(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.
新加坡华人的母语是英语。那么马来西亚的华人呢?很多中国人都不知道答案。我以前认为大马华人的母语是马来语或者其他什么语言(毕竟外国人嘛),但应该不是中文。直到我后来去查几个流行歌手的资料,才知道他们的母语是中文!

事情要回溯到多年前,当时有一些台湾腔的歌手活跃在华语乐坛,我们都以为他们是台湾人。直到有一天我注意到他们的国籍,才知道他们其实是马来西亚人。然后我又进一步去查了大马华人的资料,惊讶地发现他们占马来西亚人口将近1/4,而且他们的母语是中文。

据说,大马华人和当地马来人融合得不太好,因为后者是穆斯林,因为宗教原因,通婚的也很少。所以,至今大马华人还完全保留了华人传统。大多数小孩上中文学校,学习普通话。有一些学生会学一些马来文,但有一些学生对马来文压根不感兴趣,索性完全不学。马来西亚政府对此大为光火,采取压制态度,但华人依旧不依不挠。

虽然大马华人说中文有台湾口音,但是他们学简体中文,措辞和大陆人基本无异。我偶尔会在网上碰到大马华人,但依然很惊讶于他们地道的中文。Lang-8上一些马来西亚用户会选中文为他们的母语,他们的修改也经常被简体中文用户点赞。

我听说大马华人人口一直在减少,上世纪50年代占马来西亚人口一半,现在只有20%了。不仅因为生育率比较低,还因为很多人因为对当地政府对华人的压制愤然移民。他们的处境有点像百年前犹太人在欧洲的处境,很多人是商人和医生,但是没有政治话语权。

他们是特殊的一群人,在异国他乡的学校里以中文为母语。但讽刺的是,很多中国人不知道华人在马来西亚占比如此之高,而且绝大多数中国人不知道中文是他们的母语。