Have you ever just listened to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s speeches and be like…
We mean no disrespect (please don’t sedition us), but apparently we’re not the only ones feeling that way. Look up Muhyiddin’s speeches on Twitter recently, and you’re bound to find some complaints over how long-winded they are and how seemingly little content were in them.
But does Muhyiddin really have a tendency to give unnecessarily long speeches? Being writers ourselves, some of us can sympathize with how hard it is to write stuff that’s just the right length without boring the crap out of people. Sometimes you can summarize things as good as you can, and people still feel that you’re being cheong hei just to hit that word count.
To find out whether the length and girth of his speeches were real or imaginary, today we’ll be analyzing some of them. And the very first thing we noticed was that…
They may seem long because… he speaks kinda slowly
For this mini, semi-scientific study, we’ll be looking at three of his speeches:
- His first speech on Mar 2, 2020: “Rayuan Kepada Rakyat Malaysia“, henceforth known as [Speech 1]
- His iconic speech where we first heard of Mak Cik Kiah on Mar 27, 2020: “Pakej Rangsangan Ekonomi Prihatin Rakyat (PRIHATIN)“, henceforth known as [Speech 2] and
- His sorta-long speech on Jan 18, 2021: “Pengumuman Khas Pakej Bantuan Perlindungan Ekonomi & Rakyat Malaysia (PERMAI)“, henceforth known as [Speech 3]
Right off the bat, we can see that the titles get progressively longer, but that’s none of our business. By using a word counter tool and by listening to the speech recordings, we divided the number of words in each speech by how long his speech lasted to get a rough talking speed in words per minute (wpm). Here are the results:
- [Speech 1] has 1,025 words and lasted for 12 mins 44 seconds, 80.5 wpm
- [Speech 2] has 3,574 words and lasted for 41 mins 33 seconds, 86.0 wpm
- [Speech 3] has 3,524 words and lasted for 42 mins 0 seconds, 83.9 wpm
These numbers may not be accurate, since there are long words with multiple syllables (like Bismillahirrahmanirrahim) or doubles (like kanak-kanak) that count as one, and multiple words showing up as one word in the text (4,649 and COVID-19 were read as ‘empat ribu enam ratus empat puluh sembilan‘ and ‘COVID sembilan belas‘, for example). We hope those cancel each other out, so we’re using a modest estimate of 85 wpm for the Prime Minister.
So is 85 wpm too slow or fast?
It seems that the most common numbers quoted for talking speeds are
- between 100-150 wpm for presentations
- between 120-150 wpm for normal conversations
- between 150-160 wpm for radio hosts and podcasters
Although these numbers are used for the English-speaking world, they roughly show that Muhyiddin’s speeches are quite slow at 85 wpm. So it’s totally not weird to feel like he’s taking his sweet time to get his points across. On the plus side, though, the slow speech probably makes it easier for the sign language interpreters at the bottom of the screen to translate his speech on the spot, so that’s nice.
Well, that’s it on the delivery part. What about the content? After editing, we’ve found that…
These speeches can be cut down by between 25 to 50%
Determining what can be cut out is a bit tricky, since what’s necessary is really open to interpretation. For example, [Speech 1] is mainly Muhyiddin telling everyone what happened that led to him becoming PM, which may seem necessary to people who actually cared about political drama, but not so necessary to the carefree rakyat munching on Super Ring at home. In this case, we can argue that maybe about 5% of [Speech 1] is unnecessary to the first kind of people, and 100% of it is unnecessary to the second kind of people.
So for the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at the titles of those speeches and cutting out some things not directly related to what the titles are about. These include, but are not limited to:
a. buttering up the rakyat, the government, or other entitiesb. extensive examples and/or synonyms c. obvious things that could be left out without disturbing the context/repeating stuff that had been said before We’ll be cutting these parts out of the speeches, as well as doing other things like:
- Summarizing parts that use too many words to get a simple point across
- Keeping some parts that may seem unnecessary, but give the speeches a ‘Muhyiddin flavor‘ like greetings and anecdotes
- Making sure that the revised speeches still read as a human speech instead of a list of points
- Doing the rewrite in Bahasa Malaysia so that the word count difference won’t be compromised through translation
That being said, if want to commission us to write speech can oso *wink wink*. Anyways, here are the results of shortening them:
Well, our shortening of his speeches may not be perfect, but based on everything we’ve learned so far…
On average, Muhyiddin’s speeches could have taken about half less time
Okay, so let’s assume that the more compact version of the speeches were used, and Muhyiddin reads them at a conversational speed of 120 words per minute. How much of a difference would it make? Well…
- [Speech 1], which took 12 mins 44 secs, would end 8 mins 41 secs sooner. (68.2% reduction)
- [Speech 2], which took 41 mins 33 secs, would end 19 mins 6 secs sooner. (46.0% reduction)
- [Speech 3], which took 42 mins, would end 24 mins 59 secs sooner. (59.5% reduction)
Those are quite substantial numbers, and if we weren’t so lazy with shortening the text of his speeches, we’re sure we could make them a lot shorter.
So in conclusion, no, it’s not just a gut feeling: Muhyiddin really is quite long-winded when it comes to giving speeches. In his defence, though, the seemingly inefficient delivery of his speeches may be easier to digest for some people, and some might find it appealing or endearing. In fact, people probably started calling Muhyiddin ‘Abah’ after listening to his fatherly speeches, although netizens had slammed later endearing terms like ‘pak ngah Hisham’ and ‘pak long Mail’ to refer to Datuk Dr Noor Hisham and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, because it’s cringe.
“We see the reaction of the rakyat is that they feel more relaxed, calmer, and comfortable with the style of Tan Sri Muhyiddin as Prime Minister. His easy-going style and speeches that are easily explained to the people have gone down well with society,” – Md Shukri Shuid, political analyst, as quoted by NST in June 2020.
Anyhway, stretching even further, the extra parts and slow talking speed may be just Muhyiddin’s team employing the concept of ‘ma’ used in Miyazaki films, which are period of emptiness sprinkled in a delivery to give the audience time to process what’s going on.
“We have a word for that in Japanese. It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally. [claps his hands] The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. but if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.” – Hayao Miyazaki, as quoted by No Film School.
Ooooor maybe he’s just slow. Either way, if the glacial pace of his speeches annoy you, do what we do: wait a few hours for MalaysiaKini to come up with a good summary. We love those guys.