Ridge, Brian (2003) Malaysia's english language policies for the 21st century: where to now? Asian Profile, 31 (1). pp. 29-36. ISSN 0304-8675
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The history of Malaysia's linguistic politics and policies reflect so much of what has been at the heart of Malaysia's creation of its own identity, and in more recent times, what it sees as its special roles in. the wider world. In another perspective, it could be argued that this linguistic history reflects a shift from a reactive language policy seeking to solve pressing internal tensions, largely ethnic in nature, in the period from 1957 to the early 1990s, to a clearly more proactive policy which is heavily involved in forging a newer Malaysia with external priorities and often asserted aspirations of playing a larger role on the global stage. It is probably also true to say that much of this latter shift to a proactive stance is closely associated with Dr Mahathir's administration, and with the present Defence Minister, Najib Tun Razak, who as Minister for Education in the early 1990s made much of the public running for the shift allowing - indeed, encouraging - a competence in English to be a critical feature for the new Malaysia of the 21st Century. This discussion therefore will focus on this shift in Malaysia's language policies from a reactive to a proactive stance, and will also examine some of the critical scenarios that have impacted on Malaysia's language policies for the 21st Century. Much of this analysis will consequently focus on English language policies and issues as these constitute the linguistic engine behind much of Malaysia's extension to its self image - an engine that simultaneously is emerging in many polities, but an engine that is often causing concern over its apparent 'killer' nature in terms of the fate of other languages on the world scene. It will be very apparent that language policy never arises in a vacuum and consequently there needs to be some recognition of the evolving Malaysian political tapestry pre- and post 1999 elections and an appreciation of the impact of September II, 2001 on Malaysia in the early 21st Century.
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