(2) Malaysian Chinese

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Sep 7, 2017 00:55
English is Chinese Singaporeans’ first language. How about Chinese Malaysians then? Most Chinese people don’t know the answer. I once thought they might speak Malaysian or whatever, but definitely not Mandarin. It was not until I looked up some Malaysian pop singers online did I realize that I had been wrong. It turned out that they’re native Mandarin speakers!

It all started when I noticed the nationality of some popular singers in China. They spoke and sang with a Taiwanese accent. We all thought they came from Taiwan. One day, I noticed those singers’ nationality: Malaysian. I then looked up some further information on Chinese Malaysians, and was surprised to discover that the ethnic Chinese make up nearly one fourth of Malaysia’s population, and Mandarin is their first language.

It’s said that most Chinese Malaysians don’t integrate well with the ethnic Malaysians, who are Muslims. Interracial marriages rarely happen because of religious differences.* Therefore, most Chinese Malaysians still, even to date, stick to their Chinese heritage. Most kids attend Chinese schools and study Mandarin. Some of them may study Malaysian as well, but some others are simply uninterested in this language and don’t learn it at all. The Malaysian government has always frowned upon this tradition and tried to suppress it. However, the Chinese still take their own course.

Although they speak Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent, they use simplified Chinese and their choice of words is almost the same as ours. I occasionally come across Chinese Malaysians online but I am still very shocked to see how native their Mandarin is. On Lang-8, I saw some Malaysian users choosing Chinese as their first language on their profile and their corrections get “native nods.”

I heard that the population of Chinese Malaysians is shrinking (a half of the population in the 1950s, but only 20% now), not only because of their low birth rates, but also because of their emigration due to their disappointment over being suppressed by the government.* Their situation is like the Jews’ in Europe hundreds of years ago. Many of them are doctors or businessmen, but don’t have political clout.

They are definitely a special group of people, who choose their heritage language as the first language in school on foreign soil. Sarcastically, a good portion of Chinese people have no idea they account for such big a percentage of the Malaysian population, and the vast majority of Chinese people don’t know Mandarin is their first language.

* These two parts are not representative of my stance of any kind. I just stated what I’d heard, which might be unture.





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