The imagined learner of Malay
By Anthea Fraser Gupta
University of Leeds
[Preprint version of Gupta, Anthea Fraser. 2003. In Jean-Marc Dewaele, Alex Housen & Li Wei (eds.). Bilingualism: Beyond Basic Principles. Festschrift in honour of Hugo Baetens Beardsmore. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. [ISBN 1-85359-626-4]
The selection of exemplary dialogues in self-teaching language books can reveal the way in which the learner of the language is imagined in the mind of the author. Seven textbooks aimed at the self-tuition of adults in Malay, through the medium of English, are examined. They reveal how the imagined learner has changed from the sea-faring trader of the pre-colonial period (Spalding 1614, Bowrey 1701), to the colonial master giving orders to his underlings (Keasberry 1862, Swettenham 1881, Lewis 1947) and experiencing rural Malaya (Lewis 1947), and finally to the the post-colonial residents of the egalitarian cities of Malaysia and Singapore (Liaw 1988, Zaharah & Sutanto 1995).
The imagined learner reflects the history of British colonial activity in the Malay region, and notions of Malay and Malays in the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods.