Thursday, October 29, 2009


In one of the meeting I attended back home a few years back, matters about how children of Malaysians who worked overseas cannot speak Malay cropped up.

Lady in the meeting : I blame the parents for not teaching their children Malay language. Maybe these parents only communicate with their children in English. The parents should be held responsible for raising their children without the knowledge of their mother tongue.

The accusation ticked me off and my other colleagues. And yes, its because our children do not speak Malay. And because of that, we were obviously the ones targeted with that statement, since we worked overseas for almost the entire length of our careers.

Without waiting for my colleagues response, I shot a question to the lady.

Akula : Have you ever been posted overseas?
Lady in the meeting : No, I have not, but that not what I am getting at.

My colleague, Mr AN shot another question from across the table.

Mr. AN : Do you have any children?
Lady in the meeting : No, I dont, but....

I cut her off.

Akula : Are you even married?
Lady in the meeting : (With a red face), I am not married.

Mr. AN: Then obviously you dont know what the hell you are talking about. How can you say something that you dont have any knowledge of? You never experienced any of that, and yet you found it appropriate to label us irresponsible. What kind of person are you?

The Chairperson, seeing the matters were fast going out of hands, immediately called for a short break.


The thing is, its true that our children cannot speak Malay. And so were many other children of my colleagues. For instance, my 3 daughters, all of them were born and grew up in foreign countries. Up till now, they have only lived in Malaysia for just a few years in their whole young life.

Growing up in a foreign country does effect a child's development. They are surrounded by an environment which might be alien to us parents but to them, its their world. Plain and simple. Its just logical for them to latch on to the language they were surrounded with. I think the same thing will happen to any child brought up in any country for that matter.

Here in Geneva, children of some Malaysians speak fluent French like any other Swiss children. And so are children of other foreigners who work and live here. In Berne, since the language spoken there is German, the Malaysian children speaks German.

My question was (and still is), is it fair to label us, who earn our living in a foreign country, as irresponsible parents just because our children do not speak Malay?

Its easy for some people to form an opinion which suits their thinking without having the first hand experience like that, but unless they are in the same situation as mine and my colleagues, facing the same problem that we faced, living the same nomadic life as we live, they have no bloody right to label us as anything as their smart mouth desires.

I am not being apologetic, but I do speak to my children in Malay, and so is my love one. While they understood what were being spoken, they are more comfortable to answer me or my love one back in English.

Does that make me and my love one irresponsible parents and my children any less Malaysian?

My colleagues and I have this wonderful job that enables us to live in faraway foreign countries. We raised our children in foreign environments, adjusting, adapting and living in unfamiliar and sometimes challenging surroundings as best as we could. After so many years abroad, and so many countries we have traveled, we remain as proud as ever being Malaysian and for that matter, being Malays. So are our children.

Even though they, do not converse in their parents mother tongue.


  1. Ur kids are so lucky. Ihope they master the English. I had the opportunity to study in states during elementary. but the thing is i went there when the kids back home are studying the foundation of bahasa malaysia. but there in States, the kids have already passed that lesson of English. U see. i missed both. Up till now, i am neither good in english nor bahasa.

  2. The credit for Malaysian children to speak their mother tongue does not quite go to their parents, but to the children's surroundings. If any Malaysian children does not speak his/her mother tongue, this isn't meant he/she is less Malaysian. Well, I pity the lady in the meeting. She is totally lost.

  3. genie: Thanks. What I am getting at is, still, that do not make us irresponsible parents.

    Thank you for yr comment, appreciate yr feedback.

  4. E43St: U remember that lady, dont u?