Thoughts

[10/365] Language And The World’s Stage

I have finally returned to my dorm room, where my piece of shit beloved laptop resides. My laptop’s a funny thing – it works perfectly fine and can run games like Dragon’s Dogma at high capacity despite having a broken graphics card, but it can’t detect Wi-Fi signal unless the router is right next to the laptop. Not even a meter’s distance is forgivable. I’ve been using my phone as a hotspot for the past year now and never have I lamented the state of Malaysia’s telco networks more.

(that is a lie, my lamentations about the state of Malaysia’s telco networks grow more dramatic with every passing day and at least thrice as dramatic if I am reminded about how good the internet was in Britain, which happens almost every day.)

Now that I’ve got access to my laptop, I can write more for today’s post. Today’s topic isn’t Faiz Subri and his award-winning goal that garnered him the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award, but it’s pretty damn closely related.

First off, the heck is the Puskás Award? Most have heard of the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s Player of the Year award, but chances are the Puskás Award is fairly unfamiliar to many. The FIFA Puskás Award is awarded to players judged to have scored the most beautiful or ‘aesthetically significant’ goal of the year. The goal needs to be beautiful (a subjective matter, but also open to any kind of goal – penalty shots, long-range goals, team shots, individual play, overhead kicks, you name it), it needs to support fair play (the scorer must not have been behaving badly throughout the game or booked for instances of doping),  it must be through pure skill (not luck, mistake, deflected by another player, from an offside position, et cetera), and the award is bestowed regardless of gender, nationality, or championship. It celebrates the beauty of the game, it celebrates pure skill, and in Faiz Subri’s case it celebrates the little acts of defying physics.

Seriously, look up the goal. It’s fucking insane. Faiz Subri’s victory marks the first time an Asian player has ever won the award since it was created in 2009, with Malaysia being the only other Asian country nominated other than Japan. Naturally news of him winning the award got a lot of people excited, me included, and I positively bounded downstairs this morning, gleeful over the news.

“Faiz Subri won the Puskás Award!” I said.

“Yeah, and his speech was all over the place,” my father spat. “What an embarrassment.”

“What.”

So apparently Faiz Subri’s acceptance speech wasn’t up to par. Okay. I went on the internet for more information over breakfast – he’d read the speech from his phone, it was in English, and like most people who have very little need to use English in their daily life it was… not very good. It’s perfectly understandable, though. That’s the entire point – not everyone uses English in their daily life here in Malaysia. For some people, English isn’t even a second language – it’s a foreign language. I’m half inclined to believe it might be better to have TEFL majors in university because for some people English is highly unattainable as an L2 acquisition. How else would you explain students unable to use auxiliary verbs and tense conjugation in not only speech but also writing? No, I don’t blame Faiz Subri one bit. It must have been nerve-wrecking, going up on stage like that, and I actually applaud him all the more for it. He’s a footballer, for Christ’s sake, not a diplomat. Cut the man some slack.

What it did get me questioning was: why English in the first place? Maybe UKM is rubbing off on me, but surely it’d be fine for Faiz Subri to give his acceptance speech in Bahasa Melayu? I’ve seen some MotoGP riders, when giving a press conference after the race, opt to speak in their native language rather than put us all through terrible and heavily-accented English. If they can give zero fucks about speaking English on the world stage, why can’t we?

I think, more than anything, that’s the tragedy of it all. We’re so enamoured with the thought that the world stage is English, that we have to speak English for the world to understand us – but that’s not the case. We don’t have to accommodate the world. The world, if it truly cares about what we have to say, should make an effort to accommodate us. Translating is a legit job for a reason. I’ve said it before, no language is superior to another. There’s no shame in speaking Bahasa Melayu on the world stage, and it doesn’t make anyone inferior to anyone else.

Perhaps life would be more tolerable if more people were to be more open to idea, but I doubt it. I’m not even going to get into the whole debacle about how the very same people who criticise those who speak English in Malaysia are now slamming Faiz Subri for his subpar English on the world’s stage. That’s a dumb argument, those people are dumb, and ultimately everyone’s missing the point: it’s not about practicing English in Malaysia or speaking English fluently when you’re on the international stage. It’s about why English in the first place, and how maybe that really shouldn’t be the case.

What’re your thoughts on the whole issue? Let me know in the comments.

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