I REFER to the comment piece by Leslie Andres, "Social media killing our languages" (NST, Oct 14). Is this so? And are parents accountable for this phenomena? I think some people are barking up the wrong tree.
In the first place, do working parents, as I'm disposed to believe, have the luxury to spend more time with their children even if they want to?
When the children are back from school, most parents are still at work. While it is true parents should find the time to monitor their children, see to their homework, check their social networking activities and so on, how many parents are able to have time at their disposal such that they can, at all time, watch and remind their children not to use the so-called diluted and bastardised language on the social media?
My children are grown up now, but when they were growing up, I had to spend most of my working life teaching languages to other young adults. Should I feel guilty now that I had never had time for my own children?
I do believe there are parents who are aware of this social network virus that is spreading and affecting the minds of the young to the extent that it is robbing them of their innate linguistic ability.
Certainly, some of us are finding ways to try and shape the young minds by participating and involving ourselves in Facebook activities as well.
I, for one, have the luxury of time to do so as I'm not working anymore and, therefore, can afford to indulge myself in such activities.
I also find it fulfilling to be able to play a little part in nurturing the young minds. I like to respond to their posts with constructive comments, sometimes silly, nonetheless all done in apposite language and good intention.
Whether I respond in the Kelantanese dialect, standard variations of Bahasa Malay-sia or English, my purpose is to raise awareness, hoping that they get the message.
I'm proud to announce that my young Facebook friends, some still in primary school, are beginning to pay close attention by not responding back in their mutated lingo. Perhaps, they are doing so merely for my sake. But it is a good sign, an attempt on their part to be conscious language users.
I'm pleased to add that Facebook has also given me a chance to communicate in Japanese and Persian with my friends and relatives. Facebook , is actually fun and useful as a communication and learning tool.
Anyway, if such concerted effort is made by all parents who are active on the social network, perhaps we can still save the future generations from turning into mutants who will be speaking, God forbid, the kind of language resembling what our children have conveniently resorted to now.
As far as I know, many other retired or non-working mothers and grandmothers are playing their role to help educate our young by doing voluntary work in schools and so forth.
I know of a friend who even goes that extra mile to give English lessons to the children of margina-lised communities such as the refugees from Myanmar. Essentially, many of us are contributing in one way or another trying to help educate our children.
On another aspect of the problem, I'm still not sure if young adults can be convinced to change their ways in communicating on the social media.
Language wise, it seems that they prefer to take the easy way out by using abbreviation, which is fine.
But to spell a word wrongly, either on purpose or unknowingly, either in BM or English, and to mix them in the most inappropriate manner is objectionable. It reflects on their linguistic incompetency rather than their linguistic creativity.
And content wise, the topics of conversation on Facebook have much to be desired. I cringe when I see pictures so silly, for instance, as that of a cat wearing a dress. Hello, how much can you coo about a cat wearing a dress, no matter how much you love animals?
On the other hand, sharing photos of yourself and your families and friends in the various activities and events of the day and sharing comments is acceptable. After all, that is the purpose of Facebook, to get connected, to share and talk about useful and meaningful things.
At times though, I fail to stop myself from making sarcastic remarks, knowing too well that I should not do so in public. But how else can I remind my young adult friends not to embarrass themselves when they blatantly expose their shallow-mindedness?
Do you actually need to use the four-letter word to curse your boss in public? Furthermore, do you need to announce to the world that you are sleepy at work, that you are having diarrhoea and purging your bowels out, that you are fed-up with your job and the people around you?
And worse, do you announce them by using inferior, abominable language? Or do you just communicate in some kind of "sound-like" language? For goodness sake, what is "ngeh ngeh ngeh" supposed to mean?
I'd much prefer they share their thoughts clearly so that that their audience can participate meaningfully. I know some are very capable of doing so, such as one whom I discovered recently who shared her thoughts, albeit too briefly, on Occam's Razor.
I did not know anything about Occam's Razor until then. Well, I looked up the phrase and learnt something new. Thank you my Facebook friend.
But many young adults are shying away from indulging in such mental activities because they don't have the means to do so, linguistically.
So, are parents accountable for what we are witnessing -- the development of "rojak" language in the social network scenario and everywhere else? Aren't parents the ones who are fighting the battle to ensure that their children get the best education and get to learn the relevant languages?
Bahasa Malaysia and English, if properly taught and learned, will most surely go a long way to make our children better thinking citizens of Malaysia and the world.
Dr Suraiya Mohd Ali, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 19 October 2012