Research Project (2nd mailing)

hsmr at hsmr at
Wed Nov 3 23:12:46 UTC 2004

Hi Saran,

Seeing your message reminded me that I should finish your paper, but as
you could well note in the HKLNA-Project's last newsletter, I am still
living in Ma On Shan. My plan was to respond to you after I had a new
address to where you could send me a copy of your book. Certainly, I
hope your planned trip to Japan went well for you.

1) At one point in your paper you state that the Malaysian educational
system went from a bilingual to a completely monolingual one. Much
later in your paper I discovered that private and public university
graduates have been competing in industry based on language
differences. Obviously something was happening in the private primary
and secondary school sector that you failed to mention. Perhaps you
could clarify this bifurcation in the system earlier in your paper.

2) You ask a question in your paper that you never answer -- namely,
"Why has there been a top-down decision made with no discussions with
the universities at large?" Although you explain why the government
decided to do what it did, you do not say why everyone else was
by-passed in the process. Certainly there were more stake holders than
a tiny minority of university academics who were by-passed. For
example, what about all of the secondary students who never make it
into a Malaysian university and will never become managers in a
Malaysian company with overseas ties.

In a similar light, just what proportion of Malaysian companies are
involved in overseas trade? What is the size of their work force? And,
what proportion of Malaysia's entire economic output do they represent?
I walk away from your paper with absolutely no perspective in this
regard and seriously question, whether even the Malaysian government
has any?

3) At one point you state that 5000 new articles appear everyday in the
world's English language, scientific literature. You follow this with
the comment that it is too many articles to translate.

Using the numbers that you provide and my own guesstimate of 16 pages
per article, I calculate that between 10,000 and 16,000 full-time
translators would be required to translate the entire daily volume. Is
this really such a large number of translators?

  In your section on language modernization you state that a team was
appointed by the Malaysian government in 1972 to modernize Bahasa
Melayu. Apparently that team consisted of both Malaysians and
Indonesians. This suggest a strong overlap between the national
language of Malaysia and the wide-area (national) language of
Indonesia. The populations of Malaysia and Indonesia combined represent
hundreds of millions of people. A very rough estimate based upon the
above guesstimate comes to about 23 million people per one Malaysian

Also, in this light would it not be better to speak of the number of
translators employed by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, rather than the
number of books that they translated?

Please let me close by stating that I enjoyed your paper very much,
because it gave me a good idea about how Malaysia has gotten where it
is today. My first overall impression is that Hong Kong, Singapore, and
Malaysia are all very similar in their approach toward language and
education. It is as you say "top down".

Finally, your project appears to serve the government well, as it takes
Dr. Mahathir's 2002 dictate as a given, rather than challenging the
assumptions upon which that dictate was based. I have much more to
write , but I would like to see how you respond to the above before
writing more.


R. A. Stegemann
EARTH's Manager and HKLNA-Project Director
EARTH - East Asian Research and Translation in Hong Kong
Tel/Fax: 852 2630 0349

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list