11 January 2014


On Thursday, as I was driving home, I was listening to the evening news on the Nasional FM radio channel, and there was an item about some new facility for students preparing for their exams. A student was asked for her opinion about it, and in her reply, she said:

if ada question yang unexpected keluar, ...
if have question which unexpected come-out, ...

Code switching is of course very widespread among young people in Brunei; but the extent of the mixing in this extract is the greatest I have come across. The student was alternating English and Malay words.

Such alternation is only possible in cases where the structure of the two languages is similar. For example, the Malay relative pronoun yang is almost identical to the English 'which', so it is straightforward to switch for just that word. And I am pretty sure that this student would usually have longer stretches in each language. Nevertheless, I thought that the fluency of this mixing was impressive.

I'm not sure that the authorities would agree, though. She was cut off rather quickly, as the news bulletin is entirely in Malay, and the presenters almost never include English words in their news reports.