Malaysian minister says English at work ‘weird’

(AFP) – Malaysia’s deputy education minister has said that speaking English in the workplace is “weird” and harmful to the nation’s culture and identity, a report said Wednesday.

Mohd Puad Zarkashi said employees in the private sector used English 99 percent of the time and should switch to Bahasa Malaysia in order to show pride in the national language, the New Straits Times reported.

“This also occurs in government-linked companies where we have this weird culture of people speaking to each other in English instead of the national language,” he said at the launch of a linguistics seminar.

“We are polluting our own culture and identity as a nation,” he said.

“It would be difficult to strengthen the position of Bahasa Malaysia if this culture continued,” he added, urging Malaysians to emulate the French, Japanese and Koreans, who stuck to their own language.

The New Straits Times said Mohd Puad also criticised young people for using a mix of English and Bahasa Malaysia in SMS text messages and on the Internet.

He called on the nation’s leaders to use Bahasa Malaysia for all meetings and events and said that when he receives letters in English he returns them and asks for them to be written in the national language.

English is widely spoken in Malaysia, a multicultural nation where the population is dominated by Muslim Malays but also includes large ethnic Chinese and Indian populations.

Many Malaysians speak several languages including English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Chinese and Indian dialects.