Malaysian English: Tales of 3 generations

By Christhoper K.Knight

It’s a regret it was the silly English that has become popular internationally, not Supremacy Bahasa Malaysia. Considering the high chances of failure in any effort to cancel out all English elements in today’s lifestyle, including the EPL… I gather I’d be better off riding on the English train and go western.

As to brief foreigners about this tales of two languages: After independence in 1963 (thanks to Tunku Abdul Rahman), English was used as teaching medium in Malaysian classrooms until it was replaced with Bahasa Malaysia in 1983, renamed Bahasa Melayu in 1986 (no thanks to Education Minister Anwar Ibrahim), renamed once again as Bahasa Malaysia in 2006 (not really big thanks to Hishamuddin). In 2003 (thanks to Mahathir), after the country realized the students’ command of English couldn’t get them far in the field of Science and Technology (especially since all up-to-date computer books were written in English; the few local couldn’t translate all books within desired timeline) English language makes it comeback in Science and Mathematics classes. 

But much damage has been done. I am one of the casualties. 

Now I have a lot of catching up to do. So traumatised was I by the confusing state of affairs in education ministry in this country that I quit learning English from the Malaysians altogether. By saying that, I mean no Malaysian classes, no Malaysian books, and no Malaysian teachers for me for the next 70 years (I’m 30-something this year). We called this manner of making self-imposed injunction ‘Merajuk’ in Malays. Go figure. 

But that doesn’t mean I stop learning English. English will become my medal of honour one day but Malaysia will not get any credit for that (… merajuk). Since I can’t afford overseas study I was left with the next best option – DIY (Do It Yourself). 

So I started reading Reader’s Digest, National Geographic and English novels by western writers, whenever I can afford it. As for my classroom I come to where I experiment with the foreign language which is not very foreign now (believe me this is not a paid advertisement). I know I can make grammatical and spelling errors every now and then in my write up here. As told by friends, reviewing the writing regularly can point out several errors missed out in the early tries. That I did I found many. I’m still doing it every so often these days – correcting English and regretting mistakes and hoping not to repeat them. It’s a tough job, you know, especially when there’s always a new correction to do in the very same sentence the next time I check on the article. Sometime this jungle man got completely lost in the study of syntax. Have I told you this English language is silly? Laugh all you can but this is the same silly language that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. Damn it!

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