Malaysia's National Language Policy in International Theoretical Context
Article by Nathan John Albury and Khin Khin Aye in Journal of Nusantara Studies, 2016.
This paper examines the motivations behind Malaysia’s national language policy in theoretical terms to allow the Malaysian narrative to be positioned in an international context. To do this, it applies Spolsky’s (2004) theory of what influences language policy making in contemporary nation-states, namely national ideology, the role of English in globalisation era, the nation’s sociolinguistic situation, and an interest in linguistic minority rights. The paper argues that all factors are relevant in the Malaysian context. However, the domestic sociolinguistic situation only influences policy in so far as Malaysia’s response to its ethnolinguistic minorities is limited to minimal linguistic rights in the education system. This limited acceptance of linguistic diversity continues a tradition of protecting what Malaysian law sees as the supremacy of Malay culture and language. The paper concludes with an invitation to apply this theory in the study of other nations in the region to foster a robust body of comparative data on national language policies in Southeast Asia.