Penang, Malaysia



Almost all locals in Penang are able to speak Malay, the national language of Malaysia. The ethnic Chinese in Penang (who form the majority) usually speak a localized Chinese dialect of Hokkien known as "Penang Hokkien", which uses local slang and some words loaned from Malay. Thus, Hokkien speakers from Taiwan and China's Fujian province may have initially difficulty understanding the Hokkien spoken in Penang.

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Georgetown, Penang

Backstreet in Georgetown

Most ethnic Chinese are also able to speak Mandarin, and some are able to speak another Chinese dialect known as Cantonese. Ethnic Indians usually converse with each other in Tamil and ethnic Malays usually converse with each other in Malay. Malay is a common language spoken when different races communicate with each other and English is often used among Penang's educated elite. A good number of Indian and Malays from Penang are conversant in "Penang Hokkien".

Georgetown, Penang

Bilingual signboard in Georgetown

English is a required subject in Malaysian schools and nearly all teenagers and adults are able to speak in English though the level of fluency may vary. English is spoken fluently by most professionals and businessmen, as well as by service staff working in hotels and those often interacting with tourists. Others are able to communicate at least in broken English, supplemented by non-verbal forms of communication such as pointing and gesturing.

Batu Ferringhi, Penang

Signboards in English

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