How many times have we encountered Malaysians who have problem communicating in the national language?
Despite being citizens, many Malaysians still have a hard time pronouncing words in Malay.
This, of course, irks others especially when comparison is made with foreign workers in Malaysia who can speak much better.
However, before we demonise others, let’s find out where the problem lies.
For a start, the root of all goodness comes from education. Those who can’t speak the national language generally are those whose mother tongue is their own dialect.
Thus, it is essential that learning the national language must first come from school.
Make it mandatory to achieve a certain standard with failure having severe ‘repercussions.’ Without any punishment, there will not be much motivation to learn.
One will not learn something that they are not so keen on unless there’s a reason behind it.
Foreign workers who learn Bahasa Melayu do it because they know by learning it, he or she will be able to make a living.
Likewise, citizens who continue to speak in their own dialect and refuse to learn BM simply believe they can survive by speaking their mother tongue.
Children must be taught that the national language is the key to national unity and this must start in schools.
The national language must also be made simple and attractive to learn. Constant changes can be confusing and it will make people lose interest.
I started learning BM as in Bahasa Malaysia, it was then renamed to Bahasa Melayu, then changed to Bahasa Melayu Baku. I lost track along the way, but I learnt it is now back to Bahasa Melayu.
Some 25 years ago, I scored an A for my BM in SPM.
However, now I’m afraid to speak Bahasa Melayu for the fear of making mistakes. A simple word like ‘baru’ is now changed to ‘baharu’, tempat letak kereta is now ‘parkir’, and the list can go on.
Yet, all the English words I learned 25 years ago are still valid.
Language experts should have thought of ways to encourage the usage of Bahasa Melayu and make learning the language more interesting instead of constantly introducing new words.
As citizens, the least we can do is to learn and master our national language. It is truly a form of respect to the country and other citizens.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.