Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from Manila!

The matter of official language for the ASEAN is among the issues arising as the Southeast Asian confederation is tightening its reins towards a federation-type economic union by 2015.

The possibility of a political union will float to the surface once that economic union will be in place. Political integration will most likely see the constituencies galvanize across the region, people-to-people synergy will increase, and the need for a common language will be felt more strongly.

Among certain intellectual circles in the region, there are those who are now proposing that Malay be the language of ASEAN. Malay is spoken by the greatest number of ethnicities here, even as my country is marked by an overwhelming majority of people who speak Filipino, a Malayan language, more than English (common language during the American era).

Below is a summary report of the proposal.

[Philippines, 26 June 2011]


October 26th, 2010 10:40
Malay Can be “Language of Asean”

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam – Malay language has the potential to become “language of Asean”, considering it is spoken in four-member countries.
The history of the language as one of the lingua francas and was once one of the predominant languages in the region, and is spoken by many minorities across the Southeast Asian region further strengthen its potential.
Dr Mataim Bakar, Director of Research, Development and International Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, stressed this at “Language Dialogue: Malay language as the language for Asean” at the Language and Literature Bureau yesterday.
Aside from Brunei, Malay is also spoken in other Asean member countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and certain parts of Thailand.
The director said these conditions create an opportunity to introduce the language in-depth to Malay speakers and non-speakers in the region.
The General Secretary for the Riau Jakarta Community Association Indonesia, Dr Abd Azis Tabligh, said there was flexibility in the usage of Malay language.
The Acting Director of Language and Literature Bureau, Hjh Aminah Hj Momin, said to realise the concept of making Malay language as the language for Asean, “there was a need to pool our resources and capabilities to achieve the objective.”
“This resource pool should comprise literature figures as well as people from strategic and critical areas: economy, engineering, science and technology,” she said.
“We want to empower our language. This empowerment can be realised by wise, brave and strategic political will by the relevant authorities.”
Hjh Aminah suggested the need for a systematic channel that could encourage growth and stimulation of mind, musyawarah (discussion) and sharing of discourse.
She did not deny the need to learn other languages in an effort to gain as much knowledge as possible.
However, she emphasised that the knowledge should be conveyed or translated to Malay language.
“Malay language can play a role as the language medium for knowledge. Malay can expand to be a modern language with the concept of progressive nation based on an independent mind and strong identity of its people,” she said.
The acting director added: “Development in economic, politics, education, culture and social does not merely depend on English language. Malay language can be the basis for nation’s development and civilisation.”
Hjh Aminah asked all to look at countries such as Japan, German, Korean and Taiwan that practice their national language and became rich, developed and ambitious nations.
Meanwhile, Dr Abd Azis said the Malay language was the root of Bahasa Indonesia.
“Bahasa Indonesia is Malay language that is added with foreign languages as well as respective dialects in the provinces,” he said.
The nation’s vast population is also united by its language. The language’s significance can be seen in many national events, said Dr Abd Azis.
Dr Abd Azis said like many Malay-speaking countries, the development of ICT had created a crisis for the preservation of the language, where many use English language as the medium.
“Our duty is to (evoke) the feeling of pride for the Malay language and its usage in our community,” he said. Courtesy of The Brunei Times

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  1. AdamS Says:

    I don’t think any other language than English would dominate ASEAN. It’s because schools in every countries in this region teaches English as a secondary language. Why bother learning a third one. Learning too many languages is difficult and too tired for students.

    PS. You also wrote this article in English.

  2. Says:

    I agree with the author, but s/he didn’t mention the two main reasons why Malay should be ASEAN’s lingua franca.

    1, It’s an easy language to learn because it lacks irregularities and uncommon features. It developed over the centuries as a language of the marketplace. Over time, uncommon features dropped out of the language, and its irregularities — something that almost all languages have — were whittled down. So, AdamS, for 98% of SEAns, learning to speak good Malay would take about 1/3 as much effort as learning to speak good English. Learning to speak passable Malay would take about 1/10 as much effort as learning to speak passable English.

    2. Malay was THE lingua franca throughout tropical East Asia before the arrival of European political power. When the Hokkien Chinese first settled Taiwan, they were likely to have communicated with the natives using Malay! So Malay as “the ASEAN language” is just a blast from the past.

    If ASEAN adopts Malay, Malay-as-a-second-language would likely spread up the coast of East Asia, down to Oz, and across the Pacific. Eventually, maybe even during this century, English will become unnecessary as a lingua franca, i.e. “just another language”.

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