May 4, 2004

Malay World’s Fourth Largest Language

Bandar Seri Begawan - Malay is spoken by over 300 million people and is considered the world's fourth largest language group, said Dr Awang Sariyan, Director of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) Language Department, Bernama reported.
Dr Awang was commenting on a report in the Feb 27 "Science" journal, The Future of Language, which said that Malay, together with Bengali and Tamil, are the three fastest growing languages.
In the article, David Graddol, Director of The English Company (UK) Ltd., predicted that by 2050, Chinese would still be the dominant world language but English would be replaced by Hindi/Urdu as the second most widely spoken language followed by Arabic at third place.
DBP's Dr Awang said Malay is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, Southern Cambodia, Southern Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.
In Sri Lanka, about 60,000 people speak Malay and the language is taught in universities in France, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia.
"With its terminology, vocabulary and grammar, Malay has become a modern language which can be used in any discipline," Dr. Awang said.
One of the main players in the growth of the language is the International Council of Malay Languages, with 30 member countries from Europe, North America, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
It promotes the language by coordinating research, publications and other activities. The Council is also working on an international web portal on Malay studies.
Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia have also cooperated through a joint council, Majlis Bahasa Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia dan Malaysia (MABBIM) to standardise spelling and terminology.
"DPB has set a target date of 2020 for Bahasa Malaysia to be one of the official languages at the United Nations," Dr Awang said.
"We are also working on a paper to the Government, requesting that it be made one of the official languages of Asean, since an estimated 80 per cent of the Asean population can speak Malay."
An expert in classical Malay literature at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation, Dr Ding Choo Ming warned that continuing differences in pronunciation, grammar, spelling and vocabulary in the countries where Malay is spoken is worrying.
"For example, students from Indonesia coming to UKM have to take courses in Bahasa Malaysia!" -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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