Cosmopolitanising Bahasa Malaysia


At its height, the Malay language was the lingua franca of a quarter of the world, the de facto language of communication and commerce within the motley cluster of 25,000 islands making up the Malay Archipelago. Today, while Malay is constitutionally entrenched as the national language of our country, it has not been able to achieve the status of a “cosmopolitan language” the way its linguistic cousin has in, for example, Indonesia.

Dynamism leads to cosmopolitanism

Any language is a reflection of the society that uses it. Hence, any society that aims to attain an international cosmopolitan status must necessarily allow its language to evolve in a similar fashion.

All around the world, the development of a nation is often accompanied by a parallel progression in its culture. This phenomenon is not only confined to Western countries that have successfully colonised hearts and minds the world over with their language and culture, but also countries from the Far East. Taiwan, Korea and Japan are not only successful in churning out high tech products, they have also now captured our imaginations – and created a lucrative export market at the same time – with their culture in the form of films, music, TV serials, “manga” comic books and the like.

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