Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The English Language, Patriotism and.....Bloggers

Well, I can't help it. Sometimes I forget she's royalty and I think that's fine with her, and with me.

When you're in the company of Raja Zarith Sofia you think you'd be talking about all that glitters and glitzy stuff? About that RM20,000 LV bag or that to-die-for Prada bag?
Fat hopes. Of course, this is not to infer that she has no opinion about these, er, classy stuff. She does.
However, more often than not, she'll take you on about the affairs of the world and the plight of the poor. Now, that would be after she tells you about what's happening in her "home" state of Johor such as the horrible floods that made scores of people homeless.
(The quotation marks needed because she is from Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Johor being the state of her husband, Johor's Tengku Mahkota.)
And no...she does not speak to impress anyone.
You know that it is from the heart.

The last we talked which was yesterday at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, we touched on Malaysian politicians. Another time before this, we talked (in the presence of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is founder of ASMA or the American Sufi Muslim Association and also Imam of New York's Masjid Al-Farah as well as author "What's Right With Islam"), about Islam, global perception of Islam and extremism.

And she was right at home giving her two cents worth.

Yesterday, Raja Zarith gave a public lecture on "Going Global:The Use of The English Language in 21st Century Malaysia" at UKM, Bangi.
The lecture was organised by the university's faculty oif Language Studies and Linguistics of which she is Royal Fellow.
She holds an MA (Oxon) in Chinese Studies.

In her speech, she said that learning English had nothing to do with glorifying our British colonial past.
"It has nothing to do with us being less nationalistic or patriotic."

Raja Zarith Sofia also said that we do not have to fear the English language. Studying the language won't change us from being Malaysian to being pseudo-English or pseudo-American.

Offerring herself as an example, she said she is a product of both the Malaysian and Englsih school systems.

"I didn't dye my hair blonde, I haven't started using blue or green contact lenses. I wear my baju kurung with a great sense of pride".

Bernama has the story here.

But what Bernama did not include was her take on blogs and bloggers with regards to the use of the English language in this century.

She acknowledges Malaysian bloggers and their reach - far and wide -- using English as their tool to communicate.
"As most of us are aware, for good or bad, we too have many bloggers -- ranging from ex-journalists who write about political and social issues, usually courting what is controversial, to the young housewife who tells us about her daily life, her children and,during Ramadhan, what she had cooked for the breaking of fast, as well as for "sahur", complete with colourful photos.
"It remains undeniable that blogging cannot be dismissed easily as just a new fad or a new trend of rumours and allegations".
Quoting Thomas L Friedman, she said a new blog is created every seven seconds.

"Technorati says there are more than 24 million blogs already and the number is growing at about 70,000 a day, doubling every five months -- from Iraqi bloggers who give their own take on news from the front, to bloggers who follow and critique golf-ourse architecture, to poker bloggers, investment bloggers, to just plain you and me bloggers."

"Writing as Malaysians for a mainly Malaysian audience or readership, why should Malaysian bloggers bother to write in English?" she asks.

And asserts: "Perhaps the reason to write in English is to get a wider readership. The borderless internet world that we are part of means that we can no longer afford to be the proverbial Malay katak bawah tempurung or the ignorant little frog hidden beneath the coconut shell. We have to try and be bigger frogs who are no longer ignorant and who are merely satisfied with that little world beneath the boring coconut shell. We can still argue and discuss local issues but let's be more daring and confident, and take our place in the global, blogal world."

Well.....indeed. Indeed. MarinaM, Rocky, Shar101 and I were there.
I don't know about them but I did fidget in my seat.

And that's Raja Zarith Sofia. Not your ordinary princess.

(Raja Zarith has a column "Mind Over Matter" in The Sunday Star. She used to be columnist - "On Common Ground" - for The Sunday Mail.)


Anonymous said...

How come Bernama failed to include Raja Zarith's take on bloggers?

Was it intentional because it is a "no no" topic and a blanket ruling from Bernama's top gun, that Zaini guy?

Or was it self-censorship on the part of the reporter concerned?

If the latter is the case, he should be ashamed to call himslef a reporter.

Pak Zawi said...

Why don't you invite her to become a blogger? I guess it is about time we get to interact with such a prominent personality without any need for prtocol. I bet she is among the great ones from the royalty.

Iskandar Syah Ismail aka DR Bubbles said...

Kak Nuraina,

Can you persuade HRH Raja Zarith Sofia to blog?Would that be possible (protocol wise)?

If she is in the blog world - that would be very nice.very very nice indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ena,

A wonderful New Year to you and Jln Sudin readers. I look foward to reading more thoughtful and interesting entries in 2008.

Sorry for being late with the wishes, but I've been away the last four weeks and just got back. Though not quite internetless during the time, I wasn't able to indulge anytime I felt like it as is my wont.

It was as much spending time with my parents-in-law as a needed break from work. As an added bonus I got to practice the melodious tyrolean accent (I think of it as the Kelantanese version of Deutsch) a bit more. That invigorated me as much as being in the Alps.

I can't agree more with Raja Zarith Sofia about using English. Language is a communication tool and English happens to be the tool with the widest reach in the world. It would be foolish for those who possess such a tool not to use it if communicating with the most number of people is the intention.

Pragmatic China makes it a part of their new economic drive to have most of their populace speaking English as a second language in the new century, spending millions in a concerted effort towards the goal.

Malaysia, with our historical connection to English, is very lucky indeed. Unlike some countries, we do not have to start from scratch to incorporate English into our everyday. All we need do is sharpen and polish the tool we already possess. (So hug our good luck, peeps! :D)

I think Malaysians blogging in English shouldn't feel in the least guilty (or fidget in their seats ;D) about favouring English to writing in their mother tongue. Unless the intention is to communicate only to Malay-speaking audience or the use of English exclusively excludes important demographic segments, blogging in English should be seen as nothing more than a practical choice.

The only thing to keep in mind is that usage tends to improve tools, both in terms of "sharpening" those implements as well as our skills at using them.

It is no different with language. So while it is just plain smart to use one particular tool because it suits the purpose better, we should not let other language tools we possess go rusty by letting them languish in the recesses of our heads, especially one as second nature as our first language.

Rockybru said...

There are two people I wish would start blogging. Let's say it's my 1429H wish.

One of them is Raja Zarith. The Malaysian blogging scene will benefit greatly if she decides to blog. Raja Zarith is not only beautiful and intelligent, for a royal she is so ... real.

The other one also hailed from Oxford (or did he attend Cambridge>). He is KJ, the son-in-law. I would like to see him start blogging because he will benefit greatly from blogs. Blogging will open his eyes and open up his mind, it will humble him and wisen the boy up.

But if KJ doesn't start blogging, I won't cry.

Salt N Turmeric said...

i have been following her mind over matter in thestar for a few yrs now. its hard not to. i mean, how many royalty have a column in the newspaper ya? ;) she also sounds very down to earth and i think thts why shes very like-able.

i pun nak tau why part of her speech was not included. hmmm....

Anonymous said...

Kak Aina,
Raja Zarith's comment on English usage reminds me of a conversation I had with my elder sister who used to teach English in one rural school in a Felda in Kota Tinggi.

She was, at that time, fresh from uni. She graduated in Kent and one of the last batches of UK educated English teachers (dunno whether the govt still send teachers to study English as Second Language in UK these days).

She had a tough time, yes she did. It's in Felda settlement and everybody does not speak English. Her students simply don't see it as a good point to study, let alone studying English.

One day, a cheeky student asked her this, "Cikgu kenapalah kita nak sibuk2 belajar bahasa penjajah ni".

And she, ever cheeky herself, replied, "Sebab tak tahu bahasa penjajah lah nenek moyang kita kat Melaka tu kena jajah dengan orang putih".

I think what she said is true. While many people keep on stressing that the Japanese don't even care about English and they can still be a developed nation, many also failed to realised, the Japanese works thousand times harder than many of us to be where they are now.

And, even now, some, if not many educated Japanese started to learn English and other foreign languages.

And I think just because you speak other language, other than your own native language, does not mean you are less Melayu or Cina or India.

I like her quote on dying her hair blond or wearing coloured contact lenses. I think that even more silly than talking in English or any other language.

I have a friend whose mother speaks French whenever she's angry in public places just because not many people understand the language. In fact most of her family members speaks French and some other foreign language. Her mother stays in a kampung in Melaka and she don't look like foreigner to me, the last time I saw her.

zaitgha said...

my boys always got chided when they speak are they going to be comfortable using the language....and i was called 'the mat salleh lady' when i was working and mind you i was with Int'l Financial Instituition some wish that some of us dont make our children so closed minded about using english when communicating....i read about Kerp's nephew case....very sad indeed


anon@5:18pm: you are right. that part on bloggers was deliberately blacked out. bernama is the national news agency and the top people there know better than to let go "incorrect" thinking and views that are not in sync with that of the leadership (i.e Pak Lah) or rather, those close to him. Pak Lah may not even have any view about bloggers because he may not even know what a blog is.

i think the reporter was instructed to omit that part. or he could have included it but it was omitted anyway.

i had no doubt that the bit on bloggers would not be used.



truth be told, rocky, marina and I have asked her about this.
she cited many reasons for blocking her path to becoming a bona ide blogger -- family and official commitments .... and well...she is the consort of the Tengku Mahkota, Johor, lest we forget which as you know I sometimes forget. So, she is no ordinary plain old Jane or Minah.
So, there are many considerations to be made.

Personally, I think she'd love to.


dr bubbles: don't know whether i have any power of persuasion...

i agree with would be so nice to have her as a blogger.



so nice to "hear" from you. Did you know that we were really wondering where you'd been. but good to know you were "taking a break"....learning a Kelantanese brand of Austrian.:D.

anyway... ditto all you've said. coming from someone who speaks (more than?) four languages!!

take care, Mekyam.



i know...but you know what she said when you invited her to the blogospere.

you even suggested she post her speech..

let's hope she will change her mind...

a Star reader, Kevin Morais from Petaling Jaya wrote a letter to the newspaper, remarking:

"RAJA Zarith Idris, I sometimes forget you are royal when reading your articles on race, religion and upbringing of children. Your thoughts cut across the social strata.

Your human streak and your approach is so lacking in the society we live in, and reading your articles and your perspective is an eye opener. Your

article on India and its approach to religious and racial tolerance is a case in point.

And to think that we were brought up to believe that princesses lived in ivory towers!

You are indeed a rare breed, truly a princess with the common touch who cuts across race and religion. A modern day princess! Truly Asia, I say! ".

This is in reference to her column on her trip to India for her son's graduation.


i think those who have come in contact with her, would know that she is indeed very down-to-earth. this doesn't mean that she lacks elegance, dignity or style. she has all that and more.

what strikes me is her intelligence and sincerity.

and would be terrible to affected parties that raja zarith sofia has nice things to say about cannot be published-lah.


sang diva,
i hope your sister managed to "turn-around" her students!
i know it must have been difficult to make these kids understand the worth and value of learning English.

There are many pejuang bahasa in this country who are fluent in the English language -- the language of our colonialists.

Yes...i couldn't help giggling when Raja Zarith spoke about not dying her hair blond or using coloured lenses because I was reminded of some people I have seen....

thanks for visiting..



in this world there are bigots..big and small..whose minds are so blinkered that they cannot see or understand anything beyond what they want to see.

my daughter, shaira, was "tegur" by her well-meaning but very "ignorant" little standard two classmates that she should not speak English because "berdosa" as it is "bahasa orang kafir". that terrible or what?
they must have learnt it from their parents, family or some idiotic mentally-challenged Muslim.

I told her to "educate" her classmates. I told her they were very very wrong. I told her to tell them that for as long as they believed that, they would be stupid for the rest of their lives. and if it was their parents or ustad or whoever who told them that horrid lie, to please come and see me.

BaitiBadarudin said...

I do agree that princesses and queens should be inspirations to their rakyat and be interested in their plight, not just 'ornaments' who are cold and aloof.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nuraina and all readers who wrote in about me having a blog :

THANK YOU so very much for all your kind, inspirational words and comments. The danger in reading what was written was that my head would swell up so much I'd just float away! What has been written is very good for my ego, I must say. So again, THANK YOU!

I did explain to Nuraina that I don't want to start a blog because I wouldn't have time to reply to all the comments made to me. To be honest, I do have many free days at home but I also have a husband and 6 children and I try (hard!) to be there for them. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes not.

For now - because children grow up too fast - my priority is to spend more time with my youngest son.

I hope you'll understand....

for the time being, I'd just like to let you know that the Sunday Star editor has decided to publish part of my lecture (it's too long for a newspaper column) for my Mind Matters column tomorrow. I am grateful to my editor and my past editor too for acknowledging the fact that I wrote this lecture myself, and did not have it written for me. To get this sort of acknowledgement makes all those long hours reading and writing worth every minute.

Raja Zarith.

Stephen Felix Grosse ( said...

Such a remarkable lady, with such an open mind.

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