nuances of the soil

In recollections on August 31, 2005 by carinasuyin

I’m often tongue-tied when asked to describe my mother tongue. Bahasa Malaysia and English comes to mind, rather than Hokkien or Mandarin. It’s the language you’re born with, the language your parents spoke to you with, some offered. Well, my parents spoke to me predominantly in English with a mixture of Mandarin and Malay. Growing up in Gombak, KL, I spoke Malay in school and in my local neighbourhood. My maternal grandparents got frustrated trying to communicate in Hokkien with me that they resorted to a Malay-Mandarin hybrid language.

Haiyah, typical OCBC lahorang Cina bukan Cina,” my cousin would lament, to which I’d gladly tease him back, “Aku anak Malaysia, orang Malaysia… rojak pun rojaklah…”

Do I regret not being Chinese literate? A little, because I have problems understanding Chinese songs that I like and the world of Chinese literature is lost on me. Mostly not because I’m still able to hold a decent conversation in it, albeit a little haltingly. However, I’d regret it bitterly if I lost my proficiency in Malay as it has become an identity, my identity.

Malaysia dearest, as you celebrate your 48th anniversary of independence, i hope that you do not forget me… a product of your education and social engineering policies- belonging to a generation who speak the national language with fluency and pride and identify with more things Malaysian than my own ethnic background… have a lovely celebration and cheers for the years to come!

With love and salam merdeka,
carina suyin

“And when I encounter Chinese Malaysians whose Malay is more powerful than mine, when I hear one of them say words like ‘rindu‘ (and I’m sure you know Malay is a very affective language, as a matter of fact, languages that were agrarian and pre-literate have that kind of cognition), and he says it with that same emotional charge that strikes me to the heart, I’m flabbergasted and humbled. I get angry also because I can’t understand how much further Chinese Malaysians have to go to prove themselves. These people are not guest people. They know the cultural inflections, they’ve embodied the nuances of the soil, and they speak the language not just to do business with the majority but also to speak to them on equal terms. What do you do your Merdeka play for and insist on ‘reminding the minorities that they are where they are due to the grace and accommodating nature of the Malays?’ It’s such an insecure mak tiri complex.”

Alfian Sa’at in an interview with


6 Responses to “nuances of the soil”

  1. Great quote from Alfian Saat man! Time for people to be more colour blind.
    Now that I think of it, Malay does sound pretty affectionate. Wonder what other languages fall into that category?
    I think a banana is someone who totally cannot speak the Chinese language or any of its dialects. In that sense, you are definitely not a banana!

  2. *raises eyebrow*
    how do you look at banana that way?

    to show love and pride of being a malaysian chinese, i dressed up and walked around campus in my kebaya top (chinese collar) and a dark blue jeans. hehe…half malaysia, half american 😛 cewah…looked so pretty and cool like that, my friends complimented on my outfit 😉

  3. reply to suge: hey sugeo! do check out Alfian Sa’at’s writings… Affective languages- Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Thai, Spanish, Italian, French? 🙂

    reply to lotsachi: reference to xiang jiao ren, not the fruit lah 😛 tee hee… chewah

  4. saudari suyin adalah orang Cina yang paling loancar berbahasa Melayu yang saya kenali, masih terukir di ingatan saya sewaktu kami di Janda Baik,…ideologi kebangsaan…, sungguh menakjubkan!sehingga mendapat pujian daripada pihak universiti.

    caya la…gua tabik!!

  5. ideologi kebangsaan di Janda Baik! 🙂 Fuyoh, hang masih ingat lagi? Hang sendiri pun cukup handal apa… gua juga caya sama lu! 😛

  6. fuiyo…bahasa tinggi, huh! *stands away from you all…i’m ‘short’ lah* 😛

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