Last week, a post went viral on Facebook.
A Malay lady was asking for public’s help to retrieve his father’s stolen bag which contains his vital medical reports. I don’t know if anyone helped her, I hope someone did. But what made the post went viral was the fact that she was insulted and mocked for writing her post in English.
Many were clamoring for her to write in Malay instead. Saying that they were repulsed by Malays who speak in English because “…org melayu speaking lagak terror…” or snobbish. Another comment deduced that the lady was probably robbed because she was too “snobbish”.
P/s: I don’t know about you, but my mommy taught me that when something bad happened to someone, you don’t run around making up your own theory as to why bad things happened to them. It’s kinda rude.
This perception that Malays who speak English are snobs is not uncommon. When I was teaching at a sub-urban school, I, too, was mocked for speaking in English. One of the senior assistants declared that English teachers are snobs, or in her words “action sikit”. But I wasn’t the only victim. Some teachers even mocked students who tried to talk in English.
There might be various reasons as to why people act this way. In some cases, it might simply be a defensive mechanism. When you are not good at something, you tend to hate on it. Those who have yet to master English might find it irritating to not be able to understand the language when others speak it. So they hate on those who can.
Some might just view this as an act of betrayal to the country and its national language by triumphing the colonizer’s language over our own.
So these ultra-nationalists bully fellow Malays for opting to use English over Malay. But this bullying doesn’t only affect Malays. There are Chinese and Indians who are mocked as well.
And it also occur the other way round. There are English speakers who mocked other people for their poor English.
I was once invited to a Facebook page dedicated to mocking people’s broken English. They said it’s a page for Grammar Nazis. I don’t agree with the existence of the page. It’s no better than those shallow comment-ers in the post. It’s one thing to correct other people’s grammar, but it’s another thing to degrade them.
The question is, why do we do it?
Why do we mocked others based on their choice of language? Why do we humiliate others for their incompetence in a language that we deemed as superior?
It is very self-righteous, if not obnoxious, to tell someone that the language they speak is beneath some other language, to think one language is better than another. Even if that language is English. Yes, I do speak English, but, by all means, I do not consider it as more superior than anything.
English is an important language. But so are Malay, Mandarin and many other languages. We should know our own national language as a Malaysian. And we should know the global language that’s important for the advancement of our country. But more importantly, we should have the freedom to learn any language we want, and improve it without being clouded by the fear of being mocked and judged.
You don’t encourage a baby to walk by insulting them for their tiny little steps. The same way you don’t encourage someone to learn English or Malay by mocking and embarrassing them. So if you want someone to speak Malay or English or any other languages, don’t make fun of them. Teach them, take them by the hand and walk with them through every step!