Thursday, July 23, 2009

Speaking A Language

While the mastery of a language - namely, the ability to use words properly - is crucial thinking and communicating clearly especially on highly specialised subjects, we merely need "pasar" knowledge of languages in order to be able to undertake commercial transactions.

I am constantly amazed to notice how easy people in the streets can speak a smattering of different languages and dialects and can be successful in making money. This you will notice in most urban centres where shopkeepers have to pay monthly rent and they are like rats constantly on the commerical treadmill. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the cost pressures simply force them to be innovative in their choice of location and store display and their ability to communicate to with all and sundry who pass by their store front. In Shanghai, the old ladies may even pull you into the shop by the arm.

The ability to speak in more than one language, I believe, comes from the desire to communicate with other people, to know who they are and what they are like. Without the desire for direct contact and communication, we tend to form judgement from hearsay and prejudices without proper verification. Communicating with other communities, even if only through books or the computer, is an effective way of doing away with ignorance and hence undue fear of what we do not know. The ability to hear what others say in their own languages give one a very clear picture of their what whole mental make-up. It fosters goodwill.

I, therefore, think that promoting a myriad of languages to be spoken and understood in Malaysia even if only among people mingling in the bazaars is an effort which the government, and not necessarily the education department, should undertake if it wants the country to globalise among ourselves and with others.


Anonymous said...

Breaking news....(from the net_) the use of BM will be 100% by 21Dec2012. All international languages will be replaced by BM and all medical and scientific inventions will be by Malaysians. Airports all over the world will have BM as the standard language. BM will be used as the language of the internet and the rest of the world will be forced to learn BM. In addition the Ringgit will become the new world currency and the United Nations HQ will be moved to KLCC. BN will change its name to BA (Barisan Antarabangsa) as it forms the first united world government. In return for taking on this heavy responsibility all Bumiputra will have special rights, by which they can buy property at a discount anywhere in the world, where they have free travel on all international airlines and free higher education at any college or university, they will also only require a special IC to travel freely anywhere and be accorded First Class service and cheaper rates from all hotels, restaurants and travel services. All companies internationally will be required to have a minimum 51% Bumi ownership so that every Malaysian Bumi can be assured of a comfortable income for life of at least 3 future generations

walla said...

At risk of missing something of theoretical significance, one can hazard a guess, namely that the bazaar market is rudimentary at best.

Both seller and buyer have only one objective; one to sell at the highest price, the other to buy at the lowest price. The object of transaction is displayed as-is-where-is. No extra specifications need to be elaborated. There is no warranty period, no customer service toll-free number, not even a breakdown on nutritional value. The bazaar market is the last tango of disposable goods.


Not Shanghai. Beijing.

There are five malls. With minor variations, there is a general pattern. Basement is leather goods - shoes, bags, luggage. Ground floor - clothes for men; first floor - clothes for women; second floor - undergarments, clothes for children, curtains; third floor - electronics and watches; fourth floor - pearls, jewelery, antiques, curios; fifth floor - food court.

There is an African heads summit. In walks one delegate to a mall. He heads to one of the lots. The young girl bursts a smile..and starts talking fluently to elegant french. She's from one of the small villages in one of the small outskirts in one of the hinterland provinces.

And then he speaks back to equally elegant mandarin. If eyes are closed, one would be forgiven for thinking he's chinese and she, french.

She has adapted to globalization; he, to liberalization.

Meanwhile, a canadian teaches mandarin with complete verve on one of their eighty tv channels in the morning...

walla said...

So it remains to ask....where are we there? Of the five malls, the newest is the smallest and not well patronized. Except by malaysians. For the reason that's where the goods are cheaper than the others. Because they are not the latest or the choicest. If you disdain that and go back to the other four, there will indeed be malaysians too, but they are only sitting outside on the benches looking at the rest of the international jet-set walking in and out with big bags full of goodies, queuing up at the teller machines to withdraw heaps of cash, just for the pleasure of going in for the best lessons in international negotiation. Two observations completing our final understanding of exactly where we are in the pecking order of real global competitiveness. Ask any EPU officer or banker whether they have observed such things before. They haven't only because they go to Lafeyettes or Harrods, thereby missing the intermediate phase of national targeting, and because of that, secretly giving up before even starting.

If one wants to observe the real world, the bazaar mall and the international airport lobby are indeed interesting places. There are others. PWTC is not in the list.

But of course the retail malls are not where the real action is. Drips of sweat fall to the ground from the buyer who rushes in and out of those big and crowded wholesalers malls. There one buys by the loads. The places are packed, literally to the ceiling, with everything under the sun, short of a rhino or a boeing.

And you connect those hives of activity galore to the endless streams of goods-laden lorries crawling bumper to bumper on pristine new toll-free highways as they inch their way forward to seven in the morning..on a sunday.

The miles-long traffic starts from the factories, acres after acres neatly laid out on clean and modern industrial parks. Entering one, the factory manager greets you and proceeds to show with utmost enthusiasm how he's going to climb the next value-chain using that latest gleaming high-precision machine tool. You head back to the hotel room and look at the ceiling.

Activity, passion, imagination, energy, know-how, enthusiasm, confidence, will, perseverance, hard work, forward-thinking... the list is as long as the traffic.

And it all started at the bazaar markets. As old as five centuries.


Speaking another language is more than showing that one wants to communicate with someone, even for commercial intents. It is also to honor his uniqueness in the united heritage of mankind. It's like one of the world heritage awards. You do it because it reminds you of why you would do it for your own - uniqueness, diversity, richness of the human dimension. Some will say because 'all men are brothers'....

The first time the young girl couldn't say it. The second time you went she said 'apa khabar?!' You remember your malaysian chinese friend saying something so you repeated it, trying to hide the rrr...'hou hui you qi', you blurted. She smiled.


When young, learn and enquire. When older, build and accumulate. When aged, distribute and legacize.

We are not even at the real learning stage.