Language and Culture Are Interwined in How to Tame a Wild Tongue

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Everyone knows that Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual country, and the common languages use in Malaysia are including Malay, English, and Mandarin. In Malaysia, there is also a version of English known as 'Manglish' which is a mixture of English with other local languages such as Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, Tamil, and Cantonese. Manglish is informal and unofficial language use in Malaysia for daily conversation, and it reflects the diversified culture and characteristics of Malaysia. In the article 'How to Tame a Wild Tongue' by Gloria Anzaldua, I agree with the author argues that a language indirectly reflects a person's identity and culture, which cannot be isolated from each other. This applies the same with Manglish.

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In 'How to Tame a Wild Tongue' by Gloria Anzaldua, she expresses her experience of struggling within different languages, and even on her own identity for a long time. She initiates in describing her life experience that we need to control our tongue, which is implying that we need to tame a wild tongue. She further shares her identity as a Chicano, such as when her teacher punished her when her and required her to speak English like an American or go back to Mexico where she belongs. However, she highlights that to understand different aspects of herself, and a person must see through different layers of language that she poses. For example, 'Ruca' means girl or woman, and it is made up of slang words from both English and Spanish, which outsider might not able to understand it. From this book, we know that Gloria is proud to see a variety of dialects and speak them differently, as well as be a Chicano.

The essential component to differentiate between English and Manglish is the unique slang 'lah' and 'lor' use in Manglish. The slang in Manglish acknowledge by most of the Malaysians, but it can be a tough nut to crack for a foreigner. This reflects Anzaldua's point that 'we needed a language with which we could communicate with ourselves, a secret language' (36). Malaysian implies the slang at the end of every sentence in their communication, and it would sound like: 'can lar.' Malaysians generally use the slang 'lah' to assure or emphasize a subject or an object without being hostile. As a case in point, John, my manager, comes to me and says, 'Could you help me to complete the report by today?'. If I feel confident and assure that I can address the task promptly, then the Manglish way to respond to John would be, 'Can lah! No problem!'. It means that 'I can do it! No problem!'. Therefore, Manglish is a secretive language for a foreigner, but most of the Malaysians feel comfortable with Manglish, which highlights the diversified culture and identity of Malaysia.

Learning from the slangs can get more complex for an outsider because they are often referring to the slangs 'lah' and 'lor' as someone's nickname. Each of the slangs has a specific tone and expression to use it appropriately. If I change the slang from 'lah' to 'lor' in the same case as previously mentioned, and it would sound weird or awkward for a Malaysian. This is because the slang 'lor' should apply in a situation where you are going to accept a matter, but indeed, your heart is not willing to do so. It can be conveyed as a 'sigh' expression. Therefore, it will be more appropriate to apply it in a situation where you are struggling with a real job on your hands, but you still need to accept and complete the report no matter what in the position. In this case, instead of responding, 'Alright. I will try to do it', and the Manglish way to say can be simple as 'Can lor.' Of course, the tone and expression should stay low and deep to demonstrate that you are reluctant with the acceptance. Thus, there are some challenges for an outsider to assimilate with the Manglish's slangs, but having the slangs are an exciting way for a person to communicate comfortably and informally with Malaysian.

Dialect is another crucial part of assembling the 'Manglish' language. The dialects in Manglish are literally derived from various words and phrases with variety of local languages in Malaysia, and these are somewhat similar as Anzaldua's point that 'we use anglicisms, words borrowed from English: bola from ball, carpeta from carpet, Machina de LaVar (instead of lavadora) from washing machine' (38). The most common phrase of Manglish is 'where got' which is a direct translation from a Malay phrase 'mana ada' or Mandarin phrase '哪里有 nà li yǒu.' The phrase 'where got' often refers to 'there is no such thing' in standard English. Just imagine if my friend, Peter, is wondering and says: 'did you just score 100 marks in Mathematics?'. In Manglish, I would say: 'where got,' instead of saying, 'there is no such thing.' I realized that Manglish's phrase is way too naive to even for the old generation's Malaysian, who has limited knowledge in English to pick up the meaning in a conversation and, of course, this is the reason why Manglish is popular with Malaysians to use for their daily conversation. 

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