Wednesday, 20 February 2013

3 new panels to spur Malay usage

By Poon Chian Hui, The Straits Times, 19 Feb 2013

IN A bid to ensure that Malay survives this generation and beyond, three committees have been set up to further promote the use of the language in schools, the community and the local literary scene.

The move, which is the first of its kind here, is being made by the Malay Language Council of Singapore, which will set aside at least $600,000 over three years to implement various programmes.

Announcing the plans yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said Malay is part of the country's heritage and identity. It is one of the four official languages here.

"The spectrum of uses of the Malay language is really wide, from casual to formal, from the bazaar to the very structured," he noted.

Mr Masagos, who chairs the council, said the committees will work on plans for the longer term.

One of them, to be headed by Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, will focus on schools.

Currently, the teaching of Malay in pre-schools is largely left to centres, which design their own curriculum. But a review of pre-school education is now under way to come up with a standardised curriculum.

The council is working with statutory boards under the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social and Family Development to prepare guidelines or work plans for this.

One of its recommendations is to beef up oral skills, such as by getting teachers to encourage the use of Malay during playtime and when the children interact with one another.

Hopefully, the children will also bring the language back home to their young parents - a group that is becoming less familiar with Malay.

This is due to the dominance of English usage in schools and the workplace, observed Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad, who heads the committee that is overseeing community involvement efforts.

Agreeing, Mr Masagos said the biggest challenge today is to ensure that Malay is regularly spoken at home, and not just by older folk.

"Over time, if families do not use the language at home, we will start to see issues," he added.

The council also plans to hold activities in the community, and Mr Zaqy intends to build on a popular annual language campaign called Bulan Bahasa.

Last year, the month-long event drew nearly 9,000 people to dialogues, quizzes for pupils, storytelling sessions and talks by young Malay authors.

The third committee, focusing on the literary scene, is being helmed by retired teacher Mohd Naim Daipi, an expert in the Malay language.

It aims to give the literary scene a boost with writing competitions, poetry recitals and book quizzes to stir up interest among youth.

Said Mr Masagos: "With this, people can continue to love the language as their heritage while acquiring English as a means for them to do well in their careers."

Ways to promote the language

THE Malay Language Council of Singapore will roll out a number of initiatives in the next three years to promote the language. They include:


Set to be launched in the middle of the year, it will provide users with updates on Malay language, literature and art and cultural activities in Singapore.


The habit will be cultivated among children from pre-schools to tertiary institutions. Reading materials will be provided with the help of the National Library Board, the National Arts Council, and Malay Activities Executive Committees in community clubs and pre-schools.


Outstanding Malay-language teachers who have received the Arif Budiman Teachers Award will mentor their younger peers. They will also get to attend overseas conferences and seminars to further their own learning.


Book quizzes, writing competitions and poetry recitals will be held to encourage the young to learn more about Malay novels and poetry.


Recent membership with the Southeast Asia Literary Council paves the way for events to promote home-grown Malay-language literature to the world.

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