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Language Policies -Impact on Language

Language Policies -Impact on Language



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Language Policies – Impact on Language Maintenance and TeachingFocus on Malaysia, Singapore and The Philippines
David , Maya Khemlani (2008)
 Language Policies – Impact on Language Maintenance and Teaching  Focus on Malaysia, Singapore and The Philippines.
In: Persidangan Foundation for EndangeredLanguages (FEL XII) , 25 - 27 Sept, 2008., Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, The Netherlands .(Submitted)
Maya Khemlani David
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This paper will describe the language policies, planning and implementation in selected Asean countries and discuss theimpact of such policies on the maintenance of a number of languages and dialects. The paper will specifically examine theminority languages in Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines that have been and are being abandoned and examine howlanguage policies, planning and implementation contribute to language shift and language death. Language learning of minority endangered languages can take place in institutional or community settings. In such settings, the use of ‘multiliteracies’ to revive ‘threatened’ languages in new learning venues will be discussed.
How do languages die?
There are several reasons for language shift and death.Apart from natural disasters resulting in the death of aspeech community, many man-made factors can causesuch disasters. Nettle and Romaine (2000:2) estimate thatabout half the known languages in the world havedisappeared over the past 500 years and Crystal(2000:19) suggests that an average of one language mayvanish every 2 weeks over the next 100 years. One of these man-made factors that can cause language shift anddeath is language policies. In the first part of this paper Iwill discuss the language policies in three countries(Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines) and show howthey impact on language shift. The second part of this paper will discuss the how multiliteracies are used torevive some of these ‘threatened’ languages.
Language Policies, Planning and Implementation
There are around 140 languages spoken in Malaysia, atruly multilingual and multicultural society (Grimes,2000). Soon after Malaya became independent in 1957,Malay was established as the national language with the purpose of fostering national unity. There was however a provision for the teaching mother tongues of thenumerous other languages. ‘Pupil Own Language’ (POL)could be taught in schools if there were at least 15students to make up a class (Jernudd, 1999; Kaplan &Baldauf 2003; Kua, 1998; Smith, 2003). Mathematicsand Science have been taught in English from primaryGrade 1 onwards since 2003 (Spolsky, 2004; Yaakub,2003). There are also Chinese and Tamil primary schoolswhere Malaysian children can be taught in their mother tongues for the first six years of school in their respectivevernacular languages,
.In the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, other languages are used as medium of instruction. The Iban,which is the largest group in Sarawak, has their languagetaught in both primary and secondary schools
In the stateof Sabah, also in East Malaysia,
has beentaught as POL in government schools since 1997 (Smith,2003), and the use of 
has just started according toKimmo Kosonan (2005). . In West Malaysia an OrangAsli (the indigenous people of West Malaysia) languagecalled
is being used at lower primary school levelin some schools where the community dominates.The use of these minority languages in the primaryschool system does not mean that minority languages are
alive and many languages survive only if they aremaintained in the home domain. Unfortunately, theemphasis on Malay, the National language and alsoEnglish an international language are seen as moreimportant than time spent on learning the mother tongueand a number of speech communities are shifting awayfrom the habitual use of their respective heritagelanguages (see David, 1996 on the Sindhi community,Sankar on the Iyer community 2004, Nambiar 2007 onthe Malayalee community, David, Naji and Sheena on thePunjabi community 2002, David and Faridah on thePortuguese community, 1999)Local communities, language foundations and non-governmental organizations have been working together in language development to have minority languages inthe school system (Kuo, 1998; Lasimbang & Kinajil,2000; Smith, 2001, 2003).These will be discussed in thesecond part of this paper.
In neighboring Singapore, more than 20 languages arespoken. 75% of the population is ethnic Chinese, but
is the sole medium of instruction at all levels of education, and three other official languages, i.e.
, are taught as second languages(Grimes, 2000; Jernudd, 1999; Kaplan & Baldauf, 2003;Pakir, 2004). Speakers of other languages can freelychoose to study a language from those offered in theschool curriculum. Gopinathan, (1980: 178) states thatsince independence Singapore has practiced bilingualism(English and a mother tongue) because it is consideredimportant for Singaporeans to present Singapore’s ethnicand linguistic diversity identity to the world. This isclearly stated in the Singapore bilingual policy whereEnglish is learnt as a first language. Singaporeans alsoneed to learn their mother tongue in schools according totheir ethnic background (
for Chinese,
for Malays and
for Indians). The objectiveof the bilingual policy is to promote the use of mother tongues so as to ensure identification with andmaintenance of traditional cultures and their values.Gopinathan (1988) explains that the need for social and political stability in a diverse multi-racial society whichalso facilitates rapid economic growth is the main factor influencing the Singaporean government’s thinking andlanguage policies. English is today a
de facto
nationallanguage in Singapore and is seen as a major source of economically valuable knowledge and technology asEnglish gives the nation access to world markets. Rapideconomic growth since the 1980s seems to have helpedconvince the majority that knowledge of English provides better opportunities for them as individuals, aswell as for the country as a whole. Therefore despite the bilingual policy many Singaporeans are moving towardsEnglish as a home language. Census 2000 indicates that
is spoken as the home language of only 45%of the Chinese. In fact according to statistics from theSingapore Ministry of Education, 9.3 % of the first year  pupils of primary schools of Chinese origin used Englishat home in 1980. This increased to 45 % in 2003. Since1984, the Chinese language has been reduced into anisolated subject in primary and secondary schools, and allother subjects are taught in English, which has sincedominated the countrys education system. There istherefore some concern regarding the lack of Chineselanguage usage, especially dialects among the SingaporeChinese families (People Daily Online, 22 February2004). The Chinese dialects include
(7.1%) and smaller communities of 
. Each of these sub-communities has its own ‘dialect’ (Li Wei, VanithamaniSaravanan & Julia Ng, 1997). Li Wei, et al (1997)conducted a study on language shift of the Singapore
community and found that the Teochews hadmoved away from the dialect to the use of Mandarin andEnglish in the family domain.At present, as a result of the bilingual educational policyand the influence of the Speak 
Campaign, theyoung Chinese know and use
Chinese. The useof 
has also replaced the use of other Chinesedialects,
in particular, for intra ethniccommunication in some domains.
is known andstill used, but mostly by older Chinese and the lesseducated. Mandarin is still by and large a High (H)language, while
remains dominant in hawkecenters, on buses, etc. (Kuo & Jernudd, 2003). Insummary even though
Chinese is currentlylisted in Singapore’s education policy and is also actively promoted by the Singapore government, there is still aconcern as to whethe
and other Chinesedialects are being effectively maintained.I shall now move on to another ethnic group in Singapore- the Indians. Singapore’s Indian population comprises6.4 % of the total population. Of that number 
comprise 63.9%,
6.7% andthere are other smaller Indian linguistic communities, for example, the
speechcommunities. However, in 2000 only 3% of SingaporeanTamils used
(Singapore Department of Statistics,2000) as compared to 1985 when 54% of the Tamilsreported that they used Tamil as the principal familylanguage (Kuo, 1985: 28). As for the other Indian speechcommunities only 15% use
(Saravanan, 1995). In reporting the trends inthe shift towards English, Saravanan (1999), reported thatTamil parents and their children tend to use Englishduring family activities, although they use
in prayers and in communicating with relatives. In 1991Ramiah reports that the use of 
in the domain of friends, siblings, school and reading of primary studentswas low. Census 2000 confirmed that amongst all the
main ethnic groups in Singapore, the Tamils were theones who showed the largest shift from
to English,which is most prominent for young Indians (in the agerange of 5 -14 years), those of high socioeconomic statusand those with high educational attainment. It is clear thatthe Singaporean Indians are experiencing language shift.Statistics show that Singaporeans themselves rely onusing English and Mandarin due to its economicimportance globally. However while language shiftoccurs among the Chinese and Indian community thesituation is different in another minority community inSingapore i.e. the Malay community where Malay is stillmaintained although much code switching betweenMalay and English (Roxana 2000) occurs in the homedomain .
The Philippines is a multi-ethnological countryconsisting of 180 languages. The Bilingual EducationPolicy of the Philippines (1974, revised in 1987) statesthat
(based on
) are thelanguages of education and the official languages of literacy for the nation. The goal of this policy is to makethe population bilingual. In fact, only about a quarter of the population is estimated to receive education in their first language. (Grimes 2000; Jernudd 1999; Kaplan &Baldauf 2003; Nical, Smolicz & Secombe 2004; Young2002)To some extent, the language policy has influenced theabandonment of some Philippine languages. When bilingual education was implemented in 1970, Pilipino became the medium of instruction at the elementarylevel. However, in non-Tagalog areas, the vernaculalanguage was used as the medium of instruction fromgrade one to grade four and Pilipino in grade five. Inaddition to Pilipino, English was offered as a double period subject in grade five and grade six. In theintermediate level and High school both English andPilipino subjects were used as the media of instruction(Fonacier, 1987:145).In 1973, an attempt to change the system was madewhere the use of vernacular language was implementedas the medium of instruction in grade one and grade twowith English and Pilipino as subjects. In grade three,English was the medium of instruction with Pilipino as asubject. However, this policy was not acceptedimmediately by the public and it resulted in a revision of the policy where English and Pilipino were used as themedia of instruction in all levels (Fonacier, 1987;Llamzon 1977). Because of the revised policy, thevernacular language became an auxiliary language inschool. The main objective of the government for implementing such a policy was to make the Filipinos bilingual in English and Pilipino. This is seen in theDepartment of Education and culture Order No. 2 5 - "thevernacular shall be resorted to only when necessary tofacilitate understanding of the concepts being taughtthrough the prescribed medium of instruction: English or Pilipino” (Sibayan, 1985).A general overview of Philippine language policychanges is shown in the following diagram.
Diagram 1: Philippines Language Policy Changes
1970: Implementation of Bilingual Education
Medium of instruction for elementary level 
A.Tagalog areaGrade 1-5 : PilipinoB.Non Tagalog areas,Grade 1-5 : Vernacular languagesGrade 5 : PilipinoGrade 5 – 6: Pilipino and Englishare subjects in school.
Medium of instruction for intermediate level and high school 
Intermediate level: English and PilipinoHigh school :English and Pilipino1973
Medium of instruction for elementary level 
A.Grade 1-2 :Vernacular language with Pilipinoand English as schools’ subjects.B.Grade 3: English with Pilipino as school subject.Revised PolicyA. Bilingual Education: English and Pilipinoas media of instruction in all levels asstated in DECS Order No. 25B. Vernacular languages: auxiliary languages.To sum up English and Filipino are the official languagesin the Philippines, with Filipino as the national language.However, the vernacular languages are auxiliary media of instruction in schools and they are used but generallyonly in the home domain.Local languages have been used in government schoolsas “transitional languages” for initial instruction andearly literacy up to primary Grade 3, but these are carriedout on a small scale. In the current revised policy, locallanguages have been elevated to the role of “auxiliarylanguages.” These local languages are used mostly toexplain the curriculum to students and are not usedseriously as the medium of instruction. In some cases,

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