Sabtu, 30 Juli 2011

`Bahasa Rojak` and The Fate of The Malay Language

Bandar Seri Begawan - ‘BAHASA ROJAK" according to the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports (BT, June 24, 2007), is a mix of the Bruneian mother-tongue with a second language, usually English. It is deemed as "polluting the language".

Unfortunately, "bahasa rojak" is commonly used in daily conversation in our society, particularly in the electronic media.

In fact, our mother-tongue Malay _ used by millions of people in this region, including Brunei Darussalam _ for hundreds of years. It could be traced further back to the 7th Century, when Sri Wijaya Kingdom (of Palembang) had great influence among the Malay islands. The Javanese language, which also existed during that time, was mainly used for the purpose of literature. Like the caste system in Hinduism, in Javanese there are ranks of society. It uses different vocabularies for different ranks.

Presumably, that was why the Malay language _ the language mostly used in ports and trading markets _ was more accepted as the language of communication in Malay islands (Nusantara). Because of its simplicity and its egalitarianism, Malay was chosen by the Indonesian founding fathers _ even though most of them were Javanese _ as the national language (in 1928). They believed this language was capable of uniting Indonesia. And they are right. It is unimaginable to Indonesia now, with its 215 million population, 489 tribes/races and 560 different indigenous languages, not to have a national language. This language, second to most citizens, succeeds in uniting this vast and heterogenic country. Unlike in Malaysia, Singapore, or Brunei, where English is the second language, in Indonesia, English is foreign and only used by limited number of people.

In Brunei, the Malay language was determined as the formal national language (Bahasa Rasmi) in 1959, as stated in Perlembagaan Negeri Brunei 1959, Chapter 82. Actually, as Indonesia, Brunei also has indigenous languages used by puak-puak (ethnic groups); such as puak Brunei, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun, Kedayan, Murut, and Tutong. Respect and love towards Malay language has overcome ethnic differences.

No one can trace when "bahasa rojak" started to be used in our society. It might be caused by the bilingual parents, since in the 1980s, many Bruneians worked and lived abroad, creating a bilingual environment for their children. There is also influence by immigrant workers here, most of them working as amah (women child-minders). They communicate with the children more than the parents, and therefore, help make the children bi or multilingual.

The change in Brunei‘s Educational System in 1985 might have also contributed to the present trend. Before, it was a two-language system (class was conducted in Malay or English). Now it is one bilingual system (every class must be conducted in English, except for certain subjects such as religion and civics). English is the medium of instruction at schools, not just a subject. The new system was meant to improve the quality of graduates, to be on par with international standards.

However, some teachers still teach every subject in class using Malay with the intent helping students understand the subject better. In this case, "bahasa rojak" (in Indonesian the same phenomenon is called "bahasa gado-gado"), which is a mix of Malay and English, was widely used at schools. In radio programmes "bahasa rojak" is frequently used by the announcer or talk show host and guests. We cannot simply blame the system or the teachers for this phenomenon. Most importantly, we hope the authorities will do something about it. The activity "Peraduan Mari Bercerita" held last week is a very good programme, which would effectively encourage young people to speak Malay correctly and properly.

We must be proud that Malay is one of the most spoken language in the world, after English, French, and Spanish. To strengthen the root and position of the Malay language in the world map, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam signed a joint-communique last year. The agreed points are: to strengthen the use of Malay as the formal language in each country, to generate the use of Malay as the language of science and technology, and to improve the quality of usage among citizens (DR. Mataim Bakar, Bahasa, 2007).

The Brunei government has shown its seriousness in the preservation of the Malay language as well. Among others: by granting citizenship to applicant if he/she proves to be fluent in Malay; after fulfilling other formal/standard requirements. It also grants scholarship to young people, with one condition, among others, the candidate passes the Malay test (Fatimah Haji Mohd Husain, Pertemuan Sastrawan Nusantara, 1991).

With such attention given to Malay language, why is "bahasa rojak" still dominant in our daily conversation? It could be _ as hinted by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports _ the influence of the electronic media. It is understandable that radio, for instance, needs to gain more young audience by using "bahasa rojak". But radio programmers should bear in mind that the media should not only deliver what the audience wants or likes.

The media can also shape _ and even direct _ what the public likes. In this case, the media has a responsibility to educate people and to preserve our national language.

Source: (28 Juni 2007)