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Communication is one of the most important aspects in our everyday activity. In fact, most of the activities we do are directly or indirectly related to communication. More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest sometimes seem to or are trying to. At the same time, English is spoken in many different varieties in dependence to the country, as what it is known throughout as the World Englishes. The British introduced English to Malaysia more than two centuries ago. It became the most important language for generations and it is often associated with power and prestige. However, in post-British era, when Malaysia became independent in 1957, English was made the second language in conjunction with the promotion of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language. Then, in the 1990s, spurred by the government’s objective to push the nation into globalization, the importance of English increased. Today, Malaysians speak Standard English and Malaysian English. But here what is actually meant by Standard English and Malaysian English and how exactly it differs? What actually counts the Standard English will depend on both the locality and the particular varieties that Standard English is being contrasted with. As a whole, Standard English is also known as Standard Written English or SWE, is the form of English most widely accepted as being clear and proper. It is regarded as the most appropriate and most commonly used form of English around the world and is acknowledged as the model of speech and writing of educated speakers. While on the other hand, Manglish is a Malaysian speaking style, just like the Singaporean English, Singlish. This is a distorted use of English that is mainly spoken between the locals and sometimes is also referred to as a rojak language. So, how is Standard English differs from Malaysian English?
In Malaysia, we regard Malaysian English as bahasa rojak. (Johnleemk, 8 Mac 2007). Rojak is a malay word, loosely translated actually means ‘a mixture of’. Same goes to in Malaysian context. We regard our English as rojak English. Malaysians, are very lucky to have many different races speaking many different languages and still staying together peacefully under one nation. The variety known as Malaysian English has, among various factors, the local languages as one of the ingredients that colour this variety. These local languages mentioned being basically Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Such indigenized varieties are most often used in an informal communicative variety. This means using the English language with a mixture of the Malay words, Chinese dialects and Tamil. For example, in an informal communication, people more often than not used the word ‘lah’ , ‘aaah’ and ‘aiyoo’. ‘Lah’ is used to emphasise, ‘Aaah’ is usually followed by a question mark and ‘Aiyoo’ is often accompanied by the exclaimation mark. For example, ‘Aiyoo, why you so late one huh?’ and ‘faster lah. This kind of Manglish spoken sentences are only understood by Malaysians and not tourists. Recently, I read an article where, an English spoken tourist who came to Malaysia commented on the Malaysian English. “It sounds curiously like English, but I could’nt understand what was being said.” How is the tourist going to understand if the English is spoken in this manner, “My car, 4 months never pay. The finance people are going to pull already. Myself, where got money. Aiyoo…! Die lah like that”. This actually means I have not paid up my car installments in 4 months. The finance company is going to reposess it soon. I don’t have the money. Argh! I’m done for. The main point on how Malaysian English differs from Standard English is the words spoken which are used in the speaking of English language. In Standard English we use words which can be understood by everyone whereby in Malaysian English, we mix all the language into English whereby only Malaysians can understand the whole meaning of the sentence.
Besides that, Standard English differs from Malaysian English in terms of pronunciations of words. As I have explained in the above context, Malaysia is a well diverse country with the Malaysians speaking many different dialects. So, English is a second language in this country. If compared to the British, the one main language spoken there is English. Here, in Malaysia, the English spoken here is mixed with many different dialects spoken by the different ethnics in Malaysia. Thus, one thing we need to bear in mind here that most of the pronunciations mistake relates to mother tongue interference. For example, this piece is taken from the Start Online, “There are many points in Hussaini’s article that I can comment on, but I’ll just choose two examples he gave as wrong pronunciation of English words, “head” and “said”, which he claimed were mispronounced as “had” and “sad”. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and other mainstream dictionaries give the pronunciation of the words as /hed/ and /sed/, using the International Phonetic Alphabet system and hence they would actually sound almost like “had” and “sad” but with shorter vowel sounds. Perhaps Hussaini thought “head” should sound like /heÄ±t/ and “said’ like /seÄ±d/, which are actually Malaysian English pronunciation of the words”. Some other words Malaysian pronounce differently are their (Malaysians read it as thee-ya but it’s actually is there) , Wednesday ( Malaysians pronounce it as wed-nes-day but it’s actually wenz-day), question ( Malaysians read as ques-tion but it’s actually ques-chen), procedure ( Malaysians pronounce it as prou-si-dear but it is pre-si-jer) and many other words. At the same time, In Malaysian English, the last syllable of a word is sometimes not pronounced with the strength that it would be in British English. So, here we can see Malaysian English differs in terms of pronunciation of words, whereby it is mostly affected by the interference of the different dialects in Malaysia.
Standard English also differs from Malaysian English in terms of grammar. There are many Manglish grammatical structures taken from Chinese dialects and many claim that the structure is also borrowed from the malay language. For example, the phrase “Why you so like that one?” in standard English it means “Why are you behaving in that way”. In Cantonese, a similar phrase would be rendered as “Dímgáai néih gám ge?” or literally “Why you like that?” The “one” in the sample phrase does not literally mean the numeral one; instead it is used more as a suffix device. It is also sometimes rendered as “wan.”One other characteristic is anastrophe and omission of certain prepositions and articles. For example “I haven’t seen you in a long time” in standard English becomes “Long time no see” in Malaysian English. Not only are those, even to the certain extent the words used in Standard English and Malaysian English also different. With the variety of influences Malaysian English is gradually forming its own vocabulary. Typically, these words are based on other English words but most of the time the Malaysian speaker is unaware that these words are not the words from the standard use of English or even from British or American English. For example, one of the most used words in Malaysia is hand phone but it is actually a mobile phone or a cell phone. Malaysian use brinjal, but the right use of that vegetable is eggplant or Aubergine, the standard word for MC is actually sick note and gostan which is used in Malaysia is actually reverse or to go backwards in Standard English. Moreover, some of the same words found in Standard English and Malaysian English have different meaning. For example, bungalow. In Standard English it means a small house or cottage usually having a single storey and sometimes an additional attic story that is free standing, i.e. not conjoined with another unit. But in Malaysian English it means a mansion for the rich and/or famous; or a fully detached house, regardless of the number of floors it has. (absolute astronomy).
Currently, many different English varieties, which are called World Englishes, are spoken all over the world. Malaysian English, one of the World Englishes, has an important role as an inter-ethnic lingua franca in the Malaysian community. Since language is closely related to identity, even if the Malaysian government carries on the language policy which ignores the relationship between language and identity, the policy will have little effect on Malaysian language use and attitudes. At the same time, I believe that it is not wrong using Malaysian English, we should always minimize the usage and avoid speaking Malaysian English in formal situation. On the other hand, standard English should always be uphold and given the highest priority as English is becoming the highest medium of communication everywhere around the world. Thus, the difference between Malaysian English and Standard English can be lessened if there is a commitment from every individual to improve the standard of English in Malaysia.
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