Preserving minority languages

The fate of the languages ​​spoken in Malaysia, especially minorities, are more likely to become endangered, as has happened in a number of other countries. Unless efforts are made to maintain them, they will continue to disappear.

Visiting linguistics Lecturer Assoc. AL Wim Stokhof, at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said that according to his knowledge there are no specialised agencies dedicated to maintaining the sustainability of developed languages in Malaysia.

He also said that dedicated institutions or bodies are necessary to focus on documenting the minority languages ​​of the deteriorating kepenggunaannya.

"Among the measures that can be taken is to use all available media to expand the protection and conservation strategies of language, spelling creation, publication of textbooks for schools and others." he said.

"Special attention should also be given to the linguistic education of endangered language speakers who have valuable expertise about all the details of the practiced language."

Stokhof was speaking at a public lecture entitled 'Some Remarks on the international Endangered Languages' ​​at USM. Also present was USM's academic Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Ahmad Shukri Mustapa Kamal.

Through his lecture, Stokhof explored and related his experiences of language and the PANTAR Alor Islands (Eastern Indonesia), on which languages may be threatened due to the position of the relatively isolated island.

Commenting on the possibility that the Malay language will disappear due to the use of English in our daily lives today, especially the intelligentsia, he said that would be nearly impossible.

"Although the majority of people [in Malaysia] prefer to speak English, during informal daily activities, most of them still prefer to speak in Malay."

However, Stokhof also pointed out, language is endangered if the speaker does not respect the language, or does not regard language as a medium to unite the community.

"Usually seen in many of the official ceremonies of this country seems like a mixture of English and Malay and this should be avoided in order to protect and preserve the beauty of the mother tongue," he said.

Stokhof, who is also chairman of the Board of Governors, Asia-Europe Foundation, Singapore, is fluent in Malay and has extensive experience and access to higher education.

He began his research in the field of linguistics in 1966 and first travelled to Indonesia in 1974 to search for non-Austronesian languages ​​on the island of Alor / PANTAR. Since then, he met with experts in the Indonesian language and been very active in the study of linguistics that has led to the recognition of the importance of language there.

Published: 16 Mar 2012

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