Bahasa Malaysia or Bahala Melayu, the Malay language of Malaysia, may not be one of the top choices of many when they want to learn a new language. But it’s one of the languages that one will quickly learn and it will come handy.
It’s easy to learn Malaysian because it’s a simple language; however, it also has its own challenges.
It would take at least three months to speak like the locals but at least 36 weeks is needed to be fluent and to master it grammatically.
In this article, we’ll further discuss why it’s easy to learn the Malaysian language, the benefits of learning it, and some tips to help you. Read on to discover more about learning Bahasa Malaysia!
What is the Malaysian language?
Malay is the official language in Malaysia. It is largely spoken in countries in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
In Malaysia, the official language and mother tongue of the native Malay is Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu. Malaysia may be a diverse country with various languages and dialects but even non-Malay locals here speak the national language.
Why is the Malaysian language worth learning?
Learning Malaysian, even just a few words or phrases,could be an advantage when you’re on a vacation trip in Malaysia. While many locals could understand and converse in English, there are still some who couldn’t.
The Malaysian language is also worth learning because Malaysia is a country with a growing economy. There are plenty of great working and business opportunities here.
So, if you’re planning to conduct business or to work in Malaysia, it’s handy to know the language that locals use.
Forms and many government functions are usually in the Malaysian language. Employees in the government are locals, some of which may not have a good command of English so there may be miscommunication with them.
As such, foreigners who plan to stay in Malaysia should be skillful enough to converse in Malaysian.
Learning Malay or Malaysian is also useful if you plan to travel, move into, or do business in other Malay-speaking countries due to the similarities in their languages.
How long will it take to learn Malaysian?
As a general rule, if you plan to learn Malaysian, then you need about 3 months to have conversational competency. Learning a new language takes time, depending on how fluent you want to be.
If you’re an English speaker, you’ll need to allot 900 hours or 36 weeks to be fluent in Malaysian because of its cultural and linguistic difference to English.
Nevertheless, it’s easier and faster to learn Malaysian if you’re from Indonesia and Singapore because of the similarities in the languages among these countries.
However, take note that there are also some factors that could affect the time it will take you to learn Malaysian or even Malay language, in general.
For example, someone who has prior language experience will also take less time to learn a new language because they could already recognize patterns already.
Additionally, learning methods, individual learning speed and ability, and frequency of study could also affect your time to learn Malaysian.
Why Malay is Generally Easy to Learn
The Malaysian language is quite easier to grasp than other Asian languages for a couple of reasons.
- Malay has a simple structure. Malay, including Bahasa Melayu, has simple grammar rules and sentence structures.
Likewise, it’s easy to learn because it has no conjugations, plurals, verb tenses, and gender. This means that you’ll quickly gain fluency because you won’t have to learn various versions of a verb or a word.
- Malay is not a tonal language. Those who don’t speak tonal languages will find Malay straightforward. They wouldn’t find it hard to understand and imitate the pronunciation of the words as these are directly as they’re spelled.
- Malay is easy to adapt to. Malay is related to a couple of Asian, African, and Even European languages so those who could speak these languages can quickly learn it.
- Malay is an agglutinative language but it’s easy to follow. Malay uses several affixes that would easily form a different word with a different meaning.
This means that you could quickly change verbs or even the number of the word. It also helps in widening your Malay vocabulary.
Is Malay easy to learn for English speakers?
Malay is particularly easy for English speakers to master Malay because Malay and English have the same script – Latin. Many English words are also adopted in the local tongue.
When learning an Asian language, script is a generally a common challenge, especially if it doesn’t use Latin script that English speakers know.
However, Malay is one of the exceptions as it’s one of the few Asian languages that uses Latin script like the English language. Because of this, English speakers could easily absorb the Malaysian language.
In addition, Malay adopted English words. It’s no secret that Malay borrowed several words and phrases from English that would sound and look familiar to English speakers.
Therefore, it’s easy for them to adapt the Malay vocabulary should they decide to learn the language. For example, chocolate cake in Malay is “kek coklat”, biscuit is “biskut”, and chili sauce is “sos chili”.
Tips in Learning Malaysian
When you’re trying to learn a new language like Malay or Bahasa Melayu, it’s helpful to study regularly so you should have a schedule you could stick with. Consistency is one of the keys in mastering a new language.
However, if you’re about to learn the Malaysian language, here are some useful tips to help you speak like a local with ease:
1. Surround yourself with locals and speak with them regularly.
Immersion and imitation are two of the best ways to learn Malay.
To be fluent in Malay, you need to learn by your ears. This is why it’s important to talk with native Malay speakers even in small conversations or to at least observe how they speak with each other.
It’s also recommended to ask help from your Malay speakers in your area like your neighbors or your Malay-speaking friends so they could help you practice with them.
You could also imitate the locals in Malaysia to know how they sound, their pronunciation, and even their facial expressions. This will also even help you master how to use “lah”.
It’s also possible to find online groups and fora where you can engage with Malay speakers. Sometimes, they also have free online lessons that could help you improve.
2. Immerse yourself with what Malaysians consume.
As part of practicing your ability to understand the Malaysian language, you should consider consuming what the locals do. Read books, watch movies and television shows, and listen to music that are all in the local language.
Experiencing the local culture, even if it’s pop culture, is a quick way to improve and master the Malaysian language. You’d be surprised with the amount of new vocabulary you’d gain just by listening to their music even during Hari Raya.
If you’re only a beginner in the Malaysian entertainment scene, you could start with children’s shows like the famous Upin & Ipin, Didi And Friends, or Boboiboy. It’s easy to pick up words and phrases from these shows, even basic local expressions.
3. Know the difference between formal and informal Malay.
While we recommend watching Malaysian shows and movies, they mostly use informal or colloquial Bahasa Melayu which is called bahasa pasar.
Meanwhile, there’s also a formal or standard version of this language which is called bahasa baku. It’s the language that’s commonly used on news reports and during official ceremonies.
It’s recommended to learn both these versions of the Malaysian language, especially the pronunciation and phonetics. It will help you distinguish one from the other and help you understand the language better.
Difference Between Formal and Informal Malay
4. Know the local slang.
Of course, Malaysia is just like any other country so it has its own set of slang and expressions. Speaking like the locals do will help you blend in with Malaysian society.
Knowing how Malaysians describe persons, places, or things will help you have a better command of the language. Plus, it’s an extra trick up your sleeve when you use these colloquial expressions when talking with the locals, especially when giving compliments.
Just remember that one of the etiquettes in Malaysia is not to praise or compliment too much someone you’ve just been acquainted with. Locals might think it’s rude or creepy.
5. Enrich your vocabulary whenever you have the chance.
One of the best ways to quickly learn Malaysian is to look up new Malaysian words and try using them in conversations.
Aside from picking up words from locals, movies, books, or music, you should also look for and memorize one or two words in Malaysian dictionaries every day.
It may sound like a basic and simple task but when you do this for at least three months, you’ll gain significant progress in learning Malaysian.
6. Enroll in language centers and use learning apps.
It’s also no secret that enrolling in a language center is always helpful when you want to learn a new language, even if it’s a simple language that’s easy to learn like Malaysian.
This will help you establish a consistent learning pattern and there are instructors who’re always available to teach you or answer your queries.
Likewise, there are various resources, free mobile apps, and even flashcards that are readily available online which you can use. They mostly have step by step guides, instructions, and quizzes that are curated with the help of Malaysian language experts.