A sad loss if Malays neglect their mother tongue

The calls by Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan (Useful to know some Malay; Sept 5) and Mr Gurmit Singh Kullar (Learn Malay to appreciate our past, seek our future; Sept 7) make sense.

Just decades ago, Malay was the common language among all races in Singapore.

Today, only a few non-Malays, such as the Peranakans, speak it.

It is of concern that more and more Malays, particularly the young, do not seem to be using their mother tongue among themselves and with their children, but are choosing to do so in English instead. Many are no longer fluent in Malay.

I believe it is their new modus vivendi as they become better educated and more affluent.

The issue is that these English-speaking Malays may lose their mother tongue if they neglect it. That would be a sad loss.

Our bilingual education policy is no help if, outside school, students stick to only English in their daily activities and in their working life.

Knowledge of Malay is still needed for communicating with non-English-speaking Malays, and when visiting Malaysia and Indonesia.

Besides, as Mr Kullar wrote, it "will help younger Singaporeans appreciate the same connectedness the older generations felt with our history, and present them with opportunities in the region".

By all means, speak English and be proficient in it, but not at the expense of our roots.

Anthony Oei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'A sad loss if Malays neglect their mother tongue'. Print Edition | Subscribe