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First, Second, and Third Tongues: Malaysia’s Languages for Unity and Education

Shaidatul Akma Adi Kasuma, Wan Azri Wan Hamid and Ayuni Akhiar

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 28, Issue S2, December 2020

Published: 18 March 2020

This study borders on the dilemma between the language for national unity, and the language for education in Malaysia. It is guided by the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025 that recommends the learning of Bahasa Melayu (BM) to unite the plural society; English as the language for modernisation; and vernacular languages (VL), which are Mandarin and Tamil, to preserve culture and identity. This study aims to investigate the preferred medium of instructions at higher learning institutions, the value of different languages for national unity, and students’ perceived reasons for using these languages. Using a set of questionnaires, the study was piloted to a group of 69 university students. The results indicate that many preferred English for the teaching and learning process, followed by BM, and VL. They perceived English as the most suitable, frequently used, and highly important for university education. Many students adhered to MEB’s recommendation where they valued these languages for integration, internalisation, and preserving cultural identity; and perceived BM and English as equally important in promoting national unity. The main finding suggests that students rely heavily on English for both educational purposes and national unity; thus, calls upon strategies to strengthen the language, while not forgetting to uphold BM and VL as part of the nation’s identity, uniqueness, and pride.

ISSN 0128-7702

e-ISSN 2231-8534

Article ID

JSSH(S)-1259-20

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