Muhyiddin confused about language

He speaks about ‘Bahasa Melayu’ when he really means ‘Bahasa Malaysia’.

If Muhyiddin is really serious about the kampung kids in Peninsular Malaysia getting schooling in Bahasa Melayu, the bahasa kebangsaan, he should stop passing off Bahasa Malaysia as Bahasa Melayu. Bahasa Malaysia only strikes a chord with those who are familiar with other local dialects and languages and English.

Joe Fernandez, Free Malaysia Today

Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has finally bared his fangs and prematurely declared that the teaching of Maths and Science in schools will be in Bahasa Melayu and no longer in English, as it has been conducted for the past decade or so.

He definitely means Bahasa Malaysia, not Bahasa Melayu, which is in the dustbin of history.

Bahasa Malaysia, a work in progress, is Bahasa Melayu plus local dialects and languages plus English.

Bahasa Melayu is an old Khmer dialect plus Sanskrit plus Pali plus Arabic. The Bahasa Melayu used as the bahasa kebangsaan (national language) in Malaysia is the Johor-Riau-Lingga dialect.

The Hindu missionaries made Bahasa Melayu the language of religion. From there, it went on to become the language of administration, education and trade in the islands of Southeast Asia. Hence, it became the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago. The term “Malay Archipelago” is a reference to the language rather than to any ethnic group.

Bahasa Melayu fell on hard times with the coming of westerners, and in their wake, Chinese immigrants.

In the British territories of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, for example, English replaced Bahasa Melayu. The language of the Chinese took over in the retail, if not wholesale, sector in Southeast Asia and relegated Bahasa Melayu and other local languages to the marketplace. Even so, Chinese businessmen in Southeast Asia conducted all business correspondence in English.

Muhyiddin is right if he thinks that students have a right to get schooling in their own mother tongues. This is enshrined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is actively promoted by Unesco.

However, he is dead wrong if he thinks that only those who habitually speak Bahasa Melayu have a right to get formal schooling in their mother tongue.

Bahasa Kebangsaan

Those who habitually speak English at home have a right as well to get schooling in that language.

And that goes as well for those who speak any number of other tongues at home in Malaysia, namely, Kadazandusun, Bajau, Suluk, Filipino, Bugis and Chinese in Sabah; Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Orang Ulu, Sarawak Malay and Chinese in Sarawak; Orang Asli, Thai, Portuguese, Bahasa Melayu, Tamil and Chinese in Peninsular Malaysia.

To bring all these people together, we have Bahasa Malaysia, which is not bahasa kebangsaan.

The Federal Constitution clearly states that Bahasa Melayu is the bahasa kebangsaan of Malaysia.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. Bahasa Melayu is no longer used in the schools. Its role has been replaced by Bahasa Malaysia and is spoken only at home, especially in the kampungs in the southern parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

Again, when Muhyiddin talks about Maths and Science being taught in Bahasa Melayu, he is actually talking about Bahasa Malaysia which, as stated, is not the bahasa kebangsaan.

Those who claim that Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia are synonymous will then have to explain why Bahasa Indonesia is not synonymous with Bahasa Melayu. Bahasa Malaysia is not synonymous with Bahasa Indonesia either.

Bahasa Indonesia is Bahasa Melayu plus local dialects and languages plus Dutch plus English. The most widely spoken languages at home in Indonesia are Javanese and Sundanese. “Indonesia” is an Anglicised version of two Greek words, Indos (Indian) and nesos (Islands). The Greeks referred to the South Asian subcontinent as the Land of the Ind (Indus River) and hence India, the Anglicised form.

Another example is Filipino, which is Tagalog plus local dialects and languages plus Spanish plus English.