Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What I learn from 'APAC LSP Conference 2010' feat. Zee Avi.

I soaked a lot of fabulous experiences, fresh thoughts and wonderfully bright ideas during Asia Pasific Rim - Language for Specific Purposes & Professional Communication Conference in PJ Hilton last week (15-17th July). One of the most interesting and eye-opening presentation was from Andrew Moody (PhD) from Macau University. His presentation was on 'English and Language Mixing in Asian Pop Culture'.

At the beginning, I was not so sure whether to attend his talk, or to choose other research presentations, but his art of opening of presentation was super! There was Steve Job's aura in the air, so I stayed.

Andrew Moody presented me with a case of 'leaking languages', whereby multilingual language use in professional context. When English and Malay are used in the same sentence in meetings, institution emails, business phone calls etc.. Some called it 'Manglish'.

I question myself, 'How healthy is it? How healthy is language mixing and 'purposeful' code-switching?

A sample used by Andrew Moody was 'Kantoi' by Zee Avi, a well-known Malaysian artiste who is currently based in the US.

Question 1: Why do we mix and alternate languages (i.e. Bahasa Malaysia and English)?
  1. It's trendy and cool.
  2. There's not enough vocabulary of either language in the mind.
  3. People nowadays have lazy brains to dig the embedded lexis and vocab.
  4. A tool to clarify clearly in order to achieve accuracy in sending message.
  5. To show creativity.
I choose numbers 2, 3 and 4 for the use 'Manglish' among educated Malaysians. But Zee Avi has actually alternated the languages for the purpose of numbers 1 and 4. Fascinating to see how different minds work! As Trudgill (1983) asserted, alternating languages represent generation groups. And I have to agree with him, there are generation gaps in the case of alternating languages.

For the Manglish case, I don't think I belong in this group. And if people labeled me as 'archaic' and 'old-fashioned' for this, I wouldn't mind a bit!

Question 2: When don't we 'leak' the languages?

From my observation, most of us will write in full-Bahasa Malaysia or English when we write official letters, whether being addressed to the government officials or head of the company. Formal emails to VCs, Deans, and CEOs. That's it? Is that it?

Do you think it's enough to be an articulated and eloquent English or Malay speakers and writers if we only use the 'proper' language during those times, only?

Question 3: What I learn (indistinctly) when we mix our languages?
  1. By mixing languages when we speak and write, we are actually projecting and portraying our image to the respondent. People do judge us from time to time, if not all the time; and choosing how to speak and write will determine who you are in the eyes of others.  
  2. The damage to the languages when we mix them is horrific. I believe, one of the reasons why people are lacking in fluency in either of the languages is caused by language mixing.
  3. How tolerant can I be as a language educator/mother when my students/children mix their language purposely? This is not a code-switching issue. For me, it's the lazy brain syndrome. I'll leave this as a question.

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