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FaceBook Malaysia is the place to murder the English language
by Joe Fernandez
2013-11-22 10:00:58
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COMMENT http://www.ef.com/epi/  Surprise! Surprise! Malaysia, miracles do happen, tops Asia in English proficiency index. Worldwide, it ranks 11th.

In Singapore; it's more about Singlish or Chinglish. They have been murdering the English language there for a very long time and getting away with it too!

This reminds me of the story, not so long ago, of an American having a burger at a McDonald’s in Singapore. He was surrounded by Singapore Chinese chatting away and making as much noise as possible. At first, he thought that they were conversing in Chinese. Anyway, why on Earth would two Chinamen speak to each other in any other language? The more he listened, the more he realized that they were in fact not conversing in Chinese at all as he at first mistakenly thought but English in a very Chinese way a la Singapore. He couldn’t resist dashing off a letter to the local Straits Times which duly published it to remind Singaporeans that their Singlish/Chinglish had gained some sort of notoriety.

In India, it's definitely Hinglish all the way. English is losing out. Already, we need a dictionary to read English newspapers in that country. We should consider sending some of the local columnists there. Some names readily come to mind. The temptation is great to spill the beans, to be cruel to be kind so to speak, but it’s better to cease and desist.

In Malaysia, obviously we only have English English if http://www.ef.com/epi/ is to be believed, although our numbers are very small. The best English in Malaysia is spoken in Sarawak. Take it from me! If not for Sarawak, Malaysia will be at the bottom of the dung heap. The Courts in Sabah and Sarawak are still in English.

Malaysians want no head-shaking English teachers from India for schools

On the same score, this might mean that we can finally send home the 300 native English teachers imported from England at some RM 300 million. Apparently, according to a recent debate in Parliament, they only teach English once every four months. The rest of the time, they must be soaking up the sunshine to impress the folks back home with their suntans when they return home and living the good life at our expense. It almost seems like the British Empire has returned with a vengeance.

We can also drop plans to import English language teachers from India since it scored a lowly 3rd in Asia, after Malaysia and Singapore, and only ranks 22 worldwide. There are also fears, openly expressed in the local media in recent months, that our school children may end up speaking English with a thick Indian accent and shaking their heads violently in imitation of their teachers. This makes us all wonder how CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera and other cable TV stations got around the problem. Malaysians in cyberspace feel that our children should speak Queen’s English with the proper accent, whatever that means. However, I feel that no one can master the “proper accent” the way that a Malaysian female of Chinese origin can. They have perfected the art somehow. http://www.ef.com/epi/  must have run into some of these female champions of the proper English accent.

Obviously, http://www.ef.com/epi/  didn’t visit FaceBook in Malaysia.

It’s an interesting place.

That's where you can witness the murder of the English language.

Tamils in Malaysia, for example, arrange their thoughts in a very Tamil language and Tamil way when writing in English. A few guys break out now and then into Tamil, written in Roman letters, when they run out of English words. The Tamils confirm how very far down the scale Malaysia has fallen in English language proficiency. Indians in Malaysia have, or rather used to have, a formidable reputation as having mastered the English language like no Englishman can. Indians in Malaysia, in echoes of India, used to be more English than the English themselves.

Anyway, back to FaceBook. They will be going at each other hammer and tongs in a very Tamil type of English and understand each other very well. I have great difficulty in following their English since my Tamil is not very good. It’s just confined to the mamak (Tamil Muslim) shops. However, I don't use Tamil swear words.

I tend to arrange my Tamil in a very English language way.

So, the mamak has problems understanding my Tamil.

A Tamil once thought that I was speaking in English to him although I was trying my best in Tamil. I discovered this when I asked him in Malay why he was responding in Malay when I was speaking to him in Tamil. He said: "Saya fikir tuan cakap English." (Sir, I thought you were speaking in English to me.) I nearly died laughing that day. I still remember the place. An Indian eatery along Lebuh Ampang in Kuala Lumpur. This was owned by a Malayalee Hindu and run by Tamil Hindus.

What's logical in English is not logical at all to the Tamil who’s used to English in a very Tamil language and Tamil way. I think this is one reason why Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, the activist NGO fighting for human rights, and the ruling Umno don't understand each other. They should invite me to their meetings with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. He comes from St John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur like me and speaks English English. I understand Najib. I don't think many people do. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for one, is confused by him and going bonkers over his successor.

Considering Iraq, Syria, Anglo-Saxon way of thinking not international enough

If Iraq had invited me to represent them at the UN, they would not have been invaded by the US. The Iraqi performance at the UN was simply appalling. Iraq is 66 worldwide, the last, on the English proficiency index.

For that matter, my Malayalam is even worse than my Tamil. I have great difficulties communicating with my mother. To make matters worse, she's hard of hearing but still refuses to wear her hearing aid.

This leads me to think that the most famous columnist in malaysiakini.com must be arranging his English in a very Malayalam and very Malayalee way. Hence, the non-Malayalees complaining about every piece he writes.

The Malays, Chinese and others are of course as guilty as the Tamils in Malaysia but in their own way. The first language kills the second and third languages.

One Dusun friend was jailed three nights recently thanks to his lawyer's Dusun and Filipino English. The Judge was a Tamil who decided on facts and gave the benefit of the doubt to the prosecution's Indian witness. I found no English language logic at all in the presentation by the lawyers. I advised my Dusun friend to get an Indian lawyer to represent him in Court. He wouldn't listen.

Anyone for English English?

However, I don't subscribe to the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking.

It's not international enough for me.

In fact, it's quite backward as we can see from their conduct in Iraq and Syria. The most backward thinkers seem to be from Australia and New Zealand. Real "Sakais" (with apologies to the Sakai – original people in the jungle -- in Malaya).

Also, tapping into latent hatreds in the Arab and Muslim world, is no way to deal with “global terrorism”. That’s like creating a problem for the sake of creating a problem to find solutions.

Again, all this needs to be taken up in the English language, not in any other lingo, at the UN.  That would put the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant nations in their place.


Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez is a graduate mature student of law and an educationist, among others, who loves to write especially Submissions for Clients wishing to Act in Person. He also tutors at local institutions and privately. He subscribes to Dr Stephen Hawking’s “re-discovery” of the ancient Indian theory that “the only predictable property of the universe is chaos”. He feels compelled, as a semi-retired journalist, to put pen to paper -- or rather the fingers to the computer keyboard -- whenever something doesn't quite jell with his weltanschauung (worldview) or to give a Hearing to All. He shuttles between points in the Golden Heart of Borneo formed by the Sabah west coast, Labuan, Brunei, northern Sarawak and the watershed region in Borneo where three nations meet. He inspired the creation of the UK-based NGO, Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BOPIM), and gave it the name. He’s half-way through a semi-autobiographical travelogue, A World with a View . . . http://fernandezjoe.blogspot.com/


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