A MALAYSIA CHAPTER
Communication and the ability to communicate
between different races
Communication and the ability to communicate between different ethnic within
the society has been always a key factor in existence and development of every society
throughout the history of human being. As the matter of fact, this very important factor
plays a central role in achieving a sustainable developed society especially in Malaysian
context. However, before entering to any further discussion, we have to define the
meaning of a sustainable society and its relation with the concept of one nation.
Based on the classical definitions, a sustainable society provides a high quality of
life for all of its members without harming the integrity and efficiency of the natural
systems and resources upon which all life depends. We have to pay attention that the
limit of the human desires is nature. Human can design its dreams based on the
borders of nature. Therefore, sustainability can be defined as achieving a pleasing
existence for everyone within the means of nature for now and in the future. On the
other hand, we have to be aware of this important fact that a sustainable society is not
just about environment and nature. In Malaysia, it covers a wider range of issues and
phenomena. A sustainable society has to provide opportunities for each member of the
community to reach his or her potentials. Some issues such as cultural diversity,
providing adequate food, clothing, shelter, and a life of dignity for all people should be
also addressed in a sustainable society.
Diversity among races and multi ethnic in Malaysia is one of the most important
issues that a sustainable society has to recognize and promote its existence as diversity
gives birth to strength and flexibility of the human community. This cannot be achieved
without a single system of common language designed to address these issues. There
fore a system of “Satu Bahasa Untuk Semua Kaum” for a sustainable Malaysia society
has to make a balance between the human needs and nation unity.
As it has been mentioned, an appropriate system of communication is a key to a
sustainable society. In order to achieve a successful inter-racial communication in
Malaysia, many elements should come into consideration such as; the education
system of the society, the geographical situation of the society, the population texture of
the society and the socio-economical background of the society. However, the issue of
designing and running a suitable system of communication in societies with mix-ethnical
backgrounds such as in Malaysia is very different from a single homogenous society.
The issue of inter-racial communication has been always a challenge since the
establishment of Malaysia, 52 years ago. There has been always argues on how to
make policies and run this one system of common communication with considering an
equal and right for every member of diverse Malaysian society. For example, in 2004
the government introduces the idea of a single multi-racial school system called The
Vision School. The idea of Vision Schools has been introduced to the Malaysian
education system in order to increase and promote the sense of understanding through
language and respect among the students from different racial and cultural backgrounds
of the Malaysian diverse society. The long term goal of this plan is to educate students
with a deeper degree of respect towards other members of the society who are racially
and culturally different from them. The Vision Schools follow the National Curriculum of
studying however, what makes them different from other schools is the multi-ethnic
environment of them. But surprisingly, the idea of Vision School and existing vernacular
schools such as Sekolah Kebangsaan and Sekolah jenis Kebangsaan (SJK Cina and
SJK Tamil) in our education system has been always criticized by different sectors of
the society as a barrier in front of sharing common experiences and inter-racial
communication among different ethnics.
The role of communication in multi-ethnical and cultural societies in Malaysia is
vital to guaranty their sustainability of development. On the other hand, because of the
diverse nature of multi-ethnical and cultural societies and communities, designing and
applying a communication pattern which can answer the needs of each minority in
regards to its unique identity and promote tolerance, respect and understanding among
them is a challenging task.
This will lead us to the notion of a multi-ethnic society and the challenges that the
inter-racial communication system of these societies faces to address the unity and
needs of every individual ethnic groups of that society. Based on official definitions, a
multi-ethnic society is in contrast to mono-ethnic societies; integrate different ethnic
groups irrespective of differences in culture, race, and history under a common social
identity larger within one known language than one "nation" in the conventional sense.
The issue of inter-racial communication and ethnic diversity makes many things
more complicated in a multi-ethnic society such as; the governing system, political
system, education system, economical system and of course ability to communicate in
one official language (Bahasa Melayu). The backbone of all these complexity is how to
address the needs and wills of each single ethnicity to communicate equally in the
frame work of national identity and solidarity.
Malaysia is one of the examples of multi-racial countries around the world. In fact
Malaysia represents the true meaning of a diverse society in many ways such as; race,
language and religion. Population wise, Malaysian society is consisted of Malays,
Chinese, Indians, Kadazan, Iban, and others races. In term of language we witness a
huge variety such as; Bahasa Melayu (which is the official language), English, Chinese
(Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam,
Panjabi, Thai and several indigenous languages which most widely spoken in Sabah
and Sarawak are Iban and Kadazan.
This shows us how difficult it can be to keep such diverse texture of society in
harmony and provide a standard and suitable system of communication for it based on
needs, understanding and respect. In such a diverse and inter-racial society, the one
system official language or Bahasa kebangsaan should be able to address the cultural
and ethnical needs of communicating between each group and at the same time keep
the society in the frame of national community.
Some of the main objectives of one national language, Bahasa Melayu as
Bahasa Kebangsaan used in inter-racial communication are aims to fostering solidarity
among the people of different races and backgrounds, instilling the spirit of integration
among them, producing a generation that is tolerant and understanding so as to realize
a united nation and encouraging maximum interaction among the different races and
ethnic background. But the imperative principle that has to be paid attention in a multi-
racial or multi-ethnic communication in Malaysia is the idea of making its people to be
aware of their unique racial identity in the frame work of respecting the ethnic and
cultural pluralism of their society and at the same time preserving ethnic cultures and
supporting inter-racial integration to sustain the national unity of the country.
Without doubt, all the Malaysian from different ethnic background is obliged to
learn Bahasa Melayu as the official and national language of the country. As inter-racial
communication is one of the most important key factors in process of achieving
sustainability in every society, it is vital for all Malaysian to master and uses Bahasa
Melayu thoroughly in order to be able of communication with other races and ethnicities
and at the same time contributed to comprehend the notion of national unity and
harmony of One Malaysia.
Arora, Ranjit K. (2005). Race and Ethnicity in Education. Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Mark Orbe, Tina M. Harris. (2008) Interracial Communication: Theory into Practice. NY:
Timothy P. Daniels. (2000). Building Cultural Nationalism in Malaysia. NY: Routledge
Vidhu Verma. (2005). Malaysia, State and Civil Society in Transition. Boulder, CO:
Lynne Rienner Publishers