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Date [ 2014-02-12, 06:00 ]

What would you as a Malaysian say if told the fate of Jawi in Malaysia today, depends on not a Malaysian, but a Korean?

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir = He is Prof. Dr.Kang Kyoung Seak who is an expert on the Jawi script and has even been honoured by the Malaysian government for it last year. Just before he returned to South Korea to take up his position as Head of the Malaysian Studies Department at the Busan University of Foreign Studies.

The professor bemoans the fact that Jawi is used less and less in this country as the romanised Malay takes centre stage in all things written, be it the newspapers, books, on the Internet or anything else in print.

The Jawi script is considered the true and original script of the Malay language and dates back as far as the 13th century. Since historical times, Jaw has been the standard script for the Malay language.

But today, its day-to-day usage can only be heard in the more conservative rural Malay-populated areas. Most Malays in urban areas use the romanised script for their writings.

Over the ages many foreigners have studied the Jawi script, but only on an academic level. They made no efforts to engage in the language or converse in it in their daily lives. “Unlike me, “informed Prof. Kang. “I use it as much as possible so it can be upheld as a living language.”

He finds it difficult to see the Jawi script slowly being eroded away. He firmly believes there is only one way to save the script. “Get your youths interested in it again.” He uses the word ‘Malaysian’ and not ‘Malay’ as he believes Jawi belongs to all Malaysians. He adds,”If they fail to preserve it, it will sink into oblivion and disappear.”

Prof Kang felt there was no need to re-formulate a new learning system for Jawi in order to make it easier for everyone to study. He remarked, “Malaysia’s younger generation already know how to read the romanised characters.

What we just have to do, is to make the Jawi script more in sync to romanised Malay by bringing the spelling and pronunciation in line with the romanised Malay characters.

He gave an example. “Problems, such as the spelling of ‘pudu’ as fa-wau-dal-wau, must be addressed as the word can also be pronounced as podo, podu or pudo. We need to standardise it.”

He further explained,”Jawi, as an Arabic script, underwent modifications to suit the spoken classical Malay. Written from right to left, it incorporated six sounds not found in Arabic: ca, pa, ga, nga, va and nya.

Many Arabic characters are never used as they are not pronounced in the Malay language, and some letters are never joined, while others are always joined.”

Prof Kang went on reiterate,”In order to revitalise the Jawi script among Malaysia’s younger generation, some amazing initiatives will have to be undertaken.” Surprisingly he mentioned, ”Much like South Korean singer Psy did to make Korean culture known worldwide with his inimitable Gangnam Style.”

Prof Kang again emphasised that the Jawi script is a universal legacy for multi-racial Malaysia and is not the exclusive inheritance of the Malay race. He conveyed that, “It is the civilised world’s precious collective heritage.

This has so far been preserved by Malaysians because the Jawi script has existed in this country for a long time and was used by Malaysians well before the romanised alphabet was introduced in the 1960s. Thus that historical tradition should continue. “

The professor revealed that during a student exchange programme, 15 of his students failed to learn the Jawi script and, consequently, did not learn the Malay language correctly. This happened at one of the Malaysian universities.

“One of the reasons why these students could not learn the Malay language properly was that youngsters here do not speak proper Malay. They speak more a colloquial version.”

The good doctor feels as Malaysia moves forward to achieve Vision 2020, Malaysian youths need an identity. He believes Jawi can provide that identity and along with it, a national legacy.

The professor is not without his detractors. “I welcome criticism. But do not just find fault with my work or books. Make an effort to correct these ‘faults’ of mine. Who knows the Jawi script may be all the better for it?”

But when all is said and done, Dr Kang is not really a happy man. As things stand he sees no light at the end of the tunnel for Jawi. His greatest fear is that it may well disappear into that tunnel. “That would indeed be a great loss.”
The professor was in town to deliver a lecture titled, “Innovation of Jawi Script for New Generations” at the Islamic University College (KUIM) in Melaka.


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