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Rojak language of Malaysia can be traced from the early Malacca of Parameswara at year 1402, an international port where more than 80 languages from a variety of cultures were spoken. Worldwide traders, settlers and original dwellers speaking multiple languages in a conversation was so common.
According to the Encyclopedia of Malaysia (Languages and Literature), it is a contact language, specifically a pidgin, known in modern Malaysia as Rojak language. The uniqueness of Rojak language is in its code-switching style, a person who speaks Rojak language may begin with Bahasa Malaysia and then continue with English, then mixed one or two words in Cantonese, garnished with Tamil and finished with Mandarin or some fashionable Japanese words. During Parameswara's time, when two groups of traders without a shared language met, they would speak any possible languages to get the best results in understanding each others, and the result may be a pidgin or Rojak.
In the early 16th century, Portuguese visitor Tome Pires found in Malacca
"Moors from Cairo, Mecca, Aden, Abyssinians, men of Kilwa, Malindi, Ormuz, Parsis, Rumi [Turks living abroad], Turks, Turkomans, Christian Armenians, Gujaratis, men of Chaul, Dabhol, Goa, of the kingdom of Deccan, Malabars and Klings, merchants from Orissa, Ceylon, Bengal, Arakan, Pegu, Siamese, men of Kedah, Malays, men of Penang, Patani, Cambodia, Champa, Cochin China, Chinese, men from Liu Kiu [Formosa] and Brunei, Luzonese, men of Tamjompura, Laue, Bangka, Lingga (and in this area 1000 more Islands are known), from the Moluccas, Banda, Bima, Timor, Madura, Java, Sunda, Palembang, Jambi, Tongkal, Indragiri, Kappatta, Menangkabau, Siak, Arcat, Aru, Bata, from the country of the Tomjano, Pase, Pedir, from the Maldives."
These peoples come to Malacca with junks, pangajavas and ships, and by 1511, Malacca had a population of 50,000 people, including a resident trade community that spoke 84 languages.
The British brought in large numbers of immigrants from China and India in between late 18th century to mid 20th century. Local Malays, Orang Asli, Baba Nyonya, Portuguese settlers, others and together with newly arrived Chinese and Indians resulted in the wide use of mix languages.
Bahasa Rojak is widely used, especially by Malaysian urban youths, which triggers fears and concerns about the correct usages of Malay language. Recently, the government of Malaysia decided to empower the correct usage of Malay language, especially in the private sector, by discouraging the usage of Bahasa Rojak. For example, TV3 recently changed the name of Karnival Sure Heboh to Karnival Jom Heboh as a result of public concern.
Comic magazines are often blamed for the usage of Bahasa Rojak, and this issue is often debated. Words or phrases written in Bahasa Rojak are often printed in boldface to enable readers to identify them. In particular, by the end of 2003, Gempak magazine began using a more formal language style and minimizing Bahasa Rojak occurrences, including the usage of bold lettering for words deemed colloquial.
- Kau memang terror la! - You're really great!
- Tempat makan ni best sangat! - This food court is really cool!
- Nak makan sini ke nak tapau? - Do you want to dine here or take away?
- Jangan susah hati maa, lu punya bos mesti boleh kaw tim punya maa! - Don't worry, your boss can surely compromise!
- Apasal lu buat ini kerja cincai? - Why do you do this task sloppily?
In modern Malaysia, Rojak Language is a highly controversial topic, as language purists accuse it was merely bad use of English and may cause a crisis in language proficiency. They fear that graduates will lack proper writing and speaking skills should the practice continue. The preservation of traditional languages remains a topic of discussion for the Malaysian people.
Jangan lupa diri
"Do not forget your roots" or "Jangan lupa diri" is a rallying cry commonly heard among Malaysians interested in protecting their linguistic heritage. This statement suggests that, regardless of race, the Malaysian people have their own roots and ancestral origin to protect. In 2002, Tun Dr. Mahathir proposed that English be 'a tool' to obtain knowledge in the sciences and mathematics, as part of education in Malaysia.
- Lecturer teaching in ‘rojak’ English
- Speak Bahasa Malaysia, not bahasa rojak
- Gag order on using bahasa rojak
- DBP cannot fight bahasa rojak alone
- Bahasa rojak is part of the Malaysian identity
- Politicians should first set an example
- Focus on language skills and noble values
- The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Languages & Literature by Prof. Dato' Dr Asmah Haji Omar (2004) ISBN 981-3018-52-6.