“Teacher, what is ‘bahasa penjajah’ in English?”
I stared at her. A long one. I was stumped.
‘What’s your sentence?’
“We should not be afraid to learn anew language even if it is ‘bahasa penjajah’.
I stared at her again. I didn’t know. I didn’t know at all. And my face showed that I didn’t know. My student was waiting.
‘I really don’t know. But you know why I can’t find the word?’
The term ‘bahasa penjajah’ was created by the Malays as an excuse not to learn the English language. The ‘penjajah’ or invaders they refer to are the British who invaded Malaysia hundreds of years ago. And English is considered their language so we can’t learn English because the British invaded us.
Here is the plain truth. English belongs to no one. English is hardly even English. It’s Greek and French and Italian and German and so much more. The Brits themselves were invaded and before their invasion, they spoke Celtic. Having being invaded, their language was influenced by their invaders and over the years, it evolved and became the language we now know as English.
No one owns the English language. English can’t even be defined cause it is a mixture of many languages. Hence when you read the dictionary, there is thing called origin of the word to show where the English word actually comes from. From the origin, the pronunciation and spelling is determined.
So why are we calling it ‘bahasa penjajah’? It was never their language and isn’t their language. It is a language that has become the world’s lingua franca and it is open for everyone to love and learn.
‘Just write: we should not be afraid to learn a language other than our mother tongue.’