Language Shift and Maintenance of Tamil Language in the Malaysian Multilingual Context

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Paramasivam MUTHUSAMY , Foreign Language Department , Faculty of Modern Language and Communication, University Putra Malaysia, Serdang , Selangor, Malaysia

The prevailing multilingual situation of Malaysia reflects the gradual shift in the use of minority languages like Tamil, both in formal and informal domains of language use. There are several reasons for language shift to take place language maintenance, and one such is the existing power that goes with language(s). How far language attitudes, linguistic views and power based policies will foster the use of concerned languages for the benefit of society at large is indeed a challenge and seems to be a question mark. The Malaysian Tamil society is gradually shifting to languages like English and Bahasa Malaysia as media of instruction to achieve education needs in different disciplines of knowledge, considering the modern economic-scientific and technological – occupational-developmental progress and needs of the society. Moreover, this kind of existing rigidity in attitudes towards language use and emotionally motivated views might cause problems in the long run for society in getting education or employment opportunities. Language policies has made mandatory use of Malay in education,  use of the English language at different levels with power and efficiency, use of mother-tongue languages in education and mass media as far as possible. The present day generation prefers training  in job-oriented, application and practice oriented education, so they are forced to shift from their mother-tongue to the national language or English for specific purposes. This is because of the restricted use of their own languages. The present day use also reflects the shift from spoken Tamil to English as the home language of the Tamil community. So, this paper emphasizes the social relevance of the sociolinguistic research that is more concerned with a developing community, especially their language use. More so are the language policy activities in order to approach the problems faced by that community in formal domains of language use.