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Malaysia's minority languages at stake

on 27 November 2010.

Kuching (The Star/ANN) - The survival of languages spoken by the minority ethnic groups in Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak is at stake, says International Islamic University Malaysia English Language and Literature Department associate professor Dr Haja Mohideen Mohamed Ali.

"To be proficient in Bahasa Malaysia does not mean you have to do it at the expense of your own language.

"All languages in Malaysia can co-exist. Maintaining the languages of the minority is a basic right and it is not contrary to the national language policy.

"We should not forget our roots," he said, adding that no one language was linguistically superior to the other.

"There is concern that linguistic diversity is dying fast in many parts of the world," Dr Haja Mohideen said in a paper on The Maintenance of Malaysia's Minority Languages at an international conference on "Minority and Majority: Language, Culture and Identity".

The two-day event was jointly organised by the Malaysian Association of Modern Languages and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Centre for Language Studies.

Dr Haja Mohideen said there were 52 languages in Sabah and 46 in Sarawak, many of which were spoken by a very small population.

He said there were many ways for minority groups to preserve and promote their languages, citing the Bidayuh for example, who were doing this through the publication of reading materials, promotion of cultural activities and songs as well as religious activities.

He said the Sarawak Cultural Village had helped in the preservation and promotion of the languages and cultures of the indigenous people, adding that the Internet, television and social networking websites were also useful.

"Universities in Sabah and Sarawak can help by conducting researches and document the languages of the lesser known communities.

"Newspapers can do a lot. There are two English newspapers in Sabah which have sections in the Kadazandusun language," he added.

Dr Haja Mohideen said another way was to include the language of the minority groups in pre-school education.

Meanwhile, Unimas said it would step up its research on languages and cultures of Sarawak.

Extracted from Yahoo! News.

Arkib Berita

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