Am I embarrassed that I cannot write well in Bahasa? No more then I am embarrassed in not being able to speak Mandarin or write in Tamil! I wish I could write well in Bahasa – I really do but if truth be told I have no need of Bahasa to get by in life.
That is what you need to understand! English is the language you need to know if you are to equip yourself with the tools necessary to better yourself in life, gain knowledge and communicate with the world.
I do not remember precisely when I realized that I needed Bahasa to get along in Malaysia. I guess it was when I had to write letters to the Government Departments that I was dealing with in my business. I remembered being told about Malay government servants throwing letter written in English into the waste paper baskets – so I learned to write in Bahasa!
Was it a problem writing in Bahasa? Why not ask a Chinese educated Chinaman or a Tamil educated Indian to write in Bahasa! Of course it was difficult! All my life I have been taught in English, I communicate in English in school, with friends and at home and now in my 30s you ask me to write in Bahasa? Oh yes I do speak Malay with my Mother and my aunties but there was no need to write to them in Bahasa!
Did I resent having to write in Bahasa? Yes I did because I had to write it in English first or think in English and then translate it into Bahasa and then write in Bahasa with an English-Malay-English dictionary handy! And I still got it wrong!
Today I see Chinese and India kids talking and writing in Bahasa without a worry in the world! Good for them! But what happens when they need to go overseas for further studies because there is no place for them to do so here in their country of birth? No problems for them because they have always kept their proficiency in English as a second language.
Any problems in these areas will be faced by the Malays because Bahasa is all they know from birth to the time when they need to go abroad for further studies. From my personal experience of dealing and mixing with Malay students here – their understanding of English is inadequate. Again the Malays are at a disadvantage because this Barisan Nasional government did not have the foresight to understand the importance of English for these Malays. Their government has failed them!
By all means make Bahasa our National language. I am proud to see Indonesian of all ethnicity speaking in the same language everywhere they go. We have the French insisting on using their mother tongue in every transaction possible. China does too but this Barisan Nasional government must be consistent in what they want to do language wise.
For me there really is no need to insist that everybody learn Bahasa – 90% of our people already speak it in one way or another but teach our people English because they need it to communicate with the rest of the world and to gain knowledge….and then maybe those Malay students going abroad on government provided scholarships for further education will have the same opportunity to do well as the other non-Malay students going abroad for the same thing but at the expense of their parents!