MOST, if not all, languages in the world are evolving continuously, and Bahasa Malaysia (BM) is no exception. Just like the English language, BM sometimes has to borrow words from other languages which are then "Malaysianised", perhaps to suit our national identity. For example in the scientific world, names of chemical elements have been "Malaysianised" and then those words are used in our syllabus. There are other fields, e.g. the IT industry where many, many words have come into existence very rapidly. Apart from formal usage, some words like "dude" have also become commonplace in the younger generation.
When I was still in school, I can remember many, many BM words which were not imported from the English language. For example, we had perbahasan, perbincangan and penyesuaian, to name a few. However, because of the evolution of our national language, I can't help but notice that there is now a general preference to use words imported from the English language. Therefore, instead of perbahasan, we prefer pendebatan (debate); instead of perbincangan, we prefer diskusi (discussion); instead of penyesuaian, we prefer adaptasi (adaptation). In most cases, I suspect that this current trend has a lot to do with the perception of sophistication in the BM if the English-imported words are used instead of our good old-fashioned original Malay ones.
As the New Generation Director dealing with the Interactors, I've had the opportunities to have several casual conversations with secondary school students. In one such conversations, we somehow spoke about science and I brought up the word raksa, which is the Malay word for mercury. When I was still in school a hundred years ago, raksa was a very common word and every student would know its meaning. But the modern-day students don't know raksa. I actually spelt out the word for them, and still it didn't ring a bell. In the end I gave up and told them that raksa is mercury. They replied that as far as they're concerned, mercury, when translated into Malay is merkuri.
I looked up for raksa in my kamus as soon as I could and was relieved to find that it's still there! I suppose that means my knowledge in Malay is still relevant. Perhaps merkuri sounds a bit more sophisticated and modern than raska—I don't know—but someone in the Malaysian education system should decide, once and for all, which is the standard to be adopted. We can't keep moving back and forth from English to Malay to English.
So now that we've decided on merkuri, what is to become of raksa? Will it resurface again in the next generation? Or will it be forgotten for good this time?
If our national language must evolve, then let's evolve progressively—not changing back and forth over and over again.