many people whom we met are surprised that Ayl and i have such good command of english, and they get more confused when we tell them that we speak English at home with our parents. because of this, i think ppl find it a bit difficult to guess where we come from and what our culture is. for a start, English is considered as Malaysia’s second language; for some it might be the 3rd.
Malaysia has 3 main races – Malays, Chinese, Indians. the Malays speak Malay, the Indians speak Tamil and the Chinese speak Mandarin, Cantonese and other dialects. Each race has their own dialect as well; as i’m not sure what the dialects are for the Malays and the Indians, i’ll talk about the Chinese only.
i am Chinese, so are my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, i’m Malaysian Chinese; and no i don’t have any connection with our ‘motherland’ China since we have been in Malaysia for more than 4 generations. my family speak mainly Hokkien at home, and some English because all of us except my grandmother who is Chinese educated. my grandfather is English educated and went to a school all of us went for 3 generations; it’s called the St. Xavier’s Institution; Malaysia was previously a British colony, while the girls went to study in one of the many Convent schools in Penang.
we studied English formally since kindergarten at 6 years old and up till 17 years old in high school/secondary school. this is the same with Bahasa Malaysia (BM), these 2 languages are compulsory in Malaysian schools even if we were to attend a Chinese school (where Mandarin is main) or a Tamil school (where Tamil is main). so this is to say that we actually studied ‘The Queen’s English’ for 11 years!! hmmm… the polite, elegant and polished Queen’s English – such a vast difference from the native speakers of this supposed language in the British movies we see. 🙂
the English that we speak however is not purely English, not like the native speakers of English – our language is called Manglish and we’re kinda proud of it, well that’s coz it’s unique! it’s something similar to what the Singaporeans use which they call Singlish. with Manglish, we use a lot of ‘lah’ and we mix all the languages/dialects that we know to a spoken English base.
but i need to emphasize that not all of us malaysians have good spoken English, i must add that Ayl and i graduated with B.Ed TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). one of the main reasons some are not so competent is because of their education background or family background. not all come from English speaking homes and schools like we did. nevertheless, mostly are able to communicate fairly well in a conversation.
there is a bad side to knowing so much of English and only so little of Mandarin. being a Chinese, generally ppl would assume that i’d be speaking Mandarin as well. that is not the case however. i picked up Mandarin only during my years in the university and then continued later on when it was essential in my job function. i still can’t say that i’m able to converse confidently in Mandarin with a native Mandarin speaker, maybe just the basics. in the university, ppl who are like me are labeled as ‘Banana’ – yellow outside and white inside.
i don’t really care about this because i was brought up with Hokkien (which is a Chinese dialect) and not Mandarin (the universal language used by Chinese), but sometimes the teasing can be a bit too much and it can get a bit insulting. meantime, i’m still thinking of a fruit that can resemble these ppl who thinks they’re more Chinese than i am. 😛
i have no regrets whatsoever that i’m more proficient in English as compared to Mandarin; coz even though Mandarin might be the ‘universal language used by the Chinese’, English is the ‘INTERNATIONAL language’! THERE! how bout that! 🙂