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Sunday, 31 May 2015

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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 language)
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 Lanka).

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 to.

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 independence struggle.

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