Appreciating our language, our cultural heritage

Although being bilingual or even multi-lingual yields immense rewards, the importance of being proficient in our national language must not be overlooked 

pic by TMR

LANGUAGE is important for an array of reasons. Aside from being a tool for communication, language often provides insights to peoples’ worldviews, histories, cultures, customs and heritage. In essence, it is a person’s identity. 

In the era of globalisation, frequent association is made between the mastery of the English language to attaining quality education, obtaining a job and adopting new technology. 

There is no denying that being able to effectively communicate in English opens doors to various opportunities. 

Nevertheless, the importance of being proficient in our national language, Bahasa Malaysia and the regional language of Bahasa Melayu, must not be overlooked. Being bilingual or even multi-lingual yields immense rewards. 

Various research has shown that when a person is able to speak more than one language, they become sensitised to different cultures. This enables them to communicate effectively, be more empathetic and able to resolve differences with others from different cultures. 

After all, as Nelson Mandela once said, “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. 

The beauty of languages is often more pronounced in public speaking. At such speaking engagements, language plays a key role as an information and persuasion tool. Public speaking conducted in Bahasa Melayu will certainly display the elegance and cultural nuances of the Malay Archipelago. 

In the efforts of promoting, consolidating and expanding the regional Malay language usage throughout higher education institutions (HEIs) worldwide, the Malay language international public speaking competition, locally known as the Pidato Antarabangsa Bahasa Melayu (PABM) has been organised annually since 2007. 

PABM’s objective is to primarily raise awareness on the importance of endorsing the Malay language as a tool to unite various ethnicities and countries. 

The Ministry of Higher Education has always been a strong advocate of PABM as it supports the action plan to dignify the Bahasa Malaysia language as the Language of Knowledge in Public Universities 2016-2020. 

PABM also corresponds to Malaysia’s Higher Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) concerning language skills in general and the language skills of international students in particular. 

At Malaysian HEIs, all international students are required to undergo the Bahasa Malaysia for communication course. 

The PABM functions as a complementary platform for international students to enhance their communication skills in the local and/or regional language. This will help them to adapt and assimilate with the local community which will consequently enrich their higher education experience. 

This year, 33 participants physically attended the competition from three categories: the Malay Nations category (five participants), the International category (five participants) and the International Students in Malaysia category (23 participants). 

The Malay Nations category consists of participants from Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. 

The International category consists of participants that do not come from Malay nations. The participants from these two categories were selected through competitions conducted in their respective countries. 

The International Students in Malaysia category consists of participants from public and private universities. The selection is done through competitive rounds (preliminary, quarterfinals, semifinals) which were conducted at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. 

There was a total of nine participants competing in the final rounds (three participants from each category). 

PABM 2021 was held on Nov 28, 2021, at the Sultan Iskandar Hall, University of Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Baru. It was officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. 

In more ways than one, this competition is a celebration and an appreciation of the national and regional language. From this, it is hoped that more people will be motivated to uphold our national language and cultural heritage that is inadvertently attached. 

Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad is the Higher Education Minister. 


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board. 

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