THOSE who love their language, religion and culture make every effort to develop and promote them in the same community and to others.
Sadly, Malaysians do not give due importance to language. Although many of us speak several languages and dialects, most are master of none.
We often mispronounce and misuse words, which often lead to misunderstandings and we do not put in the effort to think, speak, read and write clearly.
At work, many graduates from local universities cannot write well, whether in Bahasa Malaysia or English.
The promotion of our national language need not be confined to Malaysians, more so when conversational Malay is relatively easy to pick up.
There are several million foreign workers in the country and tens of millions have returned home or will arrive.
They are a captive audience, and setting up language centres for them to learn formally would be only at a fraction of the cost compared with Alliance Française’s operations.
This can happen only when we have a critical mass of Malaysians who are proud of our national language and want to propagate it.
However, it requires real effort and support.
Apart from funding, volunteers can be roped in to teach Malay pro bono and such classes should be opened to everyone.
But, those who want only to be popular take the easy route by condemning other languages and contribute nothing to the language they are championing.
They are unlike missionaries of the past, who loved their religion. Instead of looking down on people of other faiths, language and ethnicity, they conducted themselves well to win over converts.
Likewise, race would not be an issue if those who throng places of worship follow their religion.
Ironically, those who spew racial hatred may not even know their roots. It is common to find interracial marriages in many family trees.
Many of my friends say they are Indians but I had to point out that none of them spoke or wrote the language.
All of us should be proud of our ancestors for they must have done something right to continue the lineage.
When we learn of the trials and tribulations they have gone through, we will also appreciate those who have contributed to the development of our village, town or country.
Likewise, those who are proud of their race should promote the culture.
They will learn that just like language, culture is evolving and many practices were adopted from others.
For instance, contrary to popular belief, yee sang is not an old Chinese tradition, but one that’s invented by Malaysians.
Just after the last Chinese New Year, I was invited to join in the tossing during a visit to the Land Public Transport Commission.
Interestingly, I was the only ethnic Chinese, and happen to speak, read, write and dream in English and use the same language to communicate with my siblings.
The bersanding ceremony is one Malay custom that should be promoted as it can draw many tourists.
There is no better way for couples to reaffirm their vows by celebrating their wedding anniversaries in Malaysia.
Seated on an air-conditioned dais, the couple can feel like king and queen for a day as their families and friends bless them with scented water.
This is in addition to experiencing the kompang and silat performances, and take home the Malay dances they have learnt and costumes they wore.
What we need are more passionate Malaysians with the leadership to develop and promote our languages, religions, cultures, arts or any field they excel in.
When emotions are channelled positively, Malaysia will be a much blessed country.
Y.S. Chan, Kuala Lumpur NST Letters 31/10/2014