Monday, March 02, 2009

Pak Samad on the Malay Language

How easy it is for authors to be used by factions seeking to make a political point! Somehow the word of a wordsmith carries a much heavier weight than that of a mere mortal.

According to The Sun, national laureate A. Samad Said has denied that he was being used by the opposition to push the government to revert to the use of Bahasa Malaysia for the teaching of Mathematics and Science*, from English currently (as was early reported by the press) :
He said his presence at talks organised by the opposition parties should not be misunderstood as what was important was for him to explain the matter to the public.

"It is not wrong for me to speak on the Malay language, which I have been fighting for, no matter at which political forum. My presence there is to save my language.

"I'm now 76 years old and it is time that I fight for my mother tongue before the language disappears"...
He also said he was disappointed with the limited space provided by mainstream newspapers to publish works by new writers.

I can well understand and sympathise with all those who are worried on behalf of the Malay language. But ... if you want my tuppence worth as a mat salleh ex-English teacher and teacher trainer, I would say that I strongly endorse the teaching of maths and science in English and find the argument that "Our teachers aren't good enough to teach in it," absolutely lame. (Bloody hell, you are supposed to be professionals, get with the programme!).

This is my short version of the argument and I have a vast amount to say on the subject. Anyone who wants it can buy me a coffee!


Anonymous said...

Well, an English teacher myself, I strongly agree with you. Not because I'm an English teacher...but more for the benefits the students will gain later in their future. It's truly sad to see that people refuse to accept the demands of today's world. Teachers are supposed to be all - rounders, whatever the policy is, a teacher has to be able to adapt for professional purposes. Therefore, I don't see the policy as the problem. If teachers are the contributors to the failure of the policy, why should our young generation's chance of a better future suffer? If they know they are not proficient, work something out... do something to make yourself proficient. Just like an English teacher who has to teach Kemahiran Hidup. No expertise but through years of experience, one can gain such expertise.

Your former MPIK/ TESL student

bibliobibuli said...

wow a former student (but hey i'm sharon not sarah!!!)

quite. and now this policy has been off the ground for some time and there has been plenty of time for teachers to concentrate on their professional development to meet the challenge.

no teacher in this country can say that they don't speak adequate english. what - they didn't get their SPM (which should ensure a certain standard)even?? and the opportunities for them to upgrade their skills are there.

lowest common denominator - kids who don't speak english may well be unemployable. (based on data collected from local universities). unless of course you are assuming that they are all going to be pad farmers and fishermen - bit dangerous that. the best way to learn a language is to use it as a medium of communication. other parts of the world manage bilingual education effectively.

i'm actually angry with those who would make this a political issue - think about the needs of the kids first, not your own need to wave a flag.

Sufian said...

I agree with Pak Samad. This idiotic policy is killing OUR language.

And Sharon, if our teachers are professionals, they should bloody well be able to teach anything in Malay.

(Sorry, Sharon :)

Yusuf Martin said...

Will buy you a cup of coffee anytime - especially if you are free first week in April.

My two penneth worth......

Malay should be valued and its use encouraged, however I feel quite strongly that in the later years of school, college and university English should take precedence due to the need for understanding, specifically for those undertaking non-Malay studies.

There should never have been the switch around by the National Language Act of 1967. That and 1980s Education policies are what have disabled Malaysians today.

Kat said...

As another former English teacher I agree with you wholeheartedly! And to those who say its difficult to teach (or learn) in English, I have this to say as well - I grew up at the time when English was switched to Malay for subjects such as Geography, History and most of the Arts subjects. Only Maths and Science remained in English. It was the early 70s. Our teachers coped however! Even though many of them had a poor command of Malay and struggled to teach us in the language, they tried and coped very well. I say shame on the present teachers if any had complained about the teaching Maths & Sc in English. And in those days they didn't even have the Internet nor any references to help them. And to our so called Malay nationalists - are you really sure you are afraid of our our language becoming extinct? Why should it if we continue improving and expanding and writing good works of literature in Malay?

dreamer idiot said...

I'm in two minds on the subject
... and I know where Pak Samad and Sufian are coming from.., and even as a non-Malay (I rather say I am Malaysian), I can see real danger for the Malay language, and do feel sad about it too. I actually like the language and think it's beautiful, as I have mentioned here before, and long ago, used to enjoy writing good Malay prose work, but many times, feel discouraged by what may be described as the 'politicisation' of the language (not the question of the term bahasa melayu which I don't mind at all) which distances and alienates people like me.

Sufian, please correct if I am wrong, I think there is a sense of 'lost joy' in the language these days, and this I think is tied to the literary question, and also to the teaching and valuation (valuing) of the literary in school. In a way, I think both you and Amri are trying to do that... especially when the language (again, perhaps what I think might be the case) as used in the larger public sphere primarily and possibly reduced to political rhetoric/ instrumentality (and less an aesthetic pleasure in the conveying of stories, of voices, of people, of loves, hates, sorrow that share in the larger question of humanity 'kemanusiaan').

bibliobibuli said...

you need to talk to the rest of the world, right, Sufian? english is the best language for that since most of the world uses it as a global langauge.

the fact that the medium of education switched to Malay back in the 80's and there is still this lament about the state of the language shows that something serious was going wrong even BEFORE the decision to go back to english for 2 subjects on the curriculum!

what ... you can't instill a good command of a language and a love of it when almost all the curriculum throughout the whole of a students schooling is in BM???????? what is going wrong??

if you feel you don't want the english language then fine. but there can be no lamenting about graduates not being able to get jobs because their command of the language is so poor, or about university students not being able to understand the textbooks and research papers ... or about lawyers not being able to understand a legal agreement written in english and making blunders worth millions (as happened in a utility company quite recently ... heard on lawyers grapevine)!

well if not science and maths in english ... then at least some subjects all students have in common should replace them so that some of the curriculum is in english and thus students get to use the language in a meaningful and motivating context.(something the english language syllabus has failed to achieve) but what subject? what is possible?

if you knock something down then suggest an alternative that IS workable. (as a trained teacher i think you can take up that challenge)

really IS the maths and science in english thing not working ... at least for the students? not from the stats i've seen or the evidence from the schools or the accounts of colleagues in training. sure there are problems. it takes time to implement change but from what i've seen (and yes, i have been there in the classroom watching maths and science lessons in english) there is a move in the right direction.

but i'm not saying and will never ever say is that one language should be sacrificed in favour of another. i just can't see why it should work like that when it is completely possible to be fluent in and have an appreciation of two (or even more languages)

rant over. and it's nice to have your comment on my blog ... didn't think you came by anymore. missed you.

Sufian said...

The thing with Malay is, Sharon, it is in desperate need of new words. So, if we do away with the use of Malay in Science and Maths, we are in effect silencing that space in the language, crippling it...

The English thing is not working. And that is a fact. I've taught students who can't read in English, much less construct a sentence. Now we want them to consider abstract notions? Seriously?

ps. I drop by everyday, but I don't comment cause I hardly read anymore. The last book i read or actually still reading is The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Some, A Turkish Thriller starring Istanbul's foremost transvestite detective (!).

Anonymous said...

Would be interesting to know how many of our ministers (including and especially ministers of EDCUATION) since our glorious independence sent their kids to private international schools from primary/secondary onwards, all the way to University!

bibliobibuli said...

glad you drop by Sufian. never mind about the reading 'cos you are writing. (you have a new collection coming out?)

yes, see your point about the vocab and will ponder it some more.

Anonymous said...

So, in other words, it doesn't matter what's best for the kids as long as the Malay language has a few more words to play with? Am I alone in thinking that is callous? Why should our children be used as political footballs?


Anonymous said...

So many English words have been 'adapted' into Malay that the kids are basically learning 2 languages for the price of 1. If you look at signboards (notices and advertisements) in the country, 50% of the words are recognisably English with simplified spelling anyway.

Bas, Teksi, matematik & sains (oh, the irony), geografi, biologi, fizik.

Internet, radio, TV, komputer, telefon, lif, orkestra...

Anonymous said...

There are innumerable successful people in Malaysia who only speak English under pressure! And I have always had a deep respect for fishermen and padi farmers....

bibliobibuli said...

nothing at all wrong with being fishermen and farmers. just we should never assume that that is all students from rural areas should be good for. (once had to train 100 or so technicians from terengganu who had just 3 months to get from almost zero english to full communicative competency.)

ten sen norgay said...

I symphatize with mr Suffian.
In the good old days 'matematik' is 'ilmu hisab' and 'sains' is 'ilmu kejadian'. "Geografi' is 'ilmu alam' and so on and so forth.

I blame the damned wogs of Malaysia for bringing down the country to the dogs.

English is not the panacea for the ills in Malaysia. If English language is the magic wand we'd have the Philippines as the most modern country in the region instead of the crap country it is right now.

Anonymous said...

Latin is a beautiful language too.. but it's almost as good as dead now. It seems beautiful languages don't have a long shelf-life. Irish Gaelic is another beautiful language that's in danger of extinction, as is Hawaiian.

Anonymous said...

I really hope the garmen reverts to using Malay to teach math and science: there'll be less competition for good jobs with my children, who I'll ensure will be fluent in English!