GEORGE TOWN: The 2023 Prime Minister’s Cup in the international Malay language public speaking competition saw two young women from Uzbekistan achieve first and second placing.
The champion Gulzoda Utkurova, 19, and runner-up Sarvinoz Akramova, 20, are both students at the Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies.
Utkurova left an indelible impression on the judging panel with her impassioned speech on the value of bilingualism and how the Malay language had ignited a “second spirit” within her.
Meanwhile, Akramova pressed on the importance of becoming an exceptional graduate who contributes positively to society.
Their remarkable achievement also came with prize money of RM10,000 for Utkurova as champion and RM8,000 for Akramova for her second-place finish.
At a press conference after the event held at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) yesterday, both women spoke in fluent Malay and told reporters that they were eager to take part in the competition.
For Akramova, learning Malay was a natural choice: “Our country’s president encouraged us to learn Bahasa and foster ties with Malaysia. There are many Malaysian tourists visiting our country, and learning the language allows us to serve as tour guides and also work as translators, too.”
Akramova’s teacher, Sabariah Sulaiman, was elated to witness her student’s expertise in Bahasa, despite beginning her studies in August. “We started off with online classes, and then I flew over to Uzbekistan to provide her and many others Bahasa classes,” she said.
The Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) lecturer said UPSI has been sending its language instructors to Uzbekistan on short-term assignments since 2017 due to the high demand for Bahasa classes at their universities.
Mazura Muhammad, UPSI’s dean of language and communication, said it was no surprise that the two women excelled in the Prime Minister’s Cup, with their fellow Uzbeks having previously won it in 2019 and 2021.
“It’s a hattrick this year, winning this Cup for the third time. But it was not surprising though, considering that over 10 Uzbeks made it to the qualifying rounds this year,” she said.
Foreign participants made their mark in other categories of the Prime Minister’s Cup as well. Carla Goncalves de Oliveira Sarmento of Timor-Leste won first place in the international students in Malaysia category.
The chemical engineering PhD student at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) gave an enlightening speech on lessons from the Nusantara on resolving conflicts and avoiding wars. She walked away with RM10,000.
In the local “Alam Melayu” category, Mukhlisul Mubin Julasapiyah, a second-year law student at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), advocated for the urgent adaptation of the Malay language to incorporate the latest English terms, in order to ensure its relevance.
The Prime Minister’s Cup, first hosted in 2007, has attracted participants from around the world, promoting the international use of the Malay language.