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Knowing English is pragmatic academically, socially
Published on: Sunday, May 15, 2022
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ENGLISH is officially a second language in Malaysia and held in high regard.

English proficiency is important to develop a knowledge society and to achieve the goal of becoming a developed nation.

There is still scepticism about the use of English in education, even in society itself.

Recently, a message circulated on social media showing parents using English during Hari Raya in kampung. The message was harsh with body shaming too.

Perhaps the sender failed to understand that from the socio-linguistics perspective, code switching and code mixing are common.

These terms have long existed in the world of linguistics in relation to the nature of human beings who converse in multi languages.

Expressions like “Come sit and makan here” and “Tak pa, lah, I am okay with this” are common. This makes Malaysian English or “Manglish” unique.

As long as the users understand the language that is being spoken, it is fine. Looking deeper, this issue is sort of a resentment towards the English language in certain localised contexts. It’s perceived as an attempt to “show off” or “boast” about a relic of colonialism, being elitist and a betrayal of one’s original cultural identity and language.

Nonetheless, English language dominance as an international and global language continues to influence Malaysia’s socio-cultural fabric.

Learning English should be an empowering experience similar to learning other new languages such as the current craze of learning Korean, thanks to the popularity of K-Pop and K-dramas.

Linguists believe that in a multicultural setting, the quality of directness and neutrality of the English language would allow access to alternative viewpoints and reducing ethnocentrism.

It could also be seen as facilitating a more reflective and critical attitude towards one’s own culture.

Ownership of multiple languages appears to foster multiple identities, allowing speakers to switch and “mask” their identities depending on changing contexts.

From a positive dimension, in the English language, the concept of identity construction takes on a wider dimension, especially when people of different cultures come together, as in the context of the Malaysian society.

In order to master the English language, one needs to constantly practise to boost confidence and improve.

At times, a beginner may not be able to speak the language fluently, hence the person may code-mix between the mother tongue and the English language. By passing harsh remarks, we are limiting the person’s opportunity to practise the language in different environments.

Malaysians need to be less sceptical and normalise code-mixing in non-formal environments so that it would create a healthier ground for everyone to practise the language and appreciate the pluralistic values of our unique country.

A shift in attitude towards the English language will allow the people to be competent in the language.

We are not saying that English is superior to the Malay language, just that we have to be aware that the ability to use English is pragmatic as it is highly valued academically and socially.

Dr. Muhammad Noor Abdul Aziz , 

Fatin athirah Fadzillah ,

Mohana Ram Murugah

School of Education, 

Universiti Utara Malaysia


 

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Dr. Muhammad Noor Abdul Aziz, Fatin athirah Fadzillah and Mohana Ram Murugah and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]





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