Malay (Bahasa Malaysia in Malaysia, Bahasa Melayu in Brunei and Singapore) is the sole official language of Malaysia and Brunei, and one of the four official languages in Singapore. Standard Malay in these countries is closely related to the form of Malay that is the national language of Indonesia (Indonesian), and speakers of both languages can generally understand each other, but the main difference is the vocabulary: both have been influenced by among others Sanskrit, Arabic and Javanese, Indonesian has been influenced by Dutch, while Malay has been influenced by English, Tamil and Chinese.
Malay word order is subject-verb-object like English. There are no plurals, grammatical gender, or verb conjugation for person, number or tense, all of which are expressed with adverbs or tense indicators: saya makan, "I eat" (now), saya sudah makan, "I already eat" = "I ate".
A characteristic of Malay is that it is a so-called agglutinative language, which means that the suffixes are all attached to a base root. So a word can become very long. For example there is a base word hasil which means "result". But it can be extended as far as ketidakberhasilannya, which means his/her failure.
Note that Malay has two words which are equivalent to the English "we". If you intend to include the person(s) you are addressing, the word to use is kita. If the subject does not include your listener(s), then the correct word would be kami.
Malay can be written using two scripts; the Roman alphabet, known as Rumi as well as an Arabic-derived script known as Jawi. Today, Rumi is the more commonly used script, and is the official Malay script used in Singapore and Malaysia. In Brunei, Rumi and Jawi are co-official, though Rumi is by far the more commonly used script in daily life.
Malay is very easy to pronounce: it has one of the most phonetic writing systems in the world, with only a small number of simple consonants and relatively few vowel sounds. One peculiarity of the spelling is the lack for a separate sign to denote the schwa. It is written as an 'e' or as an 'a' at the ends of words, which can sometimes be confusing. (If you have plans to visit Kelantan, note that Kelantanese varies considerably in pronunciation and somewhat in vocabulary from standard Malay, but though the local dialect is widely used and promoted there, standard Malay is almost universally understood.)
like 'a' in "father", except at the ends of words, where it's a schwa in Singapore and most parts of Peninsular Malaysia other than Kedah and Kelantan (e.g., "nama," the word for "name," has an 'a' as in "father" in the first syllable and a schwa in the second)
like 'e' in "vowel" (schwa)
like 'e' in "bed"; usually, the difference between a schwa and an e is not indicated in writing
like 'ee' in "beet", sometimes like 'i' in "thin" in unstressed syllables; in final "ih" and "ik" combinations, like "eh."
like 'ow' in "low", but without the "w" sound
like 'oo' in "hoop", in open positions or like 'o' in “hope” in close positions, such as in final "uh" and "uk" combinations.
like 'b' in "bed"
like 'ch' in "China"
old spelling of c
like 'd' in "dog"
like 'ph' in "phone"
like 'g' in "go"
like 'h' in "help"; initial "h" is not always pronounced in some dialects
like 'j' in "jug"; in older romanizations also the vowel i
like 'c' in "cat"; at ends of words, a glottal stop like the stop some people use to pronounce "something" as "sump'n."
like 'ch' in "loch" or 'c' in "cat."
like 'l' in "love"
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
like 'p' in "pig"; unaspirated (i.e., no explosive sound) at the ends of words
like 'q' in "quest" (most commonly with "u", and only in Arabic borrowings)
like 'rh' in "rheumatism"
like 'ss' in "hiss"
like 'sh' in "sheep"
like 't' in "top"; unaspirated (i.e., no explosive sound) at the ends of words
like 'ph' in "phone" (only used in loanwords)
like 'w' in "weight"
like 'cks' in "kicks" (only used in loanwords)
like 'y' in "yes"
like 's' in "hiss", like 'z' in "haze", like 'dg' in "edge"
like the word "I"
like 'ow' in "cow"
like 'oy' in "boy"
Colloquial Bahasa Malaysia shortens commonly used words mercilessly.
sudah → dah
tidak → tak
hendak → nak
aku → ku
kamu → mu
-ku and -mu also act as suffixes: keretaku is short for kereta aku, "my car".
engkau → kau
you (usually only for addressing God or a lover)
How are you?
(Literally: What news?) Apa khabar? (AH-puh KAH-bar?)
Khabar baik. (Literally: Good news.) (KAH-bar BAEE[glottal stop].)
What is your name?
Siapa nama awak? (SAH-puh NAH-muh AH-wah[glottal stop]?')
Tidak. (TEE-dah[glottal stop]) or tee-DAH[glottal stop], Tak (TAH[glottal stop])
Boleh jadi. (BO-leh JAH-dee)
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
Maafkan saya. (mah'AHF-kahn SAH-yuh)
Selamat tinggal. (SLAH-maht tin-GAHL), Selamat jalan (SLAH-maht JAH-lahn) Usage note: "Selamat tinggal" means "Safe stay," while "Selamat jalan" means "Safe Trip," so whoever is leaving uses the former expression and whoever is staying replies with the latter expression.
I can't speak Bahasa Malaysia [well].
Saya tidak boleh cakap Bahasa Malaysia [baik]. (SAH-yuh TEE-dah[glottal stop] bo-leh CHAH-kahp ba-HAH-suh muh-LAY-shuh [BAY(glottal stop)])
Do you speak English?
Cakap Bahasa Inggeris? (CHAH-kahp ba-HAH-suh ING-grees)
Is there someone here who speaks English here?
Ada seorang yang cakap Bahasa Inggeris disini? (AH-duh suh-OH-rahng yahng CHAH-kahp bah-HAH-suh ING-grees dee-SEE-nee)
Selamat pagi. (SLAH-maht PAH-gee)
Selamat tengah hari. (SLAH-maht teng-ah-HAH-ree)
Selamat petang. (…puh-TAHNG)
Selamat malam. (…MAH-lam)
Good night (to sleep)
Selamat tidur. (…TEE-dor)
I don't understand.
Saya tak faham. (…SAH-yuh tah[glottal stop] fah-HAHM)
Where is the toilet?
Dimana tandas? (dee-MAH-nuh TAHN-dahs); on the East Coast of the Peninsula (e.g., Kelantan, Terengganu): Dimana jamban? (...JAHM-bahn). On the East Coast, "tandas" is considered stilted, but do not use "jamban" on the West Coast, where it's considered crude.
Leave me alone.
Jangan ganggu saya. (...)
Don't touch me!
Jangan pegang saya! (...)
I'll call the police.
Saya akan panggil polis. (...)
Berhenti! Perogol! ("...")
Berhenti! Pencuri! (...)
Please help me.
Tolonglah saya. (...)
It's an emergency.
Ini kecemasan. (...)
Saya tersesat. (...)
I lost my bag.
Saya hilang beg saya. (...)
I lost my wallet.
Saya hilang dompet saya. (...)
Saya sakit. (...)
I feel dizzy.
Saya rasa pening kepala. ("...")
I've been injured.
Saya terluka. (...)
Saya berdarah. ("...")
I need a doctor.
Saya perlu doktor. (...)
Can I use your phone?
Boleh saya guna telefon awak? (BO-leh SAH-yuh GOO-nuh TE-le-phone AH-wah[glottal stop]...)
sifar (formal)/kosong (colloquial)
dua puluh satu
dua puluh dua
dua puluh tiga
seribu seratus lima puluh dua
seribu dua ratus
seribu lima ratus
dua ribu seratus
dua puluh ribu
seratus lima puluh ribu
seratus lima puluh enam ribu seratus dua puluh lima
dua ratus lima puluh ribu / Suku juta (quarter of a million)
lima ratus ribu / setengah juta (half a million)
sejuta seratus lima puluh ribu
sejuta dua ratus lima puluh ribu
sejuta lima ratus ribu
sejuta tujuh ratus lima puluh ribu
number _____ (train, bus, etc.)
(keretapi, bas) nombor _____ (...)
tiga suku (...)
roughly (more or less)
pagi (0.00 – 10.30) (...)
tengahari (10.30 – 15.00) (...)
petang (15.00 – 19.00) (...)
malam (19.00 – 0.00) (...)
one o'clock AM
pukul satu pagi (...)
two o'clock AM
pukul dua pagi (...)
one o'clock PM
pukul satu petang (...)
two o'clock PM
pukul dua petang (...)
tengah malam (...)
_____ saat (SAH'aht)
_____ minit (MI-nit)
_____ jam (jahm)
_____ hari (HAH-ree)
_____ minggu (MEENG-goo)
_____ bulan (BOO-lahn)
_____ tahun (tah-HOON)
_____ hour(s) and _____ minute(s)
If the minute is in numbers, _____jam _____ minit. If the minute is expressed as a fraction of the hour e.g two and a half hour: dua jam setengah. (NOT dua setengah jam)
hari ini (...)
In peninsular Malaysia: semalam (se-mah-lam), kelmarin (kuh-MAR-reen) (in Borneo)
the day before yesterday
besok (Bay-SOH[glottal stop) or esok
the day after tomorrow
three days after today
minggu ini (MEENG-goo EE-nee)
minggu lepas (MEENG-goo luh-PAHS)
minggu depan (MEENG-goo deh-PAHN)
Writing time and date
pukul satu, satu minit
pukul satu suku
pukul satu duapuluh
pukul satu setengah
pukul satu empat puluh
pukul satu empat puluh lima
The hours are written from zero to 12. So 06.00 PM is written as 6.00PM.
First one should write the day, after that the month and then the year.
August 17th 1945
17 Ogos 1945
Bus and train
How much is a ticket to _____?
Berapa harga tiket ke _____? (buh-RAH-puh HAHR-guh TEE-ket kuh _____)
I want to buy one ticket to _____.
Saya nak beli satu tiket ke _____. (SAH-yuh nah[glottal stop] blee SAH-too TEE-ket kuh _____)
Where does this train/bus go?
Tren/bas ini pergi kemana? (tren/bahs EE-nee puhr-GEE kuh-MAH-nuh)