The Sri Lankan Malay Language should be preserved
UNESCO has declared the Sri Lankan Malay language as an endangered
language, should we allow this to happen? In Cape Town, South Africa
there is a fair population of Malays, but none of them speak Malay now.
There is a fear that the same fate may befall the Sri Lankan Malays, if
we do not act fast.
Let me put this context in the Malay Language
Marilah kita omong Bahasa Melayu – (Come let’s talk our Malay
Kalau tidak omong Bahasa - (If we don’t talk the language)
Nanti lupa Bahasa - (We will forget the language)
Kalau lupa Bahasa - (If we forget the language)
Hilanglah Bangsa - (We will lose our Malay race)
A community is identified by the language its people speak. The Sri
Lankan Malays are a minority and are moving away from speaking their
mother tongue. Even in homes, the Malay language is not frequently
spoken and is given second place.
Most Malays speak Sinhala, Tamil or English in that order. There is a
marked absence in the use of the Malay language among some Malay
organisations (there are about 24 organisations which areactive in Sri
It is a pity even the elders do not endeavour to speak in Malay,
perhaps in keeping with the trend of the present-day children who are
comfortable with other languages!
If we don’t take serious note of this appalling situation, the older
Malays in Sri Lanka may regret it as our fate will be sealed.
What is expected of us as parents in Sri Lanka is not to teach
standard Malay to our children but to make every effort at least to
speak the well- known Sri Lankan (colloquial) Malay. We should maintain
our identity by wearing the typical Malay dress at functions arranged by
Malay associations. Men should wear a batik shirt with the headgear-’Sonko’
and the women should wear the ‘Baju Kurung’, so that other communities
could see that we belong to a different community. Conference of Sri
Lankan Malays, (COSLAM) office at No. 100, 2nd Maligakanda Lane,
Maradana administers the welfare activities of the Malays in Sri Lanka.
COSLAM conducts Hari Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language Day) contests
among Muslim children under different for age groups, Under 12, Under
15, Under 17 and Under 21 besides an Open event. These contests have
been carried out for the ninth year in succession.
A carefully arranged syllabus is prepared and distributed by COSLAM
for each category. Those above 21 participate in contests held each year
in Kirinda, Hambantota and Bolane, Kandy, Puttalam, Gampaha and Colombo.
Cash prizes are on offer to the winners, 1st runner-up and 2nd runner-up
in all categories.
Winners also receive challenge shields. COSLAM should be commended
for its service to keep the Malay Language alive.
COSLAM while encouraging the use of proper Malay words, to invite
more participants to these contests also permits the use of borrowed
words from Sinhala and Tamil, as most Malay homes in Sri Lanka are akin
A prize-giving is held in Colombo at the conclusion of the contests
to coincide with honouring the memory of Dr. T.B Jayah who made a signal
contribution to Sri Lanka as an educationist and towards the