Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Communication, fail!

Warning : this is a very wordy post.

I finally realized why unity of different races and different cultures is so difficult be to achieved in Malaysia. One part of the country, people talk about One Malaysia, pictures and posters of different races celebrating the Independence Day together pasted everywhere and published in the net. Another part, people hang out among their own races and discriminating about the others. Standing together to take a picture is so easy compared to having conversation. Of course, I am sure that not everyone is facing the same problem among races but communication is, in fact a reason why unity cannot be achieved.

I grew up in a Chinese community, went to a private Chinese kindergarten, a government Chinese primary school and a made-up-of-mostly Chinese government secondary school. Practically I mixed around with Chinese since I got myself involved in education. The only different is my Mum is not a Chinese, so I do not speak Chinese to her and my Dad was English educated. In the end, it turns out that I speak Hokkien and English at home and communicating in Mandarin only with my teachers and friends in school. Well, a reason I flunked my Mandarin during UPSR and PMR is because I can only practice it in school. Okay, getting all A's and B for Mandarin was terrible enough for me. I used to blame that subject because it was the reason I was not able to obtain straight A's. English has always been my favourite subject, because I was taught to converse and write in English by my Mum since I was born (my Dad was always traveling when I was younger, I was mostly educated by my Mum).

Malay language was never the priority, but for some reason, I used to excel in that subject even till secondary school. I never converse in Malay and no one taught me how, the reason being in a Chinese-English community since young. It was when I started hanging out with my cousins during late primary era did I learned Melayu Sarawak and caught up with that language through listening. The same goes to Bidayuh, no one actually taught me but I learned through listening especially during Gawai and Christmas when the whole family will be back to the village. Whenever I heard my cousins talking and I am curious about certain words, I will ask and try to apply it.

Yesterday I faced two conflicts which I guess are among the reasons unity is so difficult to be achieved in Malaysia. I have friends of different races, I do not hang out in cliques. So yesterday I was walking back to our hostel with one of my Malay course mate. Since I came to university, specifically in West Malaysia, I tried to learn the West Malaysians Malay language, and it was the first time I learnt to talk more Malay. In Uni is also the first place I talked Melayu Sarawak openly with my Sarawakians and I was shocked myself that I mastered it so fast because I had never spoken the language except really broken ones with my cousins. So this friend of mine was wishing me Happy Belated Birthday and ask whether she should give me a treat. At that moment, I had something in mind but I had very difficult time saying it in Malay language. Hopefully she understood that I was trying very hard to speak Malay, knowing that I am a Chinese.

Later on at night after a meeting, there was this friend asking me for a treat when he saw me bought Cadbury Bytes from the Minimart. He spoke the West Malaysian Malay so fast that I could not catch what he said. He repeated three times until he gave up and another friend explained in a simpler Malay language. Yesterday itself, I realized there are still communication boundaries and limitations in Malaysia, making it quite impossible to achieve the One Malaysia vision. As we all know, communication is very important to achieve tolerance and harmony. The problem is not everyone can master all three main languages, even though I was born fortunate enough to be surrounded by all three languages, I believe not all are born the same. Like my Mum who do not understand Chinese language and my Dad who only understand a slight of Malay language, my friends who are fully Chinese educated, fully English educated or are fully Malay educated.

Language barrier is purely one of the reason to the formation of cliques in the society. We feel more comfortable talking to someone who can fully understand us and those who can react to what we say. Currently I admit being more comfortable with those who speak English, Hokkien, Mandarin and Melayu Sarawak, mainly because I master those languages better than the others. But I feel lucky now that I am catching up with the Sabahan language, Indonesian and trying my best to improve my Bidayuh and Malay language.

So for some reason I feel that one has to move around and try to master different languages, especially in Malaysia where it is made up of multiple races and cultures. Not only to minimize the limitations in communication but also to understand it when people gossip about you in some other languages (that they thought you do not understand). I experienced that since I was young, lucky me. Some people do not know that I am Chinese, especially when I hang out or go shopping with my Mum. There was this one time my Mum tried on this blouse in a boutique, there were these bitchy salesgirls talking how bad she looked in the blouse. Of course my Mum did not understand, but I did. When we left, I purposely talked Chinese with my brother who was also there (usually we speak English or Hokkien only) and I gave the bitches a heart-piercing stare. Yea, they looked shocked and quickly walked away. But I never told my Mum what they said, hopefully she will not read this post. XD


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Look at how much Language can cause
confusions and misunderstandings.














11 comments:

kenwooi said...

haha..funny signs =)

kenwooi.com

IHSAN KHAIRIR said...

i also wish to be multilingual. i know i am bilingual and have no problems with malay and english, but i feel it's better that i learn other languages as well for the same reasons you mentioned...

i wish you all the best in your quest to be fluent in so many languages =)

MayLin :: Melinda said...

Kenwooi : hahah..yea, I was laughing when I read it. visit the site for more :)


Ihsan : thanks! hehe

Kujie said...

yes. I do agree with you that there's a gap between races, and to me...language is one of the reasons why this happens..

bte - saya datang sini dari ur innit post :) good writing

MayLin :: Melinda said...

Hahah...
The last time was Boys over Flower,
now it's Gossip Girl... XD

Daphnee said...

hahhaa. agreed! i got no problem communicating in malay when im back in kk since im english educated, but when i come here, mixing around with so much chinese made my malay sucks. now i joined events that im the only chinese. its so hard to communicate. :(

MayLin :: Melinda said...

yup. me too! back home only english & mandarin. and melayu swak is much easier for me. come here need to adapt to many other languages. but it's a great experience learning. :)

axiz of alteration said...

nice post but it would have been better if u used better english. too many grammatical mistakes everywhere lol... but its ok i guess, since thats how u speak english anyways... :P

MayLin :: Melinda said...

Well said.
I don't even speak much English in Uni due to the over population of ppl with even more broken English. There's no space for improvement at all. I'm only improving my Indonesian and Malay, and of course English depletes. My inbox filled with malay sms. lol.. My Mum complained as well. Like, wth...

PeteD said...

Have you tried Rosetta Stone? Did you like it? I just started working with it through my college at www.cbcwebcollege.com and it's Mandarin is a little more challenging than I thought. At least it only cost $180 and I have it for a year but I was wondering if anybody else has any feedback on learning it through the Internet version of RosettaStone and how it works in the "real" world.

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