What’s My National Language?

If you were to ask me what’s my National Language when I was in Primary or Secondary school, I may be able to answer you then. When I ask my son (Sec.2) and daughter (Pri.3l) what’s their National Language, guess what they said?

Listen to the below recording to hear what my children said about their National Language;

I wouldn’t blame them for not knowing. I myself do not know the answer too now! What’s my National Language now? Is it still Malay? I guess even the teachers or MOE didn’t want to mention or promote Malay as our National Language openly.

Malay was not taught as a National Language in Singapore to Non-Malay students for many many years but now, MOE wanted to re-introduce Malay back to schools (Primary and Secondary) for Non-Malay students. It’s good to learn another language if the students are able to cope with it and the schools are not just implementing it because so and so said so…

I was taught Malay as a National Language in Primary School and right up till Secondary 1. It was even recorded our Report Book as National Language and teachers then told us so too. Though Malay was not an examination subject then, it was taught during curriculum time. Yes I’ve blogged about this report book before.

See the school’s letter to my Primary 3 girl;

Here is my Secondary 2 son’s letter from the school;

Note that both have to pay for the book ourselves though the Primary School one is a free course and non compulsory. My son’s Secondary school said it’s compulsory and have to pay for it ourselves though subsidised and the rest by Edusave. Both are taught outside curriculum time! Total only 10 lessons – approx. 2hrs per lesson per week.

See both did not mentioned that Malay is our National Language regardless of what objectives are given. Also see this speech from MOE site.

Actually what is taught in Primary School and Secondary School are the same, more or less based on the textbooks they used.

The inside;

Now below is my old textbook used for my National Language in 1973 (Pr.4);

See inside;

See I even wrote the meaning on top of the words;

See the price then;

Did you see the difference in the picture illustrations compared to nowadays. Which you prefer?

Oh btw my son told me that even his teacher (in his 20+) is not so sure whether Malay is still our National Language…

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13 Responses to “What’s My National Language?”


  1. 1 Koo Victor Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    (Writing this again as my earlier comment didn’t seem to have gone through.)

    I too studied Bahasa Kebangsaan (National Language) when I was in primary school (1963-1968). I remembered seeing (not hearing) all the ‘thunders’ (the bowl-shaped sign above the letter ‘e’ which was pronounced as ‘er’ and not ‘eh’ which was the pronunciation for ‘e’ without the ‘thunder’ sign).

    The status of the Malay language as our National Language is, I believe, enshrined in our Constitution. I quote the following section:

    Official languages and national language
    153A.

    (1) Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English shall be the 4 official languages in Singapore.

    (2) The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in the Roman script:

    Provided that —

    (a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using or from teaching or learning any other language; and

    (b) nothing in this Article shall prejudice the right of the Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in Singapore.

    As we know, although Malay is still officially our National Language, English is our main working language as well as the language of administration. Hence, little or no emphasis placed on the learning of Malay.

    In addition, if you look at our recent signboards, you may be forgiven if you thought that Tamil has been dropped as one of our 4 official languages.

  2. 2 profkingsfield2004 Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Why did we learn the National Language back in the 1960s? Who had to learn?

    We were to become a part of Malaya by 1963 and so in order to appease our Malayan brothers, we had to show that the Chinese majority in Singapore showed a willingness to master Bahasa. That’s a straight forward answer, nothing to hide. The first to go through this immersion were the civil service and the PAP members. They were taught by the Lembarga teachers (Lembarga was the former Adult Education Board which ran evening classes). For us in the Mission Schools, we learnt Bahasa as a Second Language and not as a Third Language. of course we suffered discrimination when Chinese students took up Malay in school.

    Those in the SAF in the period after 1967 and seeking promotions for the officer rank had to pass Bahasa initially but later in the mid-1970s had to pass Mandarin.

    I never did regret learning Bahasa because it was a useful conversation tool in Indonesia and Malaysia. It opened my eyes and mind to be broad-based and broad-minded when interfacing with other cultures and societies.

  3. 3 laokokok Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Hi Victor,
    Your earlier comment was in the Spam section probably due to the link.
    I believed you can speak Malay pretty well compared to me.

  4. 4 laokokok Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Peter, thanks for the great infos.

  5. 6 Lam Chun See Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Sigh, your blog kept rejecting my comments. Do you have some way to retrieve them? Lazy to think of what I tried to say the other day.

  6. 7 laokokok Monday, April 21, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Hi Chun See,
    I’m not too sure why it keeps rejecting your comments. The other time Victor posted was because there was a link and the blog thought it was a spam, so it was awaiting moderation.

    But yours I couldn’t find it anywhere. Any link in your comments? The WordPress has just switched to a new format and I’m still trying to get use to it…

  7. 8 Dick Yip Monday, May 5, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    As I grew up in Geylang I could speak Malay or more commonly “Pasar Malay”. In Primary School, I had very bad CL2 teachers who often used a ruler or duster to smack my hand or knuckles when I gave wrong answers or wrote a Chinese word wrongly. Those stupid teachers did not realise what a permanent and long-lasting effect this had on me. I had a deep phobia for CL2…but not Chinese History which engrossed me immensely. The 1st chance I had, in Sec School, I opted to study Malay as my L2 instead of Chinese.
    Being able to read and speak Malay has been of a great advantage to me and those with me, in my travels around SE Asia.
    The locals treat you differently when you can “berbual-bual” with them at hotels,shops,markets,stations, bargaining, waiting to be served etc. Invariably,I get better “treatment”.
    So, it is still good to learn to speak some Malay.

  8. 9 laokokok Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 7:08 am

    That’s interesting Dick.

  9. 10 T Saat Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Hi, I am teaching conversational Malay in a government school. I can’t help give my view on this current fad affecting our education system. I am calling it a fad because it will pass on just like other subjects or syllabus that had been introduced and then scraped. It seems that only something of economic value is of importance to our education system. In this case, Malay is seen to be of economic importance to communicating with our Malay neighbours. It is not being studied for its intrinsic value or for pleasure or for knowledge sake. Many of my students come for their attendance to be taken and take the lessons likely. They come because they have to, not because they want to. A few pay attention because they are genuinely interested, but many have a faraway look in their faces when the lesson is going on. I don’t blame them, afterall who wants to come for a non-examination subject that start at 7.40 am before the National Anthem and school song are played at 8.40 am? There you have it, Malay is just not important not just to the students, but the school itself……everyone is just submitting to a given policy.

  10. 11 laokokok Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Hi T Saat, thanks for sharing your thoughts on teaching this conversational MT. I believed there are some students like my kids are keen in learning the language but it’s the school arranging it outside the sch curriculum. So the lesson always got postpone indefinitely and that made the students loose interest. It’s difficult for one to remember what had been taught for one hour then stop for 3 to 4 weeks and continue for another hour, and stop for a couple of weeks again, ….

    So I think the school should probably include it during the Social Study lesson.

  11. 12 marcos Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I’m born in 1975, and hence, I did not have to study Malay language in my school. But I wonder why not more could be done to encourage the learning of Singapore’s 4 official languages, instead of ‘foreign languages’ such as French, German and Japanese? I mean, how many people do have the chance to speak German and French in Singapore?

    I mean, we have Chinese, Malays and Indians living in Singapore, won’t that be more practical and easier to master the official languages, since we can more chances to practise these languages? Besides, it helps to foster better and deeper understanding of other races’ languages and cultures!

  12. 13 herman ramlan Monday, December 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Malay national language.
    English working language.


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