Merit in Bahasa proposal
Re: "Standardised lingua franca needed", Letters, February 2.
I refer to Charles Frederickson's advocacy to adopt Bahasa Malaysia-Bahasa Indonesia (BM-BI) as the Asean lingua franca, to simplify and rationalise communication
Mr Frederickson explains that, compared to English, a streamlined BM-BI is easier for Asean peoples to learn because of its (mostly) predictable matches between spelling and pronunciation. BM-BI's Roman script and alphabetical structure would also be familiar in the Asean countries already using English, Tagalog and Vietnamese. BM-BI conveys a message within a simple and flexible structure. It is already the most widely spoken local language in Southeast Asia, used by about half the population.
All logic, whether in linguistics or in advantages of diplomacy, trade and commerce, would seem to favour this proposal. Yet, as history has shown, logic might determine language rules, but does not always govern language use. Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language could only describe, and not prescribe on, the spell-as-you-speak chaos in Chaucer. There must be political will at the leadership level to take up this realistic proposal, regardless of historical baggage. After all, Mr Frederickson has not advocated BM-BI to the exclusion of other languages current in the region.
Let this idea be embraced in the spirit of open-heartedness and open-mindedness, for the progress of the people, who can no longer live in the parochialism of the post-colonial past. Southeast Asia, composed mainly of islands, peninsulas and coastal areas, has always been made up of trading civilisations - and trading civilisations prosper only when both their minds and ports are open.
Anthony Azad Tan Chien Liang