Language of Knowledge

9 11 2012

 

 

Bahasa Melayu Versus English As A Vehicle Of Knowledge For Malays

  • We are trying to make Bahasa Melayu a language of knowledge. (It has to be Bahasa Melayu because there is no such thing as a Bahasa Brunei or Bahasa Singapura where Bahasa Melayu is also the official language and spoken by the people).
  • The success or failure of making Bahasa Melayu a language of knowledge does not depend on  the number of new technical terms and scientific words which Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka has  succesfully ciplak from the English language. The success or failure of any language of knowledge depends on whether the people who speak that language (the Malay people) have become knowledgeable and sucessful in the sciences, arts, commerce and trade.  
  • Todate we are not satisfied yet with what has been achieved by the Malays. That is why we are still continuing with the affirmative action policies. That is why Proton is still pulling us down. That is why the former CEO of Proton who used to have ‘sembahyang hajat’ in the factory now (reportedly) runs a religious school. So we are not there yet.
  • And at the pace at which the rest of the world is galloping, it looks like the Malays are getting left even further behind. If not for Petronas’ oil money pouring into the Treasury, then we would be like Indonesia.
  • Everything is relative. The time taken to achieve something is also relative. Relative to what? Relative to the time taken by other people to achieve the same objectives.  When we take twice, three times or four times the amount of time as other people to achieve the same thing, then what we are doing is  WE ARE WASTING A LOT OF TIME, ENERGY, MONEY, RESOURCES AND OPPORTUNITY.
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  • After 27 years Proton is still not going anywhere. We pay the highest car prices in the world to support Proton and other local car producers. Also to keep the AP industry alive. The question is for how many more years or how many more decades are we going to suffer this? Another 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 25 years?
  • Similarly, we can still take our time developing Malay into a language of knowledge, science and technology but how many more years is it going to take? It will happen eventually – but how many more years will it take? 20 years, 30 years, 50 years?
  • Please do not forget that Malay was a language of empire, world trade and it was a powerful language of the sea – the Malays were a global seafaring people – to New Zealand, Madagascar and up to Taiwan. In the Malay language of the Peninsula there are thousands of words that have been borrowed from Tamil, Sanskrit, Arabic and lately Portugese (there are about 1000 Portugese words in Malay including kereta and kerbau).  But that was a slow natural process that must have taken centuries to evolve. We dont have the luxury of centuries to do what we have to do.
  • Dr Kassim Ahmad says it is going to take about 90 years to forge a true Malaysian identity. He says 48 years have gone by. So there are 42  more years to go.  We always need more and more time.  (I think the Singaporeans have done a better job – in just 40 years).
  • When we finally develop Malay into a language of knowledge, the rest of the world will already be 50 years ahead of us again. We will forever be playing catching up. 
  • Remember folks, the objective is not just to make Malay a language of knowledge, science and technology. It is more important that we make the Malay people a society of knowledge, science and technology in the quickest possible time. People first. The people should always come first.  That is more important.
  • Isnt there a shorter method? Do we have to waste so much time? Do we have to give Proton another 25 years? Do we have to wait another 25 years for the Malay language to evolve?
  • To make Bahasa Melayu a language of knowledge the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka and the other Bahasa Melayu warriors have gone into overdrive to ciplak English words into the Malay language.
  • Here are some examples just from the letter ‘A’ alone in the “modern” Malay dictionary or kamus “moden” :
  • autobiografi, audit, audio, astronomi, astrologi, asimilasi, asimetri, aset, artistik, arkeologi, aristokrat, aposisi, apati, anuiti, antonim, antologi, antitesis, (tesis), antisosial, (sosial), antiklimaks, (klimaks), antik, antidot, anemik, anekdot, anatomi, anarkis, analogi, analisis, anakronisme, (kronisme), anagram, amplitud, amnesia, amatur, amalgam, almanak, alibi, akuatik, akuedak, akaun, agregat, agresif, afirmatif, afidavit, aerobatik, aerodinamik, (dinamik), akademik.
  • I think you get the idea. This is less than half way through just the letter ‘A’ from one Malay dictionary.  If you look up other Malay dictionaries (Kamus Am, Kamus Oxford, Kamus Dewan Bahasa etc) you will find thousands of other words that are basically ciplak from the English language into Malay.
  • The Malay language warriors especially those guys at the Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka say that by doing this they are fighting to ‘memperkasakan Bahasa Melayu‘. Obviously they are talking through their @$$.
  • Now here is the problem when you ciplak thousands of English words into the Malay language. It will actually slow down the process of understanding and acquiring new knowledge for the Malays.
  • This is because every word in any language has a meaning that is usually supported by some larger concept behind it, which is peculiar or specific only to that language.  In short, each word has a short story behind it unique to that particular language.
  • Lets take the English word fermentation.
  • You can say that alchoholic drinks like wine and beer are made through the ‘process of fermentation’. 
  • When food goes bad you can also say, ‘it has begun to ferment’. 
  • When the Arabs run riot in the Arab Spring you can say, ‘it has been fermenting for some time’. 
  • Fermentation is used to describe something (food, drink, people) who are undergoing a change from one state to another state.
  • Every word has its short history, a larger concept, its nuances in its original language. The same goes for Malay, Chinese, Japanese, German etc.
  • Now, anyone who speaks in that language will quickly understand the nuances and the short story of each individual word.  It does not matter if you are a Punjabi learning Russian, a Malay learning French, an Italian learning Malay or a Chinese learning English – you will soon understand and appreciate how the words are used in that language.
  • But when you simply take English words and force feed it into the Malay language by adding a ‘i’ or ‘k’ or ‘t’ at the end (inovasi, dinamik, audit) it does not mean that you instantly also import the short story or the larger concept behind that English word also into the Malay language. That will not happen immediately. It is sometimes impossible.  Even though the new word appears in the Malay dictionary, it is still an alien word to the Malays.
  • Yes I know, if we can wait a few centuries, then of course these words will eventually be absorbed by the Malay people. Just like Arabic, Tamil, Sanskrit, Portugese have all been absorbed by the  Malay people – but that is a process that took centuries.  In multi racial, multi cultural Malaysia THE MALAYS do not have the luxury of waiting for so long.  Sampai bila pun cannot catch up.
  • Then the other reason why these English ciplak words cannot expedite the absorption of knowledge, commerce, science and technology by the Malays is because thse ciplak English words do not form any part of the everyday conversation between a mother and daughter in the house. Or between a father and son in the house. Or between neighbours in the kampong. Or between Malay people in the surau, in the towns, in the condominiums and the housing areas.
  • Rarely are words like  “antidot, anemik, anekdot, anatomi, anarkis, analogi, analisis, anakronisme, (kronisme), anagram, amplitud, amnesia, amatur, amalgam, almanak, alibi, akuatik, akuedak, akaun, agregat, agresif” used in everyday conversation.
  • Do you want to know why? Because these are English words kawan. That is why.  You cannot go back home to Tembeling or Parit and say anarkis, analogi, analisis. Orang tak faham. These are English words lah !  So when people insist that these ciplak words from the English language will now magically become Malay words and make Bahasa Melayu a language of knowledge – it is not going to happen. You are terribly confused.
  • And you are denying the Malay people a fast track towards becoming a modern and scientific society.  Ok I agree, kalau nak tunggu a few centuries to become a scientific society boleh lah but by that time the human beings may have colonised the planet Mars.
  • The faster and cheaper option is to use English on a very widespread scale.  Especially the learning of science based subjects, mathematics based subjects and management subjects in the English language.
  • Only then will words like asset, annuity, equity, dynamics, aerodynamics and fermentation be easier to absorb. These words form the everyday usage of the English language. As you use the English language you will automatically understand the wider concepts, the history and the usage of these words which is part and parcel of the language. And MOST IMPORTANTLY you will faster gain the knowledge that is being conveyed.
  • If there is such a ciplak  word as ‘fermentasi’ in the Malay dictionary, it will only refer to the fermentation of alchohol.  But if CNN says, ‘the Arabs have been fermenting..’ then people here might understand it as ‘Arab dah jadi arak’. That would be incorrect.  This is why people may end up saying, ‘you can come to my State and eat fish burn (ikan bakar)‘.
  • Pasal apa budak Melayu tak boleh belajar Inggeris? Habis macam mana depa boleh jadi expert bahasa Arab pula?  Depa boleh hafiz Quran dalam bahasa Arab? Budak umur enam tahun boleh belajar Arab. So why cant they learn English? English is much simpler to learn than Arabic.
  • In English there is a car, a pencil, a hill and a bag. In Arabic the car is female, the hill is male. There are different words in Arabic for one car, two cars, many cars. It is more difficult. There are different words for one female gender object, two female gender objects and plural female gender objects. The same repeats for male gender objects. Yet Malay students have no problem learning Arabic in the sekolah agama or the kelas agama.
  • Habis pasal apa depa tak suka, tak mahu atau tak boleh belajar Inggeris? There is no excuse. If the Malays can learn Arabic, then they can learn any language on the surface of this earth. There is no excuse.
  • In Singapore and Brunei, the Malays speak perfect English. In Singapore the Malay girls are the English news anchors on their TV.  Not only do they just read the news but they also analyse events and superbly interview people in English on TV.
  • The Malays in Brunei, especially their Civil Servants speak very good English. Of course knowledge of good English, plus being well read in English, makes it easier to have a conversation with them. They seem to know more of the real world.  Both in Brunei and Singapore their education system is English based, just like we were until the late 1970s.
  • Which is why some of our GLCs and some of our banks have started hiring English speaking Singaporean Malays for top jobs here, especially Malay women from Singapore. And consultants as well.  I can point names and name fingers too.  A Melayu Singapore can now be quite an asset in Kuala Lumpur. They can speak English.
  • Finally let me repeat again why we must teach Mathematics, Science and other subjects in English in our schools. In Malaysia (as in most developing countries) less than 2% of the population goes on to higher education after high school.
  • Even if 200,000 students per year enter degree, diploma and certificate courses in all our universities, colleges, institut kemahiran and institut latihan, that is LESS THAN ONE PERCENT  of our 28 million population. And dont forget in this less than 1% it includes Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and others.  Folks, less than 1% of the country’s population is NOT going to pull the remaining 99% forward. We need to seriously upgrade the skills and the competitive ability of the 99%.
  • These are the SPM leavers, the school leavers, the PMR leavers, the sekolah pondok kids and the sekolah agama kids. We have to raise the general ability and knowledge base of our school leavers. These are the 99%.
  • I have said this before : the makcik who runs that food stall in Cheneh in Terengganu should be able to email or sms or Twitter Fareed Zakaria on CNN with a question on the South China Sea conflict.  Why do I say this? Because that is what is happening on Fareed Zakaria in CNN. He answers emails, smses and Twitter messages in English from people who are located all over the world.
  • They can communicate and have a conversation in English. They need not be the 1% who go to university to do this. They must be the 99% who can speak and use English effectively.  We do not understand just exactly how much we are losing.
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