Sunday, March 08, 2009

Newspaper Miscellany

A hodge-podge of loosely connected things linked only by their appearance in Malaysian newspapers ...

Malaysian P.M. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launches a fantasy novel written by 13 year old Adam Umemoto who happens to be his nephew.

Of course the occasion was used to get in a political soundbite ... Resolve the Language Issue Before it Gets Out of Hand. (We learn nothing here about the young author or his book which is a pity.)

Out of hand the language issue has already got, methinks, and I agree with the Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein* : why bring up the issue 6 years after the policy was formulated? - after teachers have been trained and are working hard to make it a success, after textbooks have been written, and after the kids have proved they are coping with it?

I've seen this effort at the ground level (in teacher-training, in schools across the country) and it makes me very sad indeed that there are those intent on pulling it apart again.

National Laureate A. Samad Said was among those handing over a memorandum to the palace. (You can also watch a video at ChannelNews Asia - and there is some very good comment at Another Brick in the Wall.)


Let me move on to things much happier.

It's International Women's Day today and in Starmag Amy de Kanter offers an eclectic list of women writers who :
write about loving, laughing and living large ...
A bilingual book of Malaysian/German fairytales, is to be launched at the KL International bookfair in August, tentatively titled Kisah Dongeng dan Cerita Rakyat Malaysia dan German. It will be the fourth collaboration between the National Translation Institute (ITNMB) and Goethe-Institut Malaysia.

Also, the National Library currently has an exhibition promoting the literary works of Finland, which features the book covers of Finnish literary works that have been translated. The photo (right) shows deputy head of mission of the Finnish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Henna Knuuttila, handing a copy of Kalevala, a national epic which has been translated into 60 languages to National Library director-general Raslin Abu Bakar at the launch.

Featured are literary works which feature current issues and daily life, there are children’s books, poems and fantasy stories. The literary works depict contemporary culture and recent times including the works of author Sofi Oksanen, who wrote about Estonia after World War II.

Said Knuuttila :
Finnish works have been translated to languages like French, German, Russian, Chinese and English. With this exhibition, people will get an idea of the works, get interested and look for more information. Finnish is not widely spoken so the translations are very important for us.
The exhibition will be held until March 31 at the library. Shall we organise a Bibliobibuli field-trip?

(* Oh goodness, what's happening to me? I am agreeing with government policy. Checks forehead for signs of fever.)

Postscript :

Have been caught up reading other views on the subject - Rocky links some very good posts. I also like what Ungku Aziz has to say about bilingual education.


Chet said...

"We learn nothing here about the young author or his book which is a pity."

This is something PR companies dread. A politician is invited to launch something (a product, opening ceremony of something, etc.), and if there is a current hot topic, the press will ask questions about the topic, and the resulting news item will be about the politician's replies and not about the event he was invited to. If lucky, there will be some mention, e.g., "so-and-so said at the launch of this-and-that event" (in this case "he said after launching the book Dragonfire Hammer by his 13-year-old nephew Adam Umemoto.").

I think young Adam was fortunate to get his picture in the papers. And that's a thick book he's written, isn't it? I wonder who published it.

bibliobibuli said...

sadly we probably won't ever know! i tried to google him up but found nothing.

bibliobibuli said...

which translates as (for the sake of my non-malay speaking readers around the world)

"in my opinion, i don't want english to be the language of education (knowledge) any more, especially in the area of maths and science. There is no difference, if we want to read the Koran, we must understand arabic first because it is the language of the holy book. can we become a mufti (an interpreter of islamic law) if we learn about islam in malay and from malay teachers?

and if we want children to become learned in Islam, they should study arabic from small. agree?"

hmmm. point taken about the arabic, though there are others e.g kassim ahmad and my hubby, who would disagree.

and does your analogy stand up to scrutiny? i really don't think so. what are you really afraid of?

Anonymous said...

I was trying to figure out who this boy is. Afterall, he has the PM attending his book launch! I want to know more about the book too after watching the story on Bernama TV. But I open the local dailies, it was all about Pak Lah and only a paragraph on the book. I guess I will have to go to the bookstores to know more about the book before buying it.

Sufian said...

Sharon, you're not translating him properly.

He said, "Like it or not, English is the language of knowledge..."

bibliobibuli said...

thanks sufian. i also need a malay language upgrade! or just to slow down and read more carefully ...

Anonymous said...

Was going to point out the mistranslation, but Sufian beat me to it -- so just wanted to add that I'm not so sure about this point, i.e. English being the language of knowledge, "especially in the fields of technology and science." The "language of knowledge" changes quite quickly, in the grand scheme of things. French was the language of international diplomacy even 40 years ago -- now it's a quaint tongue that makes ordering in posh restaurants easier. *Maybe* English is the "language of knowledge" now, but who's to say what that will be in 50 years? The point is that maybe we need less expedient, more deeply rooted reasons to choose a "national language" (or several). Not just what will supposedly help our kids compete for the dubious corporate jobs that are becoming scarcer and scarcer anyway. Maybe this is just my bias against international capitalism, but there it is.

I'm by no means advocating discarding English, though. All I'm saying is that there are other, more compelling reasons to treasure *both* B.M. *and* English (and, in my opinion, Cantonese and Hokkien, and Tamil and Punjabi...). These languages are all part of our complex history. To deny any of them is to deny that history, which I think is damaging both to the nation and to individuals, in the long run. I'm in favour of bilingual education for all Malaysian students, as well as a third language of each student's choice, not one that's assigned according to "race." If a Malay student wants to learn Chinese, or a Chinese student wants to learn Tamil, why shouldn't they? I think narrow, chauvinistic thinking about "mother tongues" (whatever those are) is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

The kid is part of a campaign called "Nepotism: Start Them Young" :-))

Anonymous said...

Going off-topic, IS A. Samad Said still National Laureate? Cos i met Mohd Haji Salleh in Penang last week and was told that he is National Laureate. Can someone "unconfuse" (!!!) me? - Daphne

Anonymous said...

I think I've figured it out. National Laureate in this country is an honour awarded those who have contributed to Malay literature. The list of recipients, so far:

1. 1981 : Kamaludin Muhammad
2. 1982 : Shahnon Ahmad
3. 1983 : Datuk Dr. Usman Awang
4. 1986 : Datuk A. Samad Said
5. 1988 : Muhamad Abdul Biang
6. 1991 : Prof. Dr. Muhammad Haji Salleh
7. 1993 : Datuk Noordin Hasan
8. 1996 : Datuk Abdullah Hussain
9. 2001 : S. Othman Kelantan

Amir Muhammad said...

Kamaluddin Muhammad and Muhamad Abdul Biang are much better known by their pen-names.

That's like referring to Archibald Leach as a famous actor in old Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

So what are their pen names, Mr Amir?

And will we ever have a National Laureate honoured for his/her contributions to MalaySIAN literature?

- Daphne

Anonymous said...

Sad that the Malaysian government officials have said nothing about all those writers who've put Malaysia on the world literary map...but I suppose they're too busy launching their nephews' and nieces' books...

Amir Muhammad said...

Daphne! Google is your friend :-)

Anonymous said...

All the National Laureates are men.
Is that a prerequisite too I wonder?


Amir Muhammad said...

Siti Zainon Ismail has been touted as a candidate for well over a decade.
Do Google her if you don't know who I'm talking about.
I do think Fatimah Busu's the better writer (her short story on Puteri Gunung Ledang is a bleeding masterpiece)-- but Siti has better headgear!

Anonymous said...

because you're worth it



Anonymous said...

Google is Janet Tay's friend. I'm just on nodding terms with it. - Daphne

bibliobibuli said...

i have answered one of the questions in my latest post ... but no, i didn't know till just, neither.