Understand Malaysian Language and ManglishPosted on Oct 08 in Malaysia Explorationby ShelynPrint
Most of us would think that as long as we master English, we will not have major problem when traveling from North Pole to South Pole, even people in Mongolia can speak basic English. But have we ever thought of language is not solely a channel to acquire information during travels? Being able to speak a few words of the local language allows us to assimilate into local culture which will lead to a more authentic and enjoyable travel experience.
So I’m going to introduce Malaysian language today which will explain some basic greetings/phrases and the pronunciation tips, as well as Manglish that my ex-colleagues from Europe picked up very fast.
Bahasa Malaysia (Malay Language) or BM (short form), is the official language in Malaysia. It’s compulsory to obtain a pass in BM for a student to receive a high school certificate. Despite this, English is also widely used and spoken, especially in business establishments. Children are exposed to the English language as early as pre-school. Hence, language is not a barrier for the tourists who speak English in Malaysia.
Since BM is the official language, billboards, signboards and public displays of writing are mostly in Bahasa Malaysia. Therefore, it would be useful to learn some words and BM pronunciation as the language is not very difficult to learn.
In the Malay language, words are pronounced as they are spelt and the rules make it quite simple to pick up this language. Unlike Chinese words that you need to recognize the pattern of each word and memorize its pronunciation.
Generally, words in BM are pronounced the same as those in the English Language, except for a few exceptions:
a – as the ‘a’ in ‘car’ or ‘star’.
e – as the ‘e’ in ‘lower’ for the majority of the words and as ‘a’ in ‘agent’ for certain words.
i – as in ‘sit’
o – as in ‘go’
u – as ‘oo’ in ‘too’
ai – as in ‘is’-land
au – as the ‘ow’ in ‘cow’
ua – sounds like ‘oo-a’ in ‘moo’ and ‘car’
c – as the ‘ch’ in ‘children’
g – as the ‘g’ in ‘gold’
ng – as the ‘ng’ in ‘sing’
h – as the ‘h’ in ‘house’
sy – as the ‘sh’ in ‘share’
ny – as the ‘ny’ in ‘canyon’
Note: the rest of consonants are similar to the pronunciation in English.
|English Phrases||Malay Phrases|
|Excuse me||Maafkan saya|
|Good morning!||Selamat Pagi|
|Good evening!||Selamat Petang|
|Welcome! (to greet someone)||Selamat Datang|
|How are you?||Apa Khabar?|
|I’m fine, thanks!||Khabar Baik, Terima Kasih|
|And you?||Bagaimana Dengan Anda?|
|Thank you (very much)!||Terima Kasih Berbanyak-Banyak|
|You’re welcome! (for “thank you”)||Sama-sama|
|Hey! Friend!||Hi, Kawan!|
|How much?||Berapa harganya?|
|Good night!||Selamat Malam|
|See you later!||Jumpa Lagi|
|Good Bye!||Selamat Jalan|
Learn more about basic phrases and play some games here http://digitaldialects.com/Malay.htm.
Ok, now let’s talk about Malaysian English, a local customized, very common spoken form of English in a casual or informal setting in Malaysia. Due to many dialects and languages in Malaysia like BM, Mandarin, Tamil, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, and many more dialects that are commonly used, we as creative Malaysians slowly modified English to blend in the elements of other languages and dialects resulting in an unique Malaysian English, we call it Manglish. And we all LOVE MANGLISH!
If you have ever visited Malaysia, you should have noticed how every Malaysian ends his/her sentence with a ‘lah’, e.g. ‘She is so pretty lah’ or ‘Cannot lah, I cannot sell you so cheap lah‘. ‘lah’ is an auxiliary word that is commonly used in BM, Cantonese, Hokkien and other dialects and thus, we use it in English and Mandarin as well. My ex-colleagues who are from Holland and Belgium love ‘lah’ so much that they use ‘lah’ in ANY context, regardless its appropriateness, which made us feel quite proud of our own customized Manglish as even foreigners like/respect our improper English.
However, there was once I visited China and our tour guide from China actually commented that even though Malaysians can speak many languages, we speak broken English and Mandarin. He sounded as though ‘Yeah, you Malaysians are multilingual, but which language do you actually master?’. Which I don’t 100% agree. We do speak our own ‘broken’ languages but we know how to speak them properly as well. Here in Malaysia, proper English and Mandarin are required when dealing with international affairs, in business and with customer services. Only when we communicate among locals, Manglish is preferred. It symbolizes the uniqueness of Malaysians for being multilingual and how we can mix and match different languages throughout one conversation. We just love playing this mix and match languages game.
Another characteristic about Manglish is that it’s designed for lazy people, who likes to shorten a 10 words sentence into 2-3 words sentence. Some Malaysians prefer to describe Manglish as simple, concise, and straight-to-point, but I personally think that we are just too creative in creating our own language to accommodate our laziness
Don’t believe me? Read some sample conversations below, comparison of the phrases that Malaysians and Britons use to convey the same message:
WHEN GIVING A CUSTOMER BAD NEWS
Britons: I’m sorry, Sir, but we don’t seem to have the sweater you want in your size, but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for you.
Malaysians: No Stock. (So called concise and straight forward – accuses to cover laziness)
RETURNING A CALL
Britons: Hello, this is John Smith. Did anyone page for me a few moments ago?
Malaysians: Hallo, who page ah?
ASKING SOMEONE TO MAKE WAY
Britons: Excuse me, I’d like to get by. Would you please make way?
Malaysians: S-kew me. (It’s not that we can’t pronounce EXCUSE me, it’s just that ‘EX’ require extra afford/strength to pronounce, so we skip it and jump straight to ‘S-kew’, as long as the receiver understands it.)
WHEN SOMEONE OFFERS TO PAY
Britons: Hey, put your wallet away, this drink is on me.
Malaysians: No need lahhhhh….. (‘lah’ is to emphasize NO NEED)
WHEN ASKING FOR PERMISSION
Britons: Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to enter through this door?
Malaysians: (pointing the door) can ar?
Britons: Please make yourself right at home.
Malaysians: Don’t be shy lah!
WHEN DOUBTING SOMEONE
Britons: I don’t recall you giving me the money.
Malaysians: Where got? (It’s direct translate from BM and Mandarin)
Ok, as a foreigner you don’t really need to learn the above conversations if you just come here for a short trip. As a businessman, the people that you deal with will most likely communicate with you in proper English. Manglish is mainly communicated among locals, or some expatriates that go natives like my ex-colleagues. However, there are some commonly used simple words that you can pick up immediately to demonstrate that you’re not a totally clueless tourist.
You can pick up the word ‘lah’ and use it when bargain the price in the street market. For example, when you’re not satisfied with the price offer, you can say ‘No lah, too expensive lah! 20 can?’. ‘Lah’ here is to emphasize your dissatisfaction in a friendly manner. Or when the boss reject to sell the item to you with RM20 (or your desired price), you can say ‘Can lah… 20 can lah’. Very simple and straight-forward. Who knows maybe the boss likes how you learn Manglish and immediately give you discount
Besides, the usage of the word, ‘boss‘ is not only limited to a superior at work. It is in fact commonly used especially when you’re at a mamak stall or restaurant, calling to their workers. It’s also used when a street peddler or market hawker address their customer. So don’t be shocked when someone call you ‘Boss’, it simply means that you have been targeted as their potential customer.
‘Ta Pao‘ is also widely used to connote ‘take away’ food. It’s a Chinese word that has been adopted by all races especially when ordering food from any hawker stalls, sometimes even from restaurants.
For example: ‘Boss! I want to ta pao roti canai.’
Ta pao is a simple term that you can use in hawker stalls or kopi-tiam. It’s also one of my colleagues’ favourite term.
Just came across this interesting criticism of Malaysian English, I wonder why would this forumer got so pissed off with Malaysian English as though English is the only MAIN obstacle for Malaysia to prosper, how hilarious:
I was dumbfounded recently running through Malaysian websites and forum groups with Malaysian participants. It is a nightmare trying to comprehend what they are trying to get across through their short cuts and slangs which honestly, only Malaysians understand.
On the other hand, meeting another Malaysian is a pleasant thing with their friendliness and so forth but I often find that their lack of proper English is a poverty in their culturally rich nation.
I had learnt all my life that Malaysian English is supposed to be British English but this is embarrasing for the Malaysian education system and society as general for their lack of improvement in their language.
All I hear of these days are corrupted English slangs and horrible spellings. What and how do Malaysians is going to move on this centuary with such disgrace in their language?
Kind of nuts to be so harsh about Malaysian English as if this forumer has already mastered Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Russian, Java and French so he has the authority to insult other nation’s English.
The source of above comment -> http://www.travelexpertguide.org/travel/Asia-Pacific/Can-039-t-Malaysians-speak-or-type-proper-English-435061.htm
Do you have any experience or funny encounter in learning foreign language on the road? Or any funny Manglish lines that you would like to share? Leave a comment here!