03 April 2011

Language of the TV News

As part of my effort to learn Malay, I try to watch the news in Malay every day, especially the 8:00 pm news on the Malaysian channel, TV1. (My apartment is in a valley, so I can't receive the Brunei RTB channel.) But one of the things I find irritating about the TV1 news is how much of it is in English.

Take, for example, the 8:00 TV1 news on 1 April 2011. There were five segments in English (accompanied with subtitles in Malay):
  • 15 sec: an extract from a speech by Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia
  • 14 sec: an interview with an economist
  • 9 sec, 19 sec, 20 sec: three extracts from a speech by the Head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Malaysia
Well, OK, I guess that a total of 75 seconds is not a huge amount in a one-hour news bulletin, so I shouldn't really complain.

I also need to admit that the TV1 news is not broadcast for my amusement; and in reality, the inclusion of a few segments in English is actually quite enlightened, for two reasons:
  • It is helpful to remind viewers that knowledge of foreign languages, especially English, is rather important in the modern world.
  • It is valuable to allow people to hear the original tone of voice in the speech of people from around the world.
In contrast, most channels in the UK, including the BBC, usually dub all non-English material into English. This is really unfortunate for two reasons:
  • It reinforces the belief among people in England that there is no need to learn a foreign language. It kind of suggests that folks around the world who aren't speaking English should be.
  • It prevents people from hearing the actual words of world leaders, including the President of France (Nicolas Sarkozy) and the Chancellor of Germany (Angela Merkel).
That is one reason why I never ever watch the BBC news. It annoys me too much. And, in the end, I can accept and even applaud the approach adopted by the Malaysian channel.