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Question 2

The National Language Act of 1967 and the Amendment Act of 1971 have been

detrimental to Malaysian Literature in English. To what extent do you agree with this


I fully agree to the statement that the National Language Act of 1967 and the

Amendment Act of 1971 have somehow caused several detrimental effects to Malaysian

Literature in English Language even though the case is not permanent. Malaysian writers

writing in English in the early 70s and 80s happened to be some of the people who faced

the real impact. Personally, I don’t blame the government and the society at that time.

The uses of English Language still in business ever since we had freedom from British

colonization. To the government, they have to take appropriate actions in order to make

sure that the people of multi races and multi ethnics stay united and to have an identity as

a true Malaysian. At that point of time, language and culture seemed to be the

government’s concern. Same to the society, the language used during the colonial era was

strictly rejected, as if to say whoever speaks in English does not love his or her country.

The nationalism and patriotism lies in the way on how a person uses English and Bahasa

Malaysia. What the government’s policy was that all functions, I mean official functions

should use Bahasa Malaysia than English Language. The notion of uniting people of

different races with their own languages is abit impossible because the feeling and the

spirit to retain their language in their official functions are still there. In other words,

those who speak English were seen as less Malaysians. That was their perception of

English at that time. In fact, not only the language is used as a yardstick to measure one’s
nationalism but also to measure how “Malaysian” are they! It is not surprising to see

some of the first generation of the Malaysian English writers tend to back off and feel

alienated in their own country. This is by the National Literature and National Language

issues that perceive, whoever still writes in English, their works would be marginalized.

As a result, Malaysians do not produce any international writers just like India. For

example, Shirley Lim who migrates to US to pursue her writing passion. A place where

her writing is so restricted. Now English writers have nothing to worry about this

National Literature and National Language matters. Personally I believe they should not

be feel alienated and should keep on writing in their choice of literary medium which is

English to ensure the Malaysian Literature in English survives and has a brighter future.

We are actually in desperate need of more writers writing in English in order for us to

have more writings and work that deal with the surroundings in our country. Hence, by

having to have a wide range of writings in English by Malaysian writers will not only

expose Malaysia to the rest of the world but also to provide more space in nation


Nevertheless, the needs for English have now come back. We are considered very

lucky because nowadays we see more new English writers coming up, maybe not so

much, but we can see them bringing along wonderful and creative ideas in their writings.

They write about the Malaysia and settings, Malaysian culture, society, the difference

ethnic groups. Now we have writers like Shirley Lim, Dina Zaman, Karim Raslan, to

name just a few, providing us with numerous kinds of creative writings which can be

brought forward to the international level. Up to this moment, we still do not have
Malaysian English writers that up to an International awards yet. For me, in order for the

Malaysian Literature in English to survive in future, it is essential for the

society/goverment to be open and international as possible. The solution is to be open and

international especially in terms of language and education and yet surrounded in our

own society, culture and tradition. The best example would probably be Muhammad Haji

Salleh’s “Si Tenggang” in the “Si Tenggang’s Homecoming” where he is portrayed as a

person who has to face both the new and the old tradition in order to be a modern person.

Finally, in order for Malaysian Literature in English to survive, it is important for

the writers to find more contemporary themes and dare to experiment more so they can

produce good quality piece of writings. By doing so, I believe it can attract more

audience amongst the younger generation especially and to have the Malaysian Literature

in English to live on for now and always.


Fadillah Merican ... [et al.]. (2004). Voices of many worlds: Malaysian literature in
English. Shah Alam :Times Edition

National Language Acts 1963/67 -


Muhammad Haji Salleh, Si Tenggang’s Homecoming. Fadillah Merican ... [et al.].
(2004). Voices of many worlds: Malaysian literature in English. Shah Alam:
Times Edition