Language understood and appreciated by all

The government has declared October as the National Language Month to enhance awareness on the importance of the national language as a tool for unity. The following is the final of a two-part feature on this.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 (Bernama) -- "Bahasa Malaysia is easy to learn. Foreign tourists should pick up Malaysia's national language easily," American Peace Corps volunteer Frank Healey told Bernama here recently.

He said there were many factors that conspired to make Bahasa Malaysia so easy to learn including the phonetic spelling and uncomplicated grammar.

"A key factor, Bahasa Malaysia is written in the Roman alphabet, which makes it easy for people from English-speaking nations like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and New Zealand to pick up the language easily," he said.

Even many of the expatriates in the country have an average flair of Bahasa Malaysia, observed taxi driver Abu Bakar Ibrahim.

"I have picked many 'Mat Salleh' (caucasians) and they can speak simple Bahasa Malaysia easily," he said.

Basic understanding

"Even the Bangladeshi and Indian nationals working in the Malaysian service industry can converse quite well in Bahasa Malaysia as the language lacks complicated verbal tenses," said physiotherapist Joey Dalisay, a Philipino.

According to Dalisay, a foreigner can speak Bahasa Malaysia well once the person got the basic words and understanding of the grammar.

A university lecturer in linguistic, Abdul Rasheed Abd Rahman said Bahasa Melayu (Bahasa Malaysia) is the biggest language in Southeast Asia and among the most widespread in Asia.

Countries that speak the language are Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, South Thailand, Timur Leste and certain parts in the southern Philippines.

"The language is widely praised for its simplicity, ease of mastery and importance as well as growth based on the cultural and social impacts".

He said Bahasa Malaysia possess some words borrowed from 'bigger languages' like English, Arabic, Sanskrit, Tamil, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch and some Chinese dialects.

In the country, Bahasa Malaysia is the language for all, said Abdul Rasheed.

"It is the language of 1Malaysia, as advocated by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak", he added.

What the young men say?

When asked how he felt when conversing in Bahasa Malaysia with others from different ethnic groups, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) undergraduate Muhamad Zul Azraii Zulkiple said:

"I have never felt inferior to others when speaking in Bahasa Malaysia. In fact I feel proud as the language reflected on my roots. My non-Malay friends are also fluent in the language,", he said.

He said there was nothing like "being not cool enough" when communicating in Bahasa Malaysia.

All ministries, state governments and government agencies have been directed to implement programmes for the National Language Month throughout October beginning next year to enhance awareness among the people on the importance of the national language as the mode for unity as well as being a language for communication.

Lawyers

According to a news report, close to 80 per cent of the 13,000 lawyers practicing in Malaysia have used Bahasa Malaysia in court proceedings.

Malaysian BAR Council Bahasa Melayu Committee chairman Muhammad Hasif Hassan was quoted as saying in the report that the use of national Language by the lawyers has picked up in the past five years despite having difficulties due to the terminolgies, grammar, translation and the legal language is different from that used in daily routines.

"Despite these glitches, we are confident of being able to use Bahasa Malaysia fully soon", he said.

Muhammad Hasif said despite the fact that many of the lawyers had undergone their law course in English, they had used their own initiative in using Bahasa Malaysia during court proceedings.

Language for all

In 2007, Najib, then deputy prime minister, announced that the Cabinet had decided to change the term Bahasa Melayu to Bahasa Malaysia to reflect that the language was for Malaysians of all ethnic origins.

Najib said the government was aware that the National Language referred to Bahasa Melayu but wanted to make Bahasa Malaysia the language for all in Malaysia's plural society.

"Our (government) view is that the National Language is the language for all.

"If we view it as Bahasa Malaysia, then it is the language for all. That is the rationale ... for unity, integrity and solidarity", he was reported to have said then.

The Cabinet's move to rename Bahasa Melayu to Bahasa Malaysia two years ago now augured well with the 1Malaysia concept.

What people on the street think?

"If all Malaysians use Bahasa Malaysia in their daily routine, then it will inculcate the sense of belonging among all of us regardless of their ethnic origin", nurse Jamiliah Othman said.

Tertiary education institutions in the country have been known to use Bahasa Malaysia in professional courses like medicine, dentistry, engineering and archietcture since the early 80s.

The term Bahasa Malaysia was introduced by the country's first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to reflect the Malaysian identity.

'Neutral' language

Many have described the term Bahasa Malaysia as a 'neutral' language and free from ethnic association.

A senior lecturer in Universiti Malaya (UM), who declined to be named, said as Bahasa Malaysia was originally Bahasa Melayu, hence somehow or other it was linked to the Malays.

"However all Malaysians have accepted Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and Bahasa Malaysia is no longer the exclusive use of the Malays, but by all people in the country as what is being called for by the 1Malaysia concept", he added.

A friend of this writer, Wee Tean Swee of Kelantan, said he had been conversing in Bahasa Malaysia with friends right from when he was in primary school.

"Even at home, I talk to my parents and siblings in the national language", he added. (By Zulkiple Ibrahim/ Bernama)

MySinchew 2009.10.14