Should Malaysians speak Manglish or proper English?
For those who don’t know, Manglish is English as it is commonly spoken in Malaysia. It’s basically English with Malay and Chinese words and grammar thrown in.
For example: “Why you so like that one? Don’ play-play-lah!”
“Where got such a ting?”
Obviously, sentences like these totally confuse any visiting foreigners, but to Malaysians they somehow make perfect sense.
So is Manglish a useful communication tool or does it prevent Malaysians speaking English properly? The Malaysian government hasn’t taken a strong stance, unlike the Singaporean government, which is trying to ban ‘Singlish’. Therefore, to help you decide whether to embrace Manglish or not, I present the cases for and against:
The Case For
- It sounds ‘fake’ for Malaysians to speak proper English
Many Manglish speakers worry that if they talk properly, their friends will think that they are putting on airs. ‘Why you tok liedat ah?’ ‘You ting you are a matsalleh, is it?’
- If you speak proper English, many Malaysians won’t understand
After all, there are many people in Malaysia who have an extremely limited grasp of English. If you use bombastic words and phrases (like ‘bombastic’), they will not understand. So to be understood, you need to speak Manglish.
- Language is a communication tool
The purpose of language is to communicate. Manglish actually helps people to communicate better because it is easier to understand. Even in the world of business, people give presentations and write reports in Manglish.
- It’s better to speak broken English than not speak English at all
People who speak Manglish are trying their best. Just because their English isn’t perfect, you shouldn’t judge them. After all, the Government is trying to improve the standard of English in the country and everyone needs to do their part.
- Malaysians have a right to speak their own kind of English
In America, people speak American English. In Australia, people speak Australian English. What’s wrong with Malaysians speaking Malaysian English? After all, every country has its own slang and accent. For example, Americans say cellphone, Brits say mobile phone and Malaysians say handphone. What’s wrong with that?
- Manglish has become part of Malaysian culture and heritage
Manglish has become something we can be proud of. Why try to hide it? It’s part of our cultural heritage. And it’s something that all Malaysians can participate in, no matter which ethnicity. Muhibbah! Plus tourists think it’s cute when they hear people saying lah all the time.
The Case Against
- Speaking Manglish makes you sound uneducated
“That one no good oledi!” How are you supposed to impress people if you walk about saying things like that? At a job interview, you will die-lah. What happens if you have business overseas with foreigners? They will all laugh at the way you speak. It’s not that difficult to speak properly with a bit of effort, so why sound uneducated?
- Manglish isn’t even English
Manglish can be classified as a pidgin or creole language, a simplified form of English mixed with Malay and Chinese, which is becoming (or has become) a separate language from standard English.
- Manglish prevents Malaysia from being competitive
The reason the Malaysian government encourages the use of English is to boost the nation’s competitiveness. However, Manglish has exactly the opposite effect. For example, call centres in Cyberjaya are shutting down and moving to other countries because overseas callers are fed up with hearing ‘no-lah’ and ‘ya-lah’ when they call up with a technical problem. Meanwhile, Countries like Thailand, Korea and China are succeeding in raising the level of English over there.
- Even if Manglish is okay for spoken English, it is not appropriate for written English
It is not realistic to use words like ‘oledi’ and ‘liedat’ in written English Imagine what the newspapers would be like if the whole country could only understand Manglish!
- If you learn Manglish, you will never improve your English
Once you get into the habit of speaking broken English, it is really difficult to speak proper English. It’s better to learn correct English from scratch.
- To communicate effectively, you need to speak properly
Manglish is a simplified form of English. To express yourself well, you need to understand the nuances and subtleties of English. Imagine if Shakespeare had spoken Manglish. Instead of ‘Romeo, wherefore art thou?’ it would be ‘Eh, Lomeo, you where-ah?’
So there it is lah. Now that you know the cases for and against Manglish, it’s up to you to decide how you want to speak English.