place in a number of forums seemingly confirm my concerns. My concerns primarily are, and I believe these are also the same tune of concern sang by those who care for this matter, pertaining to the development of Malay language, its future as well as its fate.

To begin with, in Malaysia, the Malay language is accorded with protection under the shelter of the glorious Federal Constitution. Art 152(1) designates the Malay language as the national language of this land. Not only that the Federal Constitution vigorously offers protection to this language, the Constitution also recognises and gives prevalence to this language over English if the Malay version and the English version of the Federal Constitution have any discrepancy. If such conflict arises, the Malay version is to be regarded as the authoritative text. This magnificent declaration can be found in Art 160B. These two Articles exude the intention of the architects of our Constitution to exalt the position of Malay language in its own land; after all Malaysia used to be known as Tanah Melayu, although socio-politically speaking I am not comfortable with the term. Of course, historically speaking, I might prefer to employ that term; nevertheless, this is a different issue altogether and I shall not indulge in it. Perhaps if there were a need to address this issue, I would write something on it. Having regard to the traditional name of the place in which the language is spoken, it is somewhat justifiable that this language should be fortified.

Now, there is a furore in the air about the current position of the Malay language. The language is no longer the medium of teaching in the public universities, save only to some religious studies and studies on sociology and anthropology courses. It is still the official language in our primary and secondary school system. The lingua franca in these two institutions was English but the Jawatankuasa Kabinet 1974 revised the position and as a result, Malay language was designated as the medium of teaching. I wouldn’t comment anything on this because I am somewhat divided over this issue. There are pros and cons with regard to this policy but I guess it is best left hanging until I could find and figure out constructive contentions.

Back to the furore, there are grievances in the air over the fate and future of this language. Will it last? That is the million-dollar question that is dominating the atmosphere. In the wake of perceived ‘threat’ to the Malays, a forum was held and it was reported in the News. One of the overriding issues was the survival of Malay language in today’s challenging world. One of the panellists lamented about the treatment given to this language; he accused the language is discriminated, forgotten and not given due care.

Nevertheless, my critical evaluation over the issue stimulates me to go beyond the lament over the position of the language. Why is that the prominence of the language has deteriorated? I believe this has something to do with the way we treat the language.

I realise that most of us don’t really care about the existence of this language. We take for granted the existence of this language that we fail to appreciate the value that is attached to it. We adore too much of foreign language, especially English (which is what exactly I am doing now; this writing itself is self-explanatory of my language preference. Shame on me). Contrary to some countries like Japan, France, South Korea and China, just to name a few, we Malaysians refuse to go in depth to learn our very own national language. Because of that, we take for granted this language and consequently nobody appreciate it. We tend to forget that during the period of Malacca Sultanate, Malay language was the widespread lingua franca in South East Asia, at least.

A European historian even concluded that the Malay language was as widespread as the Latin language in Europe; that period was the glorious days of both languages. Nevertheless, as the usage of Latin is dwindling, the same epidemics also contracted by the Malay language. It is somewhat lucky because unlike Latin, Malay language can still find its place in today’s world. Surely we don’t want the language to suffer the same fate suffered by the Latin language; it is now only used in Churches and for religious purposes only.

Lets ponder for a second, why was DBP established in the first place? I reckon we don’t have the exact answer but reasonably presuming, one of its tasks would be to enrich the Malay language, to preserve and to ensure its survival. But what has become of that institution now? Have they carried out their duties? I’m not sure but looking at the state of the Malay language, I guess it is reasonable to assume that they have failed to discharge their duties accordingly. The Malay language is not substantially enriched over the decade. In fact, the Malay language is very poor in its fund of vocabulary. As a result of that, sometimes we cannot find the correct word in order to project the suitable expression. We cannot satisfactorily express what is inside our mind.

Most of today’s contemporary words that can be found in the Kamus Bahasa have its origin in English.

Yes, it is inevitable for us to borrow and take words from other languages but what distresses me the most is the fact that DBP only imitates the words, upload them into the Kamus nakedly without conducting any research as to the viability of the imported words. The lack of research has rendered it impossible for the imported words to expand and create more derivatives. Saharil Hasrin has suggested that to strengthen the Malay language, it should be acceptable to just copy other terms and words from other languages to the Malay language; he in fact is countenancing the notion of ‘be open to language evolution’. With respect, I am unable to agree with him, at least wholly, on this notion. We have to be cautious in copying other languages. The most important thing is we have to consider the viability of the words in the Malay language. We want the words to expand the language and to enrich the vocabulary, not to become liabilities and rubbish to the language. The imported words should be able to offer us more sensible local words in order to best represent our expression.

Our forefathers in the past undeniably copied scores of terms and words from other languages but they did that cautiously. They didn’t just nakedly and blindly extort the words and commit them into the Malay language, they improvised the words. As such, those words survive until now and not only have they survived alone, together they also breed and give birth to more words, derived from their own. They exist not merely to enrich our vocabulary but they also act as spirits to the language.

I have conceived this all this while; can any statutory body be sued if it fails to carry out its statutory duty? Is there any law that allows legal action to be taken against the belligerent statutory body? The answers to that would have to be in negative. In relation to DBP, the courts cannot entertain any legal action against them as no law permits them to do so. Besides that, the nature of its functions and the success or failure of its carrying out its duty cannot be legally measured; it can only be politically, socially and philosophically adjudged but cannot be mathematically decided as fail or pass. There goes the chance to hold them accountable for their failure to enrich and strengthen the position of Malay language.

Before wharfing the journey of this writing, I guess it would be a little appropriate to put forward a couple of suggestions. Instead of copying more words from the West, why don’t we consider borrowing words from our neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Japan, and India? This could be applied to lexicon that concerns with science social usages. Of course, for technology convenience purposes, it is advisable to borrow technological terms from the countries that are technologically developed

Secondly, we could be more open to new words or street words. But of course research as to the viability of the words should be conducted. Ultimately, I hope DBP can perform its statutory duty by proliferating language study.

For more insight on the state of Malay language, refer to essay entitled ‘teroris bahasa’ by Saharil Hasrin Sanin, compiled in New Malaysian Essays. Available in your nearest bookstores


Saudara Teddy said...

what the hell panjang nak mampus...

Rue said...

aku tak sedar la wei...byk sgt nak cover.. maafkan hamba sekiranya artikel ini membuatkan anta sakit tengkuk..wakaka

Thedervish said...

Dude, do read stuffs by Dr Colin Nicholas. Nice blog btw. Lagi serious writing dari aku punye.. wakakaka!!!


Anonymous said...

amir bagi link kamoo

Anonymous said...

gle complicated. aku bace jap dah pening hahahaha

post la politik sket bleh aku gadoh ngn ko hahaha

Gunung Kinabalu said...

Hello Rue,

Thanks for your comment in my post regarding Ketuanan Melayu. We need young people of Sabahan and of course Sarawakian as well to realize and alert about the real situation is Malaysia.
After years of being left behind, but yet Sabahans are still stubbornly ignorantly quiet... with no sound of protest. Why?:
1. We've been warned/scared by ISA
2. We have no strong and knowledgable people who can represent us in Parliment
3. and others..