9. “They think speaking in English isn’t good, you know”

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If language policies offer insights into a country’s national and cultural identity, Malaysia portrays a conflicted self. While the official stand is that English competence is highly valued and encouraged, this public discourse does not always accord with or prevail against deep-seated suspicions and hostilities that the language arouses in certain segments of the community. In an examination of the complex politics of English in Malaysia, this essay focuses on the schisms between state ideology, community practices and daily experiences of learners who seek to live and function in contested spaces. Bringing together micro and macro perspectives, it examines the reflective journal writings of Malay students engaged in the linguistic practice of English. By drawing on constructivism to theorize and examine the data, the analysis shows how the use of English in what is deemed ‘Malay spaces’ problematizes English, unwittingly positions it as the ‘linguistic other’ and implicates political, ideological and identity struggles.


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