The English Language and Its Impact on Identities of Multilingual Malaysian Undergraduates
The English Language And Its Impact On Identities Of Multilingual Malaysian Undergraduates By Lee, Su Kim, Lee, King Siong, Wong, Fook Fei and Azizah Ya’acob Lee Su Kim is an associate Professor at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, UKM. Lee King Siong, a senior lecturer with the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Wong Fook Fei is a senior lecturer at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Azizah Yaacob is a lecturer at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
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Article Summary In this paper, the author explored an investigation in selected private and public universities to find out the impact of english on the identities of young Malaysian undergraduates in selected private and public universities in Malaysia. The author wanted to explore on a larger scale the role of English in the identity construction of a younger Malaysian cohort from both public and private universities.
The researcher chose from both public and private universities consists of 20 Malaysian undergraduates, in their early 20’s till mid 20’s . They were from different races(Malay Chinese, Indian s and Singhalese), different family backgrounds, different learning experiences and different everyday experiences when using english. Out of the 20 undergraduates, seven were Malays, eight were Chinese, four were Indians and one was Singhalese. There were four males and sixteen females. Twelve undergraduates were from public universities and eight were from the private universities. re from different families, races, backgrounds, and experiences were involved in the study. Based on the analysis of the data, it suggests that for a significant number of the respondents, English can quite easily be considered the dominant language in all domains. In most cases, English has empowered its users as it has opened up their world and in some cases has improved their self-esteem, improved their social status, and made them appear more knowledgeable. Critical reflection The organization of the article was easy to understand as it follows step by step.
For instance. At the beginning of the paper, the author gave us a brief and simple abstract, it helped us to get the gist of the study. This article falls under the linguistic category of language and identity. Basically, this article discusses about the impact of English on the identities of young Malaysian undergraduates in selected private and public universities in Malaysia. The author focuses on how different multilingual and the impact of english language in constructing their identity and everyday negotiation.
The article firstly explained the concept of identity especially in a multilingual society. The author stated that identity construction is an on-going process and is influenced by many factors. In Malaysia context, where its is a multilingual country, involves the formation of bicultural identities, where the self defined by local meanings and more traditional practices is maintained alongside a self defined by global culture (Arnett, 2002). As such, a learner must not dispute its ‘imposed identity but to preserve its ethnic identity.
Next, the author introduces the concept of othering The concept of “othering” refers to the practice of comparing ourselves to others and at the same time distancing ourselves from them (Palfreyman, 2005) The article is written based on a study done by one of the authors, related to the impact of English on the identities of young Malaysians. This study is conducted based on the three research objectives which are mainly to identify the impact of English language on the identities of young
Malaysians as bilingual and multilingual speakers, to seek the empowerment of english language in globalized world and to address any threats of english language to their cultural identities. The article is guided based on these four important research questions: In what ways does English affect the identities of young adults in Malaysia as bilingual/multilingual speakers? 2. How does English empower young Malaysians in this globalized world? 3. Is English viewed as a threat to their cultural identity?
In what ways does English affect or marginalize local languages and local identities? The authors state that the study is done a qualitative method. Data was obtained from interviews with from mature undergraduates from the second or final year because the author believe that these students were able to give more mature reflections on the issue. The interviews were semi-structured and Carspecken’s (1996) critical ethnography interviewing techniques were applied. The data were taped ad the collected data were transcribed.
The finding of this research proves 3 dominant themes that emerges form the analysis of the case studies, which are Multilingualism with English emerging as the dominant language, how English is viewed as a pragmatic language and a language of empowerment and the varying degrees of ‘Othering’. For the first dominant themes, half of the respondents reported that they are far more comfortable in using English than any other language in their daily lives. This dominant themes are substantiate with a few reasons. Firstly is he use of english language as the main language at home regardless whether they are Malay, Chinese and Malay.
Secondly, most of the respondents have at least a parents who are english educated and they have been using the english language since an early age and their parents have been encourage them to use english when they were young. Thirdly, most of the respondents went to a school where they mixed around with other children from english speaking homes. Lastly, the english-speaking social environment gives them ample opportunities to use english to socialize with their friends who are also english speaking. The second dominant themes the author suggested is english is viewed as a pragmatic language and a language of empowerment.
Some of the respondents stated that speaking english is viewed as intellectually superior and more knowledgeable. Some Malay respondents too agree that speaking english elevated their status in the eyes of some people.Speaking english too is seen as an ego-boosting for some of the respondents. When some of the respondents regard speaking english a a mechanism for them that opens up a window to another world and enables them to share differences in world views, another group of respondents feels that english has a modernizing influence and it helps them to develop a sense of confidence in themselves.
Additionally, the last dominant themes from the finding is the varying degrees of othering and this depends on ones fluency in the other languages. Some Chinese respondents who are not fluent in english will try to improve themselves in their language to make sure they are accepted and to close any barrier between the mandarin speaking and the English speaking. Others, feels that as compared to Malay-centric, Tamil-centric and Mandarin-centric, there are difference in thinking, attitude and behaviors between the english ones.
For instance, the english speaking are more vocal and more optimistic whereas the Mandarin speaking are more cautious. From the findings too, the data suggested that the respondents experienced a mild ways instances of orthering. They are often perceived as trying to show off, proud and others. It appears that the multilingual speakers are the one being orthered by those who do not have the same spoken proficiency in english. Referring to the second research question, the authors would like to identify how english language empowers young Malaysian is the globalized world.
From the findings, it is proven that english empowers young Malaysian socially. They use english everyday in their daily lives their self-esteem and how they are perceived in the society are the factors that encourage them to use english in their lives. Although some may perceived them differently, in this globalized world, english is seen as a tool that empowers every aspect in their lives. This article states that English evidently a plays a dominance factor in their identity negotiations. Majority of the respondents admitted english as the dominant language in their daily lives.
Though some of the respondents are bilingual or multilingual, english is not use just for communication purposes instead it has become their first language. The respondents to acknowledged that being competent in english give them a positive position socially. They are aware that proficiency in english is valued bot academically and socially. People around them perceived them differently and they receive better respect. As a result the respondents are more confident in perceiving themselves.
Not only that, it is found that the respondents believed the knowledge of english played a part in making them more “open-minded” taking on more neutral views towards values that are perceived to be markers of cultural identity. Additionally, some respondents english is a tool that allows them to communicate more directly. In other words the knowledge of english contributed towards a more reflective and critical outlook towards the culture of the respondents. This article also suggests that there are differences in those who are proficient in english and those who are proficient in the ethnic language.
Those who are less competent in english are perceived as “more closed up” and ethnocentric and those who are more proficient in the ethnic language thought them to be “arrogant”, “showing off”, and “mat salleh celup ”. these are similar in Lee Su Kim study where both Malay and non Malay respondents who are more proficient in english are perceived as “boastful ” and “Westernized” by their peers who are more proficient in the ethnic language. Moreover, there were some similarities between this article and Lee Su Kim (2000 study.
However there are some differences especially in the attitude towards english. In this study, the theme that features more prominently is the subjects’ awareness of the pragmatism and social advantage in being well-versed in English, along with the indication that a significant number of subjects amongst the 20 interviewed were found to be multilingual with English featuring as a dominant language. although orthering between english speaking and native speaking are evident, it doesn’t seem to factor as prominently as the resentments that were reported by the subjects in Lee Su Kim’s (2003) study.
This may be due to the attitude towards english as english is pertinent international language of the world and they are accepting the language as a relevant too in their lives rather than a second or foreign language. To conclude, the author agrees and found that to some of the respondents, english seem to be a dominant language in all domains. English too has empowered them in improving their self-confident, social status and made them appear more knowledgeable. That is why some respondents may prefer to use english in their daily lives than their own language.
Not only that, as english is seen as a prominent language in the world nowadays, thus, this act as a factor for suing english more in their daily lives. Besides that english too does affect their social status in the society. People who use english is regard as someone who are knowledge and some may been intimidated by the english speaking people. In the beginning of the article, the authors mentioned that there is little research on how the use of english affects the identity of Malaysian speakers. it is hoped that i n future, more research will be done in finding the impact of english to the Malaysian society.
The authors suggests a similar study on the impact of English on identity could be beneficially carried out in other areas of Malaysia, particularly East Malaysia for its rich and highly unique sociocultural composition. the author also suggests A study on the impact and roles of the English language in other traditionally ‘non-native speaker’ or ‘outer circle’ countries would also prove beneficial in contributing to the body of knowledge towards understanding the implications of the spread of English as the language of the world today.
In my point of view, I found that this article is easy to read because the choices of word that the authors use are simple and understandable. Besides that, I think that the discussion of the findings also proven that english has becoming a dominant language in young Malaysian today. I especially like the discussion past as it discusses the findings and relate them to the reality of english in young Malaysian today. Based on what i have read, i found that some of the respondents’ experiences re similar to mine. I believe that when using english, it helps to build my self-esteem and confidence socially. I too believe that when using english, I am being perceived differently by other people. Hence, I strongly believe that using english in my daily lives to makes me appear more knowledgeable and people do look highly on me. And because English has become global today, to have a competent knowledge of the language is seen as a useful key for opening many doors.
I found that i learned a lot from this article, firstly is that it is such an eye opener for me as how young Malaysian and the society perceived one that is fluent in english. I take it as a motivation for me to improve myself to be better speaker of english and also to be a better language teacher for my students to make sure they too will be able to be a proficient speaker of english. However i believe that no matter how fluent one in english an how important english is in the society today and to the future society, it should not shape ones identity.