Malaysia Country Guide

Talk

 
 

Malay
The sole official language of Malaysia is Malay, which is very similar and to a large extent, mutually intelligible with Indonesian. Some parts of Malaysia near the Thai border, most notably Kelantan, have dialects of Malay which are nearly incomprehensible to speakers of standard Malay, though most people in these areas will be able to converse in standard Malay if needed.

 
 
 
 
Save on your hotel - HotelsCombined.com
 
 
 
 
Street market in Kuala Lumpur
Street market in Kuala Lumpur

Use of English
English is compulsory in all schools and widely spoken in the larger cities, although in rural areas a little Malay will come in handy. There is also a colloquial form of English spoken among Malaysians in urban areas, not inappropriately known as Manglish, which takes a bit of getting used to if you intend to join in the conversation on local topics. Malaysians will almost always try to speak 'standardized English' when approached by Western travellers. In general, police stations, hospitals and government offices will have English-speaking staff on duty.

Chinese & Indian Languages
The Chinese community in Malaysia speaks a wide variety of Chinese dialects including Cantonese, Mandarin, Teo-chew, Hakka, Hainanese, Hok-chew and Hokkien. Mandarin is taught in most Chinese schools while Cantonese is commonly heard in the mass media due to the popularity of TVB serials from Hong Kong among the Chinese community, so many are conversant in both, in addition to their native dialect. The most commonly spoken Indian language is Tamil; others include Malayalam, Punjabi and Telugu.

Jonker Street in Melaka City
Jonker Street in Melaka City
Arabic
Arabic is taught to those who attend Islamic religious schools, and many clerics as well as other very observant Muslims will have a functional command of Arabic. However, it is not widely spoken, though the Malay language does have a large number of loan words from Arabic. You also might notice some examples of Malay written with Arabic letters. This is called Jawi, and it is still used for religious publications and inscriptions, especially in conservative states like Kelantan, although the Latin alphabet is much more commonly used throughout the country.

Other Local Languages
In the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia bordering Thailand, there are various ethnic Thai communities, known locally as the Orang Siam, who speak various dialects of Thai. Malacca in the south is also home to a Portuguese community which speaks a Portuguese based creole. The remote forest areas of Peninsular Malaysia are also home to various tribal people known as the Orang Asli, who speak various indigenous languages such as Semelai, Temuan and many others. In East Malaysia several indigenous languages are also spoken, especially Iban and Kadazan.

 
Malaysia
Country Guide
Hotels in Malaysia
 
Click here for the best hotel deals - HotelsCombined.com

Guide Southeast Asia  l  About Site  l  Terms of Use  l  Privacy Policy  l  Creative Commons  l  Site Map  l
Written content sourced and credited to this Wikitravel page.