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Language policy changes in Malaysia : progressive or regressive?

Tharmalingam, Selvarajah (2012) Language policy changes in Malaysia : progressive or regressive? In: International Conference on Linguistics, Literature, and Culture 2012 (ICLLIC 2012), 7 - 9 November 2012, Park Royal Hotel Penang. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Malaysia gained its independence from the British in 1957. The Malay language, formally called Bahasa Malaysia, was established as the official language of Malaysia; English was used as a second language. In 1971, Bahasa Malaysia was made the medium of instruction in all national schools, supplanting English medium ones. After three decades of the Malay-only policy, Malaysia, a largely trading nation, realised that the proficiency level of English among Malaysians has deteriorated to the point of almost halting its globalisation policy. This was considered a huge setback in the push towards becoming a fully developed country by the year 2020. Sensing the weakness, the Malaysian government, to shore up declining standards in English, announced that the teaching of Mathematics and Science would be conducted via the English language (English for teaching Mathematics and Science - ETeMS). The policy was implemented in January 2003 in all government schools in Malaysia. The decision to teach these vital subjects in English language triggered substantial reaction from all levels of the public, and split the nation into several factions, each lying at various points on the “totally against - totally for” continuum. As a result of this decision, hundreds of citizens shared their opinion on the issue mainly through the mainstream media. This paper addresses the issue of whether linguistic analyses can reveal the true nature of public opinion as displayed through their writings in the media, and especially whether the analyses answer the following questions: Is maintaining English a progressive or regressive approach? Is continued use of English detrimental to the status of Malay as the official language of Malaysia? Media reports and letters published in three mainstream newspapers; Utusan Malaysia, The Star, The Sun and three popular online portals: Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Today were examined to see discursive patterns. The paper utilises an analytical framework based on the Discourse-Historical approach to critical analysis. The findings of this paper are expected to provide information on the direction/ lack of direction of the language policy in this country.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Full Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Kulliyyahs/Centres/Divisions/Institutes: Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences > Department of English Language & Literature
Depositing User: Dr Selvarajah Tharmalingam
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2012 09:26
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2013 23:22
URI: http://irep.iium.edu.my/id/eprint/26806

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