Do Malaysians Speak Good English or Malaysian English in Malaysia?
Er, yes we do – Malaysians Speak Good English to visitors and Manglish to each other.
You speak to any Malaysian as you often do in English.
They will reply to you in Malaysian English.
They think it’s English, you hear it but just can’t comprehend…
Most Malaysian speak in more than a few languages.
Generally, Malaysians speak, read and write in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin.
The Indians speak, read, and write Tamil.
When it comes to language — or languages, Malaysia hosts an impressive 137 languages, dialects, and indigenous sub-dialects throughout the nation.
Learning Malaysian English (Manglish)
Welcome to Malaysia and Selamat Datang!
Visitors to Kuala Lumpur, George Town, and Ipoh are often impressed by the command of the English language by the locals.
“Why is your English so good?”
Malaysian English, formally known as Malaysian Standard English, is a form of English used and spoken in Malaysia.
Malaysians grow up with a good mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian friends.
All Malaysians tend to mix certain words from the language of these 3 groups into one English sentence!
For ethnic Indians, the mother tongue is often Tamil; while for ethnic Chinese, it’s commonly Cantonese or Hokkien.
For the Malays, they speak Bahasa Melayu. Basically, to Malaysians, English is their second language.
What is Malaysian English or Manglish?
While Malaysian English can encompass a range of English spoken in Malaysia, it is distinct from the colloquial form commonly called Manglish.
“Manglish (or sometimes Mangled English) is an English-based creole spoken in Malaysia.
The vocabulary of Manglish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, and Malayalam.
Generally, most Malaysians are bilingual or even trilingual. Yes, Malaysians know exactly what each other means.
To a natural English speaker (British, American, and Canadian) you may think Malaysians speak gibberish.
As with many creoles, tenses and plurals are simplified, as is sentence construction.
Malaysians use words from other languages in a sentence that may contain a mix of 3 languages.
These words sometimes have no direct translation.
Ane, I want to tapau Mee Goreng.
In actual fact the sentence is made up of Tamil, English, Cantonese (Chinese dialect), and Malay!
Ane – Elder brother (Tamil)
I want to – self-explanatory (English)
Tapau – Takeaway (Cantonese)
Mee Goreng – Fried Noodles (Malay)
Let’s start by saying hello to a Malaysian.
Malaysians say Halo! Instead of Hello!
So if you want to be friends and understand your new friend perfectly, you will realize that when they speak their charming version of English – it’s quite different from what you think!
Even the English words take on new meanings.
Let’s check out the Malaysian English Translation and that Malaysian English Accent.
Hey, what accent? You mean we speak with an accent? No LAH!
A typical conversation with a Malaysian is quite an experience for a foreigner.
A Malaysian may smile and say “Halo! Can I friend you?”
- Friend – in this instance is often is used as a verb, such as “Can I befriend you?”
- Stay – Malaysians will ask “Where you stay?” instead of “Where do you live?”
Right after some chitchat, most Malaysians will ask their new friend to join them for a “kopi” (coffee), “teh Tarik” (milky tea), or some “makan” (a snack).
- Is it? – The catch-all tag, for example – “We go out later, is it?” or even “We go kopi can?”
After some time, you may be accepted and invited to come along and go outstation.
Normally this means a short drive from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh or Penang and vice versa.
- Outstation – any long trip out of the city, for example, “Wanna go outstation makan trip next week?”
- Revert – Originally this revert means to return to. Malaysian say “Please revert” instead of please reply.
- Convoy – to travel in a group of cars, as “Let’s convoy to the restaurant”.
- OK – often linked with “lah”, it means moderately good rather than mediocre. “Okay Lah?” – “Yes, I’ll do that.” “Okay Lor” – I don’t really want to do it. And “Okay Meh?” – Are you sure this is okay?
- Jam – “Is it very jam now?” This means, “Is the traffic very bad now?” If you’re in a cab and you ask this, the driver will tell you the traffic.
- So what do Malaysians say at an eatery?
- Already – used rather than “now”, so “Eat already?” – Have you had your meal? and “He’s so fat already”.
- Makan (Malay) – Eat as in “What do you want to makan?” Or even “Makan?”
- Minum (Malay) – Drink as in “What do you want to drink?” Or even “Minum?”
- Boss – a common form of address, particularly in street stall eateries, such as “Order boss”
Uncle or Auntie – an informal but respectful term for anyone older than you. Sometimes pronounced and written as Unker and Untie.
So if you don’t want to call someone Boss, you can use Uncle or Auntie.
So now you know, Malaysians aren’t all related to each other or the people selling us the food.
How to order like a Malaysian?
- Or not – This one can or not? Is this spicy or not? These give different expressions to what you mean.
- Take – in terms of food, it means “like”, for example, “I don’t take spice”.
- Not bad – means quite good; add “at all”, and it’s even more positive.
- “How you like the makan?’ “Not bad at all!”
If you’re feeling generous or just won Toto, Magnum, or 4D, you might want to “belanja” your new friends a nice “makan”.
- Kira (Malay) – “Kira semua boss” – send me the bill. To which your friends will say in unison “Wahhhh belanja! Thank you!”
- Belanja (Malay) – “I belanja you makan lor” – I treat you dinner.
- After dinner, your Malaysian friend will send you home…
- Send – to give someone a lift, such as “I send you home lah”.
Warning: Manglish can be addictive — please use Manglish responsibly.
Tell me if you remember any amusing conversation with a Malaysian.