MAKE LEARNING MALAY FUN, TIED TO HISTORY AND CULTURE

I AGREE with Ms Jong Ching Yee (“Teach all students to speak Malay”; last Monday) that learning Malay is useful in a multiracial society like Singapore.

As it is, Singaporeans already exhibit some understanding of the language, given that the island’s indigenous inhabitants were of Malay origin, the Republic shares ties with Malaysia, and our National Anthem is in Bahasa Melayu.

However, it is futile to make students learn the native language to better appreciate our history, if they are not interested in or aware of our history, just as how learning English does not necessarily lead one to learn more about the British.

The more crucial strategy here is to make our students more interested in local history and culture.

Given the perception that students already find their mother tongue languages hard to master, having them learn Malay too would add to their academic load.

Nonetheless, offering Malay as a supplementary elective in schools is achievable.

It should be pitched accordingly at a conversational level, rather than match the rigours of the Third Language modules at the Ministry of Education Language Centre.

Such a course should do away with final tests or grades, lest the fun of learning a new language is snuffed out.

This will also reduce the academic burden on students.

Such a module may also include field trips to Malay heritage sites.

Paul Sim Ruiqi

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