I REFER to the article, “Malay studies and its ‘perfect Malay’ student” (NST, Jan 12) by Professor Datuk Dr A Murad Merican.
The writer contextualises the value of Malay Studies in the West. I want to highlight the importance of Malaysians appreciating the Bahasa Malaysia.
I am saddened by some Malaysians who take BM for granted. It is a shame when a Malay cannot speak proper BM. Born a Malay, or even Malaysian, should be taken as an opportunity to be able to speak Malay grammatically, and the bonus, is our education system supports English language among the students. We learn English from as young as 5 years old, and we learn BM from the time we are able to talk (for most Malays). So, the expectation is we have to be able to speak and write both languages well.
Recent news report by Bernama quoted the Deputy Prime Minister saying “As a Malaysian, I don't think my language should be killed just because I want to strengthen the English language.” But, of course, if the Malay Studies is learnt in such a way, as described by Professor Murad, the whole body of knowledge can collapse. Nobody values BM when the corpus of knowledge exists like an endangered species.
Thus, it is wonderful to know some fascinating facts about BM. According to Professor Dr Mohd Taib Dora, the vice-Chancellor of Kolej Universiti Islam Melaka, and ex-chair holder of Malay Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), China, BM is being widely used by 300-400 users in the world through online communication. It is easy to learn, he said, and interesting. It is also a very important language after English, Mandarin and Tamil. In terms of economic potential, some learn BM to earn economic opportunity in this region.
There are massive Malay language speakers in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Thus, a professor at BFSU, Professor Dr Wu Zong Yu, had said that Malay language is a very strong language, and it will be an important international language in the future.
In China, there are 10 universities teaching Malay language through the introduction of Malay Studies Department since 1961. It is sad to see when foreigners who are strange to the Malay language are able to appreciate it, while we, who were born and live in the environment that support the language, ignores it.
We should start making efforts to learn the language, improve our competency of the language so that we are able to appreciate and speak it. Malaysians should take this challenge to be good in both Malay and English. Competency in both languages allows us to communicate effectively, suggesting efficient and confident Malaysians. Dr Siti Suriani Othman, Senior Lecturer, Communication Programme, Faculty of Leadership and Management, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia NST Home Opinion 18 Jan 2015