Monday, March 11, 2013

"No Love Without Knowing Each Other"

By Rohana Mustaffa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 (Bernama) -- "People say when something is being mentioned many times, then it becomes an invocation," said Indah when asked why she chose that name.

Han Xiao, as with the other undergraduates at Beijing University's Foreign Studies, were encouraged to pick a Malay name when they signed up to learn the Malay language and she chose the name 'Indah'.

Indah said she chose Bahasa Melayu due to the beauty of the language.

"When I heard Bahasa Melayu for the first time, I was captivated by its style, rhythm and sway that are sweet to the ears," she said.

And because of these, Indah fell in love with the language and signed for four years of learning Bahasa Melayu at Beijing University. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Malay Literature, she read Malay Language and socio-culture for her Master's degree at University Malaya.

Last year, she obtained her Master's degree and received her scroll at a convocation yesterday (Tuseday). She is currently doing her PhD at the university.

Indah began by learning the alphabets in Bahasa Melayu and was fortunate to have no problems pronouncing the "rrr" as compared to her 20 coursemates who came from all over China. Their lecturers were also Chinese nationals, who were assisted by language experts from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).

Now, the faculty has the Bahasa Melayu chair held by Prof Dr Awang Sariyan.


"There is a Malay saying that "you never fall in love without knowing each other" and I have fallen in love with Bahasa Melayu, learning more about the Malay socio-culture and world and I want to be a Bahasa Melayu lecturer at Beijing University," said the only child of her family.

Indah's parents, her father is a 53-year-old police officer and mother who is a 50-year-old welfare officer, gave Indah the encouragement to learn the language and culture that is so foreign to them.

"My parents are open minded. They know that their daughter, in learning a foreign language would also learn that foreign culture and religion. They know I am learning.

"Bit by bit, I taught them simple sentences in Bahasa Melayu until my mother can reply 'Indah tidak ada di rumah' (Indah is not home) when my lecturer called me at home".

Indah has a reason why she switched from learning Bahasa Melayu at the first degree level to focus more on the Malay socio-culture and family institution at the Master's and PhD level.

"I was drawn to that topic while attending the Malay Studies Academy class on Malay family and chanced upon several articles written by Prof Datuk Dr Yaacob Harun who did much research on the Malay society. He is an expert on the Malay family institution, Malay marriage, situation of Malays in the urban areas and the Malay socio-culture," she said.


"Previously, Indah knew the Malays via textbooks. They are very polite, courteous and with manners apart from holding to the religion and Malay etiquittes," she said.

Indah's thesis' research for her Master's found that the low-income Malay families in urban areas undergone much change in social values in all aspects due to the urbanisation and development mainstream, particularly in the family institution aspect.

The change in the family's social values in urban areas resulted in youths from the low-income families falling prey to the social diseases.

"The study reveals that the change in Malay social values in urban areas has influenced the development of the youngsters and contributed to the increase in social problems affecting this group. The negative activities include smoking, loafing and free sex," said Indah.

For Indah, the change of the parents' role from giving focus to the growing up of their children to being busy with their respective careers in order to meet the economic demands resulted in the lack of attention on their children.

The findings of this thesis had also caught the attention of Information Communication Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim who happened to receive the courtesy call by Prof Dr Awang Sariyan and Prof Wu Zong Yu who has 40 years experience in teaching Chinese nationals the Malay language.

Dr Rais had also enquired from Indah, who was in the entourage, on her thesis and expressed his interest in seeing a copy of it. Dr Rais also suggested for the thesis be turned into a book.


To Indah, what she had discovered in the study did not diminish her admiration for the Malay language and culture.

"What had happened to the young Malays during urbanisation also happened in China due to the western influence in developing nations to the extent that they were swayed by the same phenomenon, the way they speak and eat, the worst was the way they practice sex before marriage," she said.

If in the west teenagers getting pregnant before marriage is something normal, in Malaysia this practice is forbidden by religion while in China, a country of the East, this act is taboo and that is why some resorted to actions like baby dumping.

For Indah, she is not disppointed with the thesis' findings even though it was different from what she had read about the Malay language and society particularly in the 50s and 60s.

But she was sad with the 'negative' changes.

"I am an Oriental, and as an Oriental I have no bad intention in doing this research. To me Malaysia and China are the same and it is hoped that this study is able to assist those who wish to overcome the social problems that affect the youths.

"I have many Malay friends and love this race. I want to help via this way," she said.


Indah also accepted the fact that while making her study on the Malays and their culture, she could not separate the culture and Islam from their way of life.

"My supervisor, Prof Wan Abdul Kadir Wan Yusuf advised that if I wished to study the Malay culture, I must know about Islam first, must have knowledge about Islam and the reasons why Malays cannot be separated from Islam.

"To me, as a student of Bahasa Melayu, I must understand one thing, that is the pledge to study other people's culture and to respect their way of life, if we are to have prejudice, then the study held will not achieve its objective," she said.

Indah now teaches Mandarin in the joint programme held between the Kongzi Institute for the Teaching of Chinese Language China and Universiti Malaya.

The programme which began last November focuses on Mandarin as the communication language with the first module at 40 hours in eight weeks. It is opened to those who are interested in learning Mandarin.


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