The recent incident, where it was alleged that a hospital threatened to deny treatment to a Singaporean man hurt in a hit-and-run accident in Johor Baru if payment was not made first, shows how useful it can be to have some knowledge of spoken Malay (Malaysia says JB hospital didn't delay treatment of Singaporean; Sept 2).
One of the victim's friends has said that there could have been a miscommunication, as the hospital staff "were speaking Malay and we were speaking English and we had difficulties communicating".
Malay is the language of our closest neighbouring country and also our national language.
I was fortunate enough to acquire this language at a young age, as my parents communicated with each other in Malay.
However, nowadays, our young hardly speak any Malay. When interacting with Malay stallholders, they would speak in English.
As Malay uses the Roman alphabet and some of the words are adapted from English, the language is not too difficult to learn.
There are classes conducted by private educational institutions and community clubs.
It is time Singaporeans pick up a bit of this language.
In times of crisis or emergency, the language becomes handy and may even make a difference between life and death.
Andrew Seow Chwee Guan