KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia will levy fines on those incorrectly using the national language, and will set up a specialized division to weed out offenders who mix Malay with English, news reports said Thursday.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim said fines of up to 1,000 ringgit ($271) can be imposed on displays with any wrong or mutated form of Malay, the Star newspaper reported.
The move was to ensure “the national language was not sidelined in any way,” Rais said, according to The Star.
Fines will be imposed after a first warning, the national news agency Bernama quoted Rais as saying.
Most Malaysians speak Malay, also known as Bahasa Malaysia, while English is widely spoken but a mutated form, known as “Manglish” — a mishmash of English, Malay and other local dialects is commonly used in the Southeast Asian nation.
The government will attempt to swap commonly used English language words with Malay substitutes, The Star said.
“It has to be admitted that a mixture of Bahasa Malaysia and English sometimes cannot be helped, but we hope these measures can arrest the decline,” Rais said, according to The Star.
He said a national language unit will be set up in an attempt to reduce the English-Malay mix, especially at official functions.
An official at Rais’ ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed his comments as reported.
Critics have said Malaysia’s decision to sideline English in favor of Malay is hurting its global competitiveness level and a downward spiral in English language standards among students.