Dealing with Chinese scholars was an awesome experience, particularly clarifying their doubts about environmental issues and multi-ethnicity phenomena in Malaysia. (The first question as it always be: why can you speak Mandarin. I have to start over and over again to introduce myself as a Chinese Malaysian and our ancestors were from Southern part of China many years ago…
Weeks ago, I was having a chance to interact with scholars from the Beijing Foreign Studies University. They are researchers and professors visited for attending a conference in my university. I was the one accompanied them from their lodging to the university. During the trip, we had some ice breaking sections and shared our opinions about this country, such as city planning and weather.
So which generation are you now, date back to your first generation who arrived in Malaya? ~Huh~~ what kind of question is it…
“Probably I’m the forth, erm…fifth generation maybe.”
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Perak, somewhere middle part of Peninsula Malaysia”
“No no no, I mean do you know which dialect group are you belongs to…”
An interesting question that only Chinese people would like to know.
“Hokkien…but I can’t speak Hokkien because I speak Cantonese at home.” Such conversation always repeats when I meet visitors from China. They are friendly and keen to know about oversea Chinese’s lifestyles.
As I am always curious about everything from the mainland, I asked one of the young scholars regarding the air quality and traffic conditions in his country. He claimed that the deteriorating quality of air has gradually affected their livelihood. It has turned worst within these few years, probably due to industrial development and booming of car users.
Our conversation happened in the bus for about 30 minutes due to traffic jam in Petaling Jaya. I was expressing my deepest feeling “It’s peak hour. So we have to wait.””You guys are so lucky, the traffic is still moving. Compared to China, this is not considered as a traffic jam. Sometimes, the stagnation might last hours before we step into our home,” claimed by another young scholar.
As usual, they also curious about the multilingual phenomenon in Malaysia. Most of them were wondering, why Malaysians can speak Mandarin so well. In their perspectives, Malaysians are only speaking Malay and probably a bit of English. But once they started to hang around in Kuala Lumpur, they realized this is not the case. Some even interact in their own dialects like Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien.
They were trying to figure out the multi-ethnicity and our special education system in Malaysia. “We have three major ethnics in Malaysia, namely Malay, Chinese, Indian and some other minor groups too. Every ethnics have their mother language, such as Malay speak Malay language at home, Chinese use dialect or Mandarin when talking with parents and Indian also have their own mother tongues.” I can see some confused faces in front of me, as they were curious about how this could be. “We also have different kinds of primary schools such as National School (taught in Malay language), Chinese School (conducted in Chinese) and Tamil School (use Tamil language as medium). Malay language and English classes are compulsory to be delivered in all kinds of school.”
“So which language you use in your daily lives”
“It really depends on situations. Back home, I use Cantonese talking with my family. At university, I communicate with Chinese friends in Mandarin. When working with my Malay peers, I speak Malay to them for ease of understanding. And of course, we communicate in English when dealing with lecturers and foreign friends.”
“Sounds great! A bunch of benefits when learning new languages since childhood.”
“Our living environment has induced us to learn so many languages.” such a humour claims.
“We need that force too. But it’s hardly to be implemented in China, as everyone speaks in Mandarin. Now China students have to pick up English in order to get a better job opportunity.”
~ Economic development has greatly influenced the quality of life; we are blessed as we still be able to breath in fresh air and get friends from different ethnics.