If you know English you will find it interesting to learn Malay. As the country used to be under British rule a lot of the English language has seeped into the Malay language. It might not be spelt the same way, it might sound a bit different when spoken but there are plenty of English words for the keen listener/observer to find. What follows is a brief example of common Malay words that are almost the same as in English. See if you can understand them all.
“You ride the bas to the post office to go to the kaunter to pay your bil. And then you go to the buku store to get something new to read. On the way there you feel a bit peckish so you buy a sosej in a bun, and some epal juice with ais to quench your thirst. In a shop window you see a leather beg and remember that your old one has a broken zipper. Then you keep walking and see a nice blaus in another shop window. You like it so much that you buy it and on the 50 ringit bill you pull from your wallet there is a picture of the gabenor. The cashier hands you the plastikbeg and you walk out of the store.”
There are of course plenty of words that are pure Malay, in which you can’t find any trace or history connected to the rule of the British. There are so many nationalities living in Malaysia and has been for years and years, all of them leaving words in the language. As it is in every country, in every corner of the world. And languages change over time, they evolve and new words are created as we humans invent new things and change our way of living. Back in 1852 no one knew there would ever be the need for a word like computer or wifi because those things didn’t exist. Other words lose their importance or their meaning is changed. When you read a text written a couple of hundred years ago in your native language you will stumble upon words you barely understand.
So I am trying to learn a new language, and it is not as easy as I wished it would be. Luckily all the Malaysians I have met so far have been kind and helpful in my endeavour. And not a single one has laughed at my pronunciation, at least not to my face. On the contrary, they have looked surprised and happy that I at least try to talk to them in their own language. And here is a tip if you ever plan to visit Malaysia; the first word you should learn is makan. It means eat.