How (not) to defibrillate a language 2&col; the Case of Malay language

December 1, 2017

Language planning policies face to globalization


Soon after Malaysia got its independence from the British colonization in 1957, it has been striving to establish the Malay language (Bahasa Melayu) as the National language (Hassan, 2004). Malay has been seen as a symbol of unity and identity in a country with various ethnic backgrounds speaking unintelligible languages. There was an urgent need to use one common language among all the ethnic communities Indians, Chinese, and Malay – to achieve two basic goals: communication and social integration. This paper attempts to evaluate the planning process of Malay language in the last fifty years. This planning process is examined based on Haugen’s language planning model (Haugen, 1983). It is shown that the language policy succeeded in implementing Malay as a national language. Nonetheless, the Malay language policy has not been implemented at the official level. As a result of globalization and the open market economy, there has been a shift in the language policy. More specifically there has been a change from Malay to English as the language of business and industry at the economy level. Moreover English was adopted as the instruction language for math and science at the higher education level. I argue that the change of language policy threatens Malay language not only at the official level but also at the national level. In order for Malay language to eventually assume the official tasks educationally and economically, this language has to be developed through the prolific translations and publications; furthermore, the Malay language should


be enriched with technical and scientific terms as Haugen’s model predicts.

‫  ا اوی‬: ‫ا وا
‫ﻡ  ا‬
‫ أن ﺕ * ا) اوی‬. ‫ ًة‬1‫ه‬3  ،1957 ‫ی
ﻥ! “! م‬$‫  ا  ﻡ (ی ﻡ’ ا& ر ا‬
;‫ ی‬1‫  “! ﺏ‬5‫ة وا=ی ا‬1 (ٍ ‫ﻡ‬$‫  ا) اوی آ‬$?ُ‫ آن ی‬. (1994 ، ‘8)  5‫آ و‬
‫آ‬$ G‫ام  ﻡ‬1 & ‫ ﻡ‬3 ‫ آﻥ هك‬. ‫=ﻡ‬A‫ ﻡ‬$ B ‫ة‬1‫ی‬1 ‫* ت‬D ‫ ا ! ﺕ‬A ‫ ت ا‬E$‫ﺏ‬
’ ‫” ‘ أ‬1‫ ه‬H   ‘ ‫ ﻡ’ ا)  ‘ وا=د واوی‬AَK‫ ا‬A ‫  ا‬E$‫ ت ا‬L‫”  ﺏ ‘ ا‬ !” ‫ أن ﺕ ّ*  ت ا  اي ) اوی‬E‫ ار‬OP‫ ﺕول ه‬.  3&‫ة ا‬1‫ا&ﺕ)ل وا‬ ‫ أن‬E‫ ار‬UV‫ وﺕ‬. (Haugen ،1983) ‘3= ‫ة ﻡ’ ﺥل ﻥذج ا  اي‬$ ‫ﺥ‬T‫ ‘  ا‬8 ‫ا‬  5‫ ا اوی  ً و‬W3 !” L‫  ای ا ! اﺕ = ﻡ (ی “!  ت ا  اي ﻥ‬8‫ا‬ ‫ ً \ط‬L ‫  ای ﻥ‬8‫ت ا‬$ ‫ ﺕ‬1E‫ و‬. !$‫ ى ا‬8‫ ا‬. PAَ‫  ای * ُﺕ‬8‫ ا‬Y‫إ& أن ﺕ‬  U)  ‫ (ی‬L‫ال ا اوی ﺏ&ﻥ‬1 ‫ ﺕ* ا‬1” 1‫ی‬1 ‫] ا‬3‫ و‬. ‫ و‬، ‫ ح‬A‫ق ا‬8‫ )د ا‬E‫ا وا‬ ‫ری‬1  ‫ (ی‬L‫ت ا ا&ﻥ‬1 ‫ ا‬1" Y‫ ذ‬. ‫ و وة‬. ‫ )دي‬E&‫ ى ا‬8‫ ا‬.  )‫رة وا‬L ‫ا‬ ‫د‬1=‫  ای "! ﻡ (ی ی‬8‫ ا‬$ ‫ أن ﺕ‬E‫ وﺕ ' ار‬. !‫ ى ا  * ا‬8‫ ﻡ‬. ‫ ت‬V‫ی‬$‫ام وا‬ 'D ‫ أن ﺕ‬W3‫ وﻡ' أ‬. ً \‫! أی‬5‫ ا‬a‫ﻥ‬L‫ ا‬. .  W‫! ﺏ‬$‫ ا‬a‫ﻥ‬L‫ ا‬. "  ‫ا اوی‬ ‫  ت‬H‫ی‬$5 ‘ ‫ )دیً ؛ ی! أن ﺕُ ر‬E‫  ﺕ  ً وا‬$‫ا اوی “! ا=ی ﻡ’ ﺕ! ﻡ=ﻡ= ا‬ . ‘3‫ ﻥذج ه‬Y‫ ذ‬a ‫ى ﺏ) ت ﺕ  و   آ ی‬$cُ‫ّ وأن ﺕ‬AcD‫ ا‬d e ‫ت وا‬3$ ‫ا‬

Introduction Soon after Malaysia got its independence from the British colonization in 1957, it has been striving to establish the Malay language (Bahasa Melayu) as the National language. Malay has been seen as a symbol of unity and identity in a country with various ethnic backgrounds speaking unintelligible languages.


There was an urgent need to use one common language among all the ethnic communities - Indians, Chinese, and Malay - to achieve two basic goals: communication and social integration. This paper attempts to evaluate the planning process of Malay language in the last fifteen years. This planning process is examined based on Haugen’s language planning model (Haugen, 1983). It is shown that the language policy succeeded in implementing Malay as a national language. Nonetheless, the Malay language policy has not been implemented at the official level. As a result of globalization and the open market economy, there has been a shift in the language policy. More specifically there has been a change from Malay to English as the language of business and industry at the economy level. Moreover English was adopted as the instruction language for math and science at the higher education level. I will focus on this paper on the use of English on the education level leaving the business level aside. I argue that the change of language policy threatens Malay language not only at the official level but also at the national level. In order for Malay to assume official tasks educationally and economically, the Malay language has to be developed and enriched with technical and scientific terms as Haugen’s model suggests for a successful language planning. Implementing Malay as a national and an official language needs to go hand in hand with the improvement of the standards of teaching English so that Malaysians, of all races, can access science and technology that is available in English.

The paper is organized as follows: the first section introduces Haugen’s language planning model and explains its basic elements. The second section explains some historical foundations and the objectives of the Malay language plan. The third section examines the Malay language planning activities at the national and the official domains and the effects of globalization on the Malay language planning process. The discussion sheds light on the problems of Malay planning and offers some solutions.



Language Planning Language is a symbol of the people’s social and political identity.

Therefore it may be potentially a unifying or divisive force. Language planning is a complex process that involves a deliberate language change in a conscious design. Such process develops language problem-solving strategies, which are future oriented. The political, social, and economic contexts influence language planning. In this section, I explain how a language planning process applies and show its basic aspects and conditions.


A Language plan model

A language plan is a strategy based on a specific model. I adopt Haugen’s language planning model (Haugen, 1983). This model sets out the major elements common to language planning that help initiate a particular language policy. Haugen’s model appears in (1).


Haugen’s revised language model (1983: 275)

Society (Status planning)

Language (Corpus planning)

Form (policy planning)

Function (language cultivation)

  1. Selection (decision procedures) (a) problem identification (b)allocation of norms

  2. Implementation (educational spread) (a) correction procedures (b) evaluation

  3. Codification (standardization procedures) (a) graphization (b) grammatication (c) lexication


  1. Elaboration (functional development) (a) terminological modernization (b) stylistic development

In order to understand how Haugen’s model in (1) works, let us understand its basic stages:

(1) Selection Selection involves the choice of a language or a variety of languages as national or official languages. Selecting a language for official use becomes necessary when people in a given country use unintelligible languages so that this language can facilitate communication and result ultimately in social integration in a multilingual and multiethnic society.

(2) Codification This stage presupposes norm selection. Codification is to give a written form to the norm selected. It aims at the standardization of the selected language. The standardization involves the production of dictionaries, grammars, spellers, style manuals, punctuation, pronunciation guides, and specialized glossaries. In most instances codification is carried out by language academies. Selection and codification remain mere theories unless followed by implementation and elaboration.

(3) Implementation It involves the activities of the writer, the government agencies, and civil institutions in adopting and using the selected language form. The implementation process includes producing books, newspapers in the new language as well as using it in all education levels and in the mass media (Haugen, 1983: 272).

(4) Elaboration It involves the expansion of the language functions to meet the needs of a modern world such as the assignment of new scientific and technological terms to the language.


Haugen distinguishes between status planning and corpus planning. Status planning refers to the social standing of one language in relation to other languages. As for corpus planning, it refers to the innovations that modify the language and such changes may involve the modification of the structure, morphology, spelling or even the adoption of a new script. As such, status planning will pertain to selection and implementation stages while corpus planning pertains to codification and elaboration stages. An effective language plan is not only a plan but it also includes two important elements: planners and planning processes.


Planners Planners are the second element of a language plan. Planners, whether

they are individuals or agencies, must consult widely and consider all aspects of the language situation before a plan is initiated. They operate within the bureaucratic structures and resources that are available to them.


A Planning process In order for language planning to be efficient, the following conditions

should be met: (1) The function of language planning is to recognize the languages that preserve the national and ethnic identity of a nation. Therefore, language planning supports the linguistic diversity by means of maintaining a delicate balance between official and local needs among linguistic varieties.

(2) Education plays an important role in directing language change. The major issues confronting language planners in education are: a. Which language or languages should be used as the medium of instruction? b. Which language or languages should be taught as subjects?


Unilingual educational policy presents no difficulties in unilingual nations. But in nations having more than one language existing in close proximity, the unilingual educational policy is not sufficient. The solution is to embrace a bilingual educational system where different languages live side by side to serve local and global needs. Charles Ferguson (1977) recommends bilingual education in multiethnic societies for these reasons: a. To assimilate individuals or groups into mainstream of society b. To unify multilingual society c. To reconcile different politically or socially separate communities

(3) Language planning is an activity of well-coordinated team of scholars from different academic disciplines like anthropology, economics, history, industrial engineering, psychology …Thus, language planning cannot be managed solely by a linguist (Kaplan, 1990: 8-9).

(4) Language planning should be the function of the government at the highest level. It is often the case that language planning is the function of the education sector. However governments authorize the development of a language plan leading to a language policy. Within the language policy, it is assumed that certain languages will be used for certain purposes. The function of the education sector is to decide who will teach those languages at what point in the educational system, to what segments of the population, through what methodologies, with what materials, and at what cost. The confusion between the functions of education sector and government will lead to problems in language planning (Kaplan, 1990: 9).

(5) Effective language planning requires a continuous evaluation and revision of a plan during the implementation of the language planning process.


(6) The government should motivate its citizens who do not speak its official language to learn it by making it a prerequisite for job-recruitment, study grants, and bounces.

(7) A language policy should be implemented by an entrusted agency endowed with authority and power to develop the language planning policy.

(8) In order for a language policy to be acceptable, it needs to satisfy the social and economical needs of the majority of the population.


The Birth of a Malaysian National language In this section, I first discuss the diverse linguistic background and

provide a brief historical and social account of the multilinguistic tradition of Malaysia during and after the British colonization. Then I show the reasons for the choice of a national language.


The British colonization When the English people occupied Malaysia, they worked hard to

maintain their control by means of the policy of divide and rule (Hassan, 2004: 6, 7). Thus the British sought to keep the major ethnic groups divided through different educational systems that used different languages. Namely, the Malays who speak Malay language were given six years of primary education focusing on simple arithmetic for simple transactions. The Indians were also given six years of primary education in Indian languages and they were prepared to work in railways and rubber plantations in an effort to limit their economic growth. As for the Chinese, they were entitled to run their own schools and provide textbooks and teachers from China with no help from the British colonial government. Besides establishing three different schools systems, the British established English schools for the purpose of providing workers for


administrative posts to serve the British rule. These four school systems played a decisive role in the social disintegration of the population. At the same time, the educational system served the British colonization best by manipulating the population in a way that served the economical and political interests of the occupiers and deprived the divided population of economic prosperity and social integration. The population remained divided for a hundred years (Hassan, 2004: 7). To make matters even worse, the Malaysian population did not need educational policies to divide them. Of course, the British used education to cut off all possible social interaction among the major ethnic groups. Nonetheless, division and isolation were already part of the cultural and linguistic fabric of the multiethnic Malaysians. To illustrate, there were three major languages: Malay, Tamil, and Chinese. But even within each major ethnic group, there were different languages that are oftentimes unintelligible (Hassan, 2004: 4). For instance, the Chinese speak several dialects like Kwongasi, Henghua, Hokchiu, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, and other forms that are considered to be languages since speakers of a given dialect do not understand other dialects. Indians too have their own different languages. At least, there are nine different languages: Tamil, Oriya, Marathi, Sinhalese, Punjabi, Gujerati, Malayalam, Telugu, and Bengali. Malay language is not the only indigenous language spoken but there are many more languages like Senoi, Jah, Temiar, Mah Meri, Hut, Temuan, Jakun, Biduanda, Ce Wong , kensiu, and Kintak and many other languages.


Ambitions of National unity Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds came to realize that they

needed to work together to free their country from the British rule. They managed to get their full independence from Britain in 1957. After the independence, the Malaysians became immediately focused at a new challenge, how to integrate the major ethnic groups into a coherent nation? The cultural, religious, and linguistic factors had all been manipulated by the British


colonizers to further disintegrate the Malaysians ethnic groups. But the Malaysians were determined to put their differences aside and seek for social unity. They Malaysians needed to implement unity and social integration under a basic symbol: a national language. The Malay language was chosen as a symbol representing the national indigenous heritage of Malaysia. In fact, there was a consensus among the Malaysian major ethnic groups in selecting Malay as the National Language. The All Malaya council of Joint Action (AMCJA), a council representing Malays and non-Malays, proposed that Malay should be the sole official language of the country in 1947 (Hassan, 2004: 9). The status of Malay as an official language was imposed by the constitution of Malaysia, Article 152, 1981 (Hassan, 2004: 9). The National language implementation from a mere abstract Article in the constitution to a reality demanded a systematic, rigorous language plan that required a great deal of time, institutional team work of expertise, and a huge budget. It is a complex strategic plan in which a particular language is carefully designed to assume the functions of administration, culture, diplomacy, philosophy, technology, and science in a country speaking different languages.


The Malay language Planning In this section, the Malay language planning process will be evaluated

based on Haugen’s revised language model (1983) illustrated in (1) above. More specifically, the planning process of Malay will be carefully scrutinized in the national and official domains.


Planning for a National language Since Malaysia is a multiethnic and hence multilinguistic country, it was

essential to choose one common national language that can be used as a means for communication and social interaction among the different ethnic groups.


Below, I discuss the concrete steps that had been taken to implement a national language.

3.1.1 Selection of a National language Malaysians chose Malay as the their national language (Hassan, 2004:5). This choice fell naturally on Malay for a number of different reasons (Omar, 1979:13). Firstly, Malay was the language of the major ethnic, the Malay people, which consisted of 49.78 % of the total population while the Chinese made up 37.1 % and Indians 11.0 % of the total population. In fact, Malay people are considered as “sons of the soil” or bumiputera (Gil, forthcoming, p.3). Thus the Malay language was considered the language of the soil. Therefore Malay was a symbol of identity for Malaysians, regardless of different ethnic background. Secondly, among all indigenous languages, Malay was the most articulate language expressing the different functions of high culture, literature, art, religion, and administration (Gil, forthcoming, p.3). The third reason was that Malay had been the medium of most inter-group communications for centuries. The other language that was used as a medium of communication among different groups was English in colonial times, but English was only confined to people with education of English and such people represented a small minority during that time. Finally, Malay was the language of administration in Malaysia prior to the advent of the British colonization. As a result of these reasons, Malay has been chosen as the national language; consequently, concrete measures were taken to implement it as a national language. Most importantly, Malay had had a legal position as a national and official language in the Malaysian constitution (Omar, 1979: 14). In order to motivate non-Malays to learn the language, Malay proficiency was one of the requirements for the application for Malaysian citizenship. In the past, non-Malays were granted citizenship based on the birth on Malaysia (Gil, forthcoming, P. 4). Furthermore, non-Malays were offered incentives and study grants to learn Malay. Malay was also a prerequisite for job recruitment


especially in the government service. Other important procedures were taken in developing the national language by means of codification.

3.1.2. Codification of Malay The Language and Literary Agency Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka was established in 1957 and was entrusted with an authoritative power to develop Malay (Hassan, 2004: 11). Codification is to give a standard written from to Malay. Among the functions that the agency performed to enrich Malay was to standardize spelling and the pronunciation systems. Originally, the spelling system of Malay was based on Arabic letters. Then it was changed to the Roman letters (Hassan, 2004: 13). New letters like X, O, and V were added to the Malay spelling system. The agency provided guidelines on spelling, pronunciation and grammar. Additionally the agency coined new words and issued dictionaries (Thirumalai, 2004: 4). In short, this agency was responsible for Malay corpus planning. Basically the Language and Literary Agency is entrusted with two major tasks. The first task is the codification of Malay. The second function is the elaboration of Malay to meet the functions of a modern global world such as the assignment of new scientific and technological terms. This second function will be discussed in the next section. The planning of Malay as a national language was a great success thanks to the effective and efficient selection and codification procedures used. Malay now is used among Malays, Chinese, and Indians.


Planning for an Official language The Malaysians felt strongly that an official language play an important

role in national unity rather than multilingualism which proved to be divisive as was evident in the colonial times. The planning of Malay as an official language on education, however, had different or rather conflicting language policies. I


will discuss below these changes of language policies in education and their implications on the planning process of Malay.

3.2.1 Malay as an Official language in Education In colonial times, education in Malaysia consisted of four different systems using four languages: English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil. The English system of education was the preferable choice by Malaysians because English schools had every facility needed to fulfill its duties as teaching institutes. The government used to subsidize these English schools. The students of such schools had the opportunity for a university education not only in Malaysia, but also in Singapore or any university in the British Commonwealth. Hence the students of these schools had the best opportunities to better socioeconomic status. Only students with a high economic income living in urban areas- mostly wealthy Chinese and Indians, and fewer elite Malay - can afford to attend these schools. Many Malaysians didn’t benefit from these privileges especially the Malay people. The majority of Malay, especially in rural areas, obtained their education in Malay medium schools, which only provided the six-year primary education. After that Malay are supposed to go back to their villages to till their lands or to occupy themselves with handicrafts and agriculture (Omar, 1979: 14-26). The English education system was identified with economic power and stronger social standing that was mainly associated with non-Malay groups. Since the major ethnic group, Malays, did not attend those schools, they were automatically deprived of socioeconomic power. That is why one unifying language used as a medium of education provides a fair chance to all ethnic groups, not just Malays (Denny, 2001: 7). To restore economic and social balance among the different ethnic groups, Malay language was proposed to be the medium of education. In 1956, a committee made a report recommending that Malay be the medium of instruction in the national education system while preserving languages in


limited language courses. The report was better known as the Razak Report soon became a policy (Denny, 2001: 7). Malays assumed that implementing their Malay language would grant them the economic power they need (Gil, forthcoming, p 4). All government schools and schools dependent on government aid had to comply with this and therefore use Malay as the main medium of instruction. Private schools were not obliged to comply with the language policy, but they still have to teach Malay as a compulsory subject. Despite the policy issuing Malay as a national and official language in 1956, the real implementation progressed at a very slow pace. Malays became very frustrated that Malay language was still not used in education; hence, their dreams of economic and political power were procrastinated indefinitely. Their frustration turned into major riots in 1969 (Gil, forthcoming, p 4). Then following the riots, Malay language was implemented as the medium of in instruction in all national schools receiving funds from the government in 1983 (Denny, 2001: 8). This long time was offered for people to prepare for the new language.

3.2.2 Internationalizing the Malaysian Education In 2002, Mahathir Mohamad, the previous Malaysian Prime Minister, announced that the science and mathematics would be taught not at the university level only but also gradually in the first year of the primary and secondary levels. This abrupt change of language policy from Malay to English was due to the effects of globalization and international market economy domineering influence on language policy (Gil, forthcoming, p. 6). In this section, I discuss the motivations behind the change of language policy and provide a very brief background on the Malaysian higher education. Then I show the possible implications of the new language policy at different, nonetheless interacting levels: the socioeconomic status of the different ethnic groups, the possible effects on the relations among ethnic groups, and the consequences on the Malay language planning.


Mahathir has pushed hard for a change in language policy. Ironically, Mahathir himself had campaigned among other Malay nationalists in 1960s for using Malay to be used nationally and officially (Ayob and Yaakub, 1999a). However the concern has now shifted swiftly to focus on Malaysia’s economic competitiveness and making Malaysia a regional educational center attracting foreign students. This economic opportunity can be siezed by using English in education. The change was approved by the influential (UMNO) United Malays national Organization (Jayasankaran, 2002). The Malaysian higher education institutions consist of eleven public universities that are government funded (Ayob and Yaakub, 1999b). There are also close to 600 private universities that are funded and operated by the private sector. Most of these private colleges have twinning programs with foreign universities (Ayob and Yaakub, 1999b). Furthermore, foreign universities from Australia and Britain have been welcomed to open branches in Malaysia. The language of instruction in these private and foreign colleges is English except for teaching two courses: one in Malay language and another in Malaysian studies (including politics, economics, environment and history) (Richardson, 1996). After the financial crisis Malaysia had in 1997, Malaysia could no longer send its students abroad on educational scholarships (Ayob and Yaakub, 1999a). Malaysia can save about $ 1 billion a year on overseas education by sending students to these private and foreign colleges and investing the money in Malaysia (Richardson, 1996). Moreover Malaysia attempts to attract even foreign students and make an economic profit. However the drastic change of language from Malay to English in education has implications that may have serious negative impact on socioeconomic status, achievement on English and science, and Malay language planning. Let us examine these implications one by one.

First: the Socioeconomic Divide among Ethnicities The Malay language policy was supposed to assign the Malays some economic and social power consistent with their highest 49.78 percentage of the


total population. By making Malay a national and official language, it was hoped that the language can upgrade the power of the Malay people (Denny, 2001: 7). However the abrupt switch from Malay to English in 2002 reinstalled the old colonial education system in which the English language shaped a higher social standing and an economic affluence. Unfortunately, the Malays became disadvantaged once again as they were in the colonial times since they did not feel that they need to speak English given the fact Malay is the national and official language. “The switch to Malay left most graduates of Malaysian universities without a firm grasp of English.” (Sid, 1994: 1). The Malay language policy removed any incentive for Malays to master English unlike the case for minorities like Chinese, “In fact, many Chinese, even cab drivers in Kula Lumpur, prove themselves versatile linguists and can carry on a conversation in Malay, broken English and two or three Chinese dialects, though their reading and writing ability may be limited. Malays, by contrast, have had little incentive to learn a second language.” (Frank, 1994: 2). It seemed that Malay are paying the price of a speaking one language: “There was a price to be paid for the popularization of the Malay language, and that price has been the decline in English standards.” (Frank, 1994: 2). The teaching of English was left to the private colleges, which resulted in the decline of English teaching in the public universities, “by leaving the teaching of English to private colleges, the public sector began to lag behind,” (Michael, 1993: 2). The Malays people became monolingual especially in rural areas in a society where the other ethnic minorities (Chinese and Indians) are bilingual and trilingual. A committee under the name Barnes’ committee had an official report in 1950 suggesting that all ethnic non-Malay schools teach through Malay and English. But the Indians and the Chinese reacted against that and insisted that their native languages be used as well in the education system. Ironically, the Malays who supported the bilingual proposals of the Barnes’ committee became monolinguals while the Indians and Chinese who resisted the proposals became trilingual (Hassan, 2004: 22, 23, 29).


The education system in Malaysia is becoming polarized as its higher education system bifurcated into public universities using Malay as the medium of instruction and private universities using English (Gil, forthcoming, p.11). The Malay people go predominantly to the public universities. There are some seats reserved for Indians and Chinese, following the ethnic quota (Mohamad, 2003: 154). As for non-Malays, they make up about 95% of the enrolment in private colleges. This percentage fails to represents the actual Malaysian society since Malays are under-represented in private colleges (Ayob and Yaakub, 1999a) and ((Mohamad, 2003: 154). Since the public universities and private colleges differ in terms of the medium of education and the type of degree they offer, graduates of both systems will be treated differently. To illustrate, the private colleges produce human resources with foreign degrees in English while public universities do not. Because the public sector, the main employer of public universities graduates, is already hemorrhaged, the attention for employment is turned to the private sector. But the private sector seeks graduates with foreign degrees who can speak English. In 2002, 40,000 graduates from public universities, mostly Malays were unemployed (Gil, forthcoming, p. 11). In conclusion, the English language policy creates a bifurcation in the Malaysian education system. As a result, the different education system results in different socioeconomic power that does not respect the ethnic representation in Malaysia. This in turn can spark social problems that may widen the class and ethnic foundations of the Malaysian society; hence affecting the unity of country.

Second, Achievement on English and Science The English language policy was implemented primarily for economic considerations. This explains why English is used as a medium of instruction in Mathematics and Science. However what is not clear is how this policy is likely to improve the falling standards of English teaching? Some even suspect that


achievement in these courses may be affected. “What most people could not comprehend was how proficiency in English could be attained by learning through technical subjects such as Mathematics and Science. Pessimists anticipate a dire result out of such a peculiar strategy – that children would end up being competent in neither English or Mathematics” (Mohamad. 2003: 154). There is a dilemma with teaching English especially in rural areas where even the rudimentary knowledge of English is lacking (Hassan, 2004: 29). The English language policy can never improve the achievement level since what is needed is improving the standards of English teaching, especially among the monolingual Malays. Imposing English as the medium of instruction will not be of help in developing the English proficiency or the upgrade of the attainment levels in Mathematics or Science. “The switch to Malay left most graduates of Malaysian universities without a firm grasp of English. While the decline of English language ability was expected, the falling levels of attainment in science and technology seemed to come as a surprise. They shouldn’t have; after all, nine out of 10 books in Malaysian universities libraries are still in English” (Sid, 1994). Therefore, while it is necessary not to give up using Malay as a national and an official language, Malaysians need to be able to acquire English proficiently. After all, speaking more than one language is a fact of Malaysian life. Bilingual or even trilingual education- where Malay, English, and some other languages are taught– may be achieved from an early stage of education as can be learned from the experience of Chinese and Indians minorities. These languages can be used at different levels in a way that will not compromise the use of Malay as a national and an official language.

Third, English and Malay Language Planning In the last fifty years, Malaysia has undergone a massive and painstaking mission of developing Malay as a national language. However, the recent English language policy decreed in 2002 jeopardizes the whole Malay planning enterprise since the needed functional levels of implementation and elaboration


of Malay, that are stipulated by Haugen’s revised language model in (1) above, are contradicted by a reversal in language policy. Implementation reflects cultivating the social status of Malay while elaboration involves the corpus planning of Malay. The English language policy negates the efforts of the implementation of Malay at the education level. Using English as the medium of instruction in Mathematics and Science compromises the social status of Malay as a national language. This in effect suggests that Malay is not fit for science and hence is replaced by a more competent language- English. This negative attitude to Malay can have fatal impact on Malaysia’s national goals since Malay language is not viewed as just a mere linguistic form of communication, but more of a symbol of a national identity and a powerful unifying tool of Malaysia various multiethnic groups. The change of English can be seen as a direct dominance of globalization and market economy over nationalistic factors on language policies (Gil, forthcoming, p. 6). Not only does the English language policy affect Malay implementation as a national and official language but also discourages the corpus development of Malay. Prior to the English Language policy, there was already a dwindling tendency to translate and publish books in Malay (Gil, forthcoming, p. 8). In fact, there was an acute shortage for books in Malay at the university. After the establishment of Language and Literary Agency, only 545 titles were published (Hassan, 2004: 35). Public universities published about 168 translated books (Gil, forthcoming, p. 8). The pace of translation and publication in Malay is slow and diminishing. For example, Hassan (2004: 35) provides the following statistics of published books in Malay:


17 books


18 books


9 books


6 books


7 books



3 books

If English is used as an official language of Science, then there would no motivation for developing Malay, through publishing and translation, to meet the functions of a modern world since English will be the language that is used mainly to serve these functions. This will greatly weaken Malay because the stock of basic knowledge in science and intellect will be lacking.

In conclusion, the use of English as a medium of instruction of Mathematics and Science results in a socioeconomic gap among Malays and non-Malays especially in rural areas. Additionally the English language policy may even have a negative effect in achievement on English and Science. Finally this policy threatens the Malay planning as a national and official language. In accordance with Haugen’s model of language planning, Malay planning should have two essential levels: first, Malay should be implemented as the language of education and media. Secondly, the Malay language needs to be developed and enriched with publication and translation of scientific knowledge, so that it can achieve the basic needs of a modern developing country seeking to be a developed nation by 2020. However, the Malay language planning as a national and official language does not entail the abandonment of English. English teaching standards should be improved and Malaysians, especially the Malays, should be able to acquire English so that they can access science and technology that is advancing in English.

References Ayob, A. and N. Yaakub. 1999a. Business of Higher Education in Malaysia: Development and Prospects in the New Millennium. A paper presented at the ASAIHL Conference on the New Millennium: Business and Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific at the Auckland Institute of Technology, New Zealand.


Ayob, A. and N. Yaakub. 1999b. Higher Education and Socioeconomic Development in Malaysia: A Human resource Development Perspective. A paper presented at the ASAIHL Seminar on Liberal Arts Education and Socioeconomic Development in the Next Century held at the Lingnan College, Hong Kong. Denny, J. 2001, Cultural Strife: Development of a National Language in Malaysia. Eloctronic magazine Of Multicultural Education. Ferguson, C. A. 1977. Bilingual Education – An International Perspective. In Bernard S. and Robert L., eds. Frontiers of Bilingual Education. Rowly, Mass.: Newbury House. Frank, C. 1994. Mahathir Graps a Nettle. In Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong. Mar 13, 1994, Vol. 157, issue 13. Gil, S. (Forthcoming) Language Policy and Planning in Higher Education in Malaysia: A Nation in Linguistic Transition. Haugen, E. 1983. The Implementation of Corpus Planning: Theory and Practice. In Cobarrbias J. and J. Fishman. Progress in Language Planning: International Perspectives. Berlin: Mouton. Hassan, A. 2004. One Hundred Years of Language Planning in Malaysia: Looking Ahead to the Future. In Language in India, Volume 4: 11 Nov 2004. Jayasankaran, S. 2002. Bahasa Blues. In Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong. June 27, 2002, Vol. 165, issue 25. Kaplan, R. 1990. Introduction: Language Planning in Theory and Practice. In R. Balduf, and A. Luke. Language Planning and Education in Australia and South Pacific. Clevedon, Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters LTD. Michael, V. 1993. Malaysia: Back to English. In Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong. Nov. 11, 1993, Vol. 156, issue 45. Mohamad, M. 2003. Malaysia in 2002: Brasing for a Post-Mahathir Future. in Southeast Asian Affairs. Omar, A. 1979. Language Planning for Unity and Efficiency: A Study of the Language Status and Corpus Planning of Malaysia. Kula Lumper: Penerbit University Malaya.


Richardson, M. 1996. Malaysia Will Open and Expand Higher Education. In international Herlad Tribune, Feburary 13, 1996. Sid, A. 1994. Malaysia: A U-Turn in any Language. In Asian Business, Hong Kong, March 1994, Vol. 30. Thirumalai, M. 2004. Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka Institute of Language and Literature in Malaysia: A Brief Overview. In Language in India, Volume 4: 11 Nov 2004.


How (not) to defibrillate a language 2&col; the Case of Malay language - December 1, 2017 - Maxime Seveleu-Dubrovnik