Sunday, April 15, 2012


This is like sex on speakers. At the first listen I was perplexed, at second listen I was quite pleased, and at third listen I was sold hook, line and sinker.

Everybody keeps saying it sounds like Anggun's Snow on the Sahara (which, by the way, is no longer absurd since it did snow on the Sahara a few weeks back). I, for one, keep having visions of Björk when listening to this gem.

This will stay on repeat until Nicki Minaj comes out with a better song. Which means never.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Jack of all languages, master of none

I received an e-mail from a friend who wanted to know about job opportunities in Malaysia. A native English speaker, he heard about Malaysia's urgent need for skilled English teachers and thought he should apply, but didn't know how and to whom.

I find it great that English native speakers can easily find jobs all across the globe thanks to their mother tongue. I've met a lot of western expatriates living in Asian countries and a lot of them are either English teachers, writers, photographers or retirees who live in Asia in the hope of stretching out their last dollars.

So back to my English friend. He asked me all kinds of questions about Malaysia and I tried to answer as objectively as I could. The problem is I've been living abroad for so long I feel like I am out of touch with the real Malaysian lifestyle. A lot of my answers were based on my memories living in Malaysia (and by living I don't mean going there for month-long summer holidays doing absolutely nothing) and the last time I did that was 7 years ago. I had trouble giving him ballpark figures of prices of everyday stuff. If I remember correctly, the last time I bought a 1-litre carton of fresh milk in Malaysia it cost me around RM4.50, and a giant loaf of Gardenia bread was in the RM2.10 area. I don't know if it is still the case (I'm sure it isn't), but I don't think I'm that far off either even with the infamous Malaysian inflation rate factored in.

Then came the hardest question to answer: "Should I learn Malay? Is it one of the requirements to be employed in Malaysia?"

This was my reply:

"Almost everybody in Malaysia speaks English with varying degrees of proficiency, so you can easily get by not knowing a word of Malay, especially if you're planning on living in the capital city where even the Malays speak English among themselves as a sign of superior educational background and/or affluence. Unlike our neighbours the Thais or even the Indonesians, us Malaysians don't have the same pride when it comes to our national language. Malaysians always pride themselves for being able to speak English or other languages fluently, and look down on other Malaysians who don't. The funny thing is, it's almost always these same people who butcher the Malay language to within an inch of its life with their excessive anglicisms, improper grammar and questionable spelling skills. This lackadaisical attitude towards the Malay language is also boosted by the government's laughable effort at upholding the status of Malay as the national language.

Malay has a rich vocabulary, a very logical and organized grammar, and a great reserve of literary gems. However, looking at advertisements and building names and street signs around Kuala Lumpur, one would be under the false impression that the Malay language is only good for talking about petty issues like food, the weather or football, as it seems to have a limited vocabulary and almost non-existent proper grammatical structure. And the rise of unnecessary English loanwords doesn't help.

In other words, you DON'T NEED to learn Malay to be able to live and work in Malaysia, and it is not an essential requirement when applying for a job. If proficiency in Malay were one of the job requirements, half of born and bred Malaysians would be jobless.

This being said, I think you SHOULD learn Malay. If you plan on living in Malaysia for an extended period of time, having at least basic Malay skills is a must, if only for the fun of seeing the bewildered expression on people's faces when they see a white guy speaking Malay. Malaysians love white people who speak Malay more than they love the language itself. If you record yourself speaking Malay and put it on Youtube, that video will go viral in Malaysia in no time and more often than not, girls will compliment you on how cute you are no matter how plain you look, just because you're a white guy. So be prepared to be worshiped. On a more serious note, you should also learn Malay for its beauty and uniqueness. Can you tell me any other language in the world that doesn't possess the verb 'to be' and is still able to function perfectly?

I hope I've answered your question objectively."