Oh my (English) accent!


Oh my (English) accent!
By Zan Azlee

My first language is the English language. Sure, people can criticise me all they want if they think that being Malay, I have to speak to Bahasa Malaysia. I speak Bahasa Malaysia too. It’s just that the language isn’t the first language that I learned and I feel much more comfortable expressing myself in English.

It’s just the way I was brought up. My entire family speaks English, with just a smattering of Bahasa Malaysia and Cantonese here and there (and slightly less often, Bugis). But if you listen to the English that my family members speak, you will realise that it is entirely colloquial. But if you were Malaysian, you would immediately understand.

And, myself, being a writer and also involved in the broadcast media, language skills is something very important and crucial. So I honestly try my best to perfect my language skills in both the main mediums of English and Bahasa Malaysia. But, my personal preference is still English. I can’t help it.

And if you aren’t living under a shell, then you would know Malaysia seems to have an issue with the English language, both learning it and also condemning it. All around, it seems that Malaysians’ proficiency in the language is rapidly dropping. And the government is trying to do everything it can to improve the situation.

However, my gripe (it’s depressing that my weekly column has become a tirade of bitchiness complaints recently!) is more about the way English speakers in Malaysia choose to speak. Almost everywhere I go, I hear Malaysians speaking English in all kinds of accents, but never the Malaysian accent! The three favourites are American, British and Australian.

What is wrong with speaking English like a Malaysian? Does it make your language proficiency less… proficient? Well, I guess the reasoning is… ‘Forget the grammar and language proficiency. As long as I sound cool people will think I speak English well!’.

Look at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. He speaks like a true blue Malay. In fact, comedians even imitate his accent whenever they want to sound Malay. But his English is excellent. Look at Datuk Seri Samy Vellu. He speaks like a true blue Indian-Malaysian. In fact, comedians even imitate his accent when they want to sound Indian-Malaysian. But his English is excellent… or wait a minute. That’s a bad example. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

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