Tan Hak Heng in Jawi

This brought a smile to my face when I saw it, walking along a road in Johor Bahru. A Chinese name written in Jawi script as well.


What is Jawi? Wikipedia explains it:

Jawi (Jawi: جاوي‎ Jāwī; Pattani: Yawi; Acehnese: Jawoë) is an Arabic alphabet for writing the Malay language, Acehnese, Banjarese, Minangkabau, and several other languages in Southeast Asia.

Jawi is one of the two official scripts in Brunei, and is used as an alternate script in Malaysia. Usage wise, it was the standard script for the Malay language but has since been replaced by a Latin alphabet called Rumi, and Jawi has since been relegated to a script used for religious and cultural purposes. Day-to-day usage of Jawi is maintained in more conservative Malay-populated areas such as Kelantan in (northern) Malaysia and Pattani (in southern Thailand).

It interests me because I am learning Arabic, in weekly lessons, and as I learn every new word in the regular Roman script, I find myself looking for the word as spelt in the actual Arabic script. It’s not listed in the course I’m using, so I have to look for it online. And it has slowed down my learning quite a lot ever since I started doing this, because I’m basically learning to spell with a different script than the Roman letters I’m used to. The effort is worth it, though. It helps with making sure I get the correct pronunciation, I find.

And sometimes as I do that, I think of how wonderful it would be if the Malay language still solely uses Jawi, because I think it’s largely a lost art in many parts of the Malay-speaking world. In terms of everyday usage by the Malays, I mean. We already learned the Roman script in school to read and write English, so it would be nice to have ‘our own’ script for our Malay language, just like the Chinese has for their Mandarin language, and the Indians for their Tamil language, here in Singapore.

I regret not taking an interest to learn it from my late father, who was not only well-versed in writing Malay in Jawi script, but was skillful in Arabic calligraphy, so he wrote beautifully. He was very artistic. Whereas here I am, my writing so comically awful, as I practise writing in Arabic alphabets as I spell out the words I learn. I hope it will improve over time.

Looking at the name ‘Tan Hak Heng‘ in Jawi in the photos made me smile and laugh to myself because it reminded me of when I first tried to write my own name months ago. I was embarrassed to discover I got it so wrong, haha! Fortunately for us Malays in Singapore, our name in Jawi script is actually provided in our national Identity Card (which is pretty cool, actually), so I know the correct spelling.



Day 35

happy meter: pleasantly surprised