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Malay Phrasebook

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Introduction

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Malay language is an Austronesian language spoken by the ethnic Malay and other ethnic groups in the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau islands and parts of the coast of Borneo. It incorporates elements of the languages of surrounding regions, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Arab, Chinese dialects, Portuguese, Spanish and English. Malay language was originally written in the Jawi script, which is an adaptation of the Arabic script. However, hundreds of years of European colonisation caused the romanisation of Malay language into using Latin alphabets, which makes it easier for their colonial masters to learn.

Malay language is an official language of the following Southeast Asian countries, where each uses a different name to refer to the language.

  • Brunei - Bahasa Melayu (Malay language)
  • Indonesia - Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language)
  • Malaysia - Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language)
  • Singapore - Bahasa Melayu (Malay language)
  • Timor-Leste - Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language)

Although they all are Malay language, Bahasa Indonesia has a distinct vocabulary compared with the other Malay-speaking countries. Indonesian also has many words that are unique and unfamiliar to the others. Malaysia and Singapore have the same accent and vocabulary, while Brunei and Malaysian Borneo has a slightly different accent.

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Basic Grammar

Pronunciation

Malay words are pronounced phonetically. Follow some simple rules and you are on the right track.

Consonant
Basically, consonants are pronounced the way they are in English, with a couple of exceptions.

  • c = /tʃʰ/ (chair)
  • g = /ɡ/ (go)
  • sy = /ʃ/ (shout) e.g. skuasy (squash), televisyen (television)

Vowel

  • a = ah /ɑː/ (father) In Malaysia and Singapore, if a word ends with an "a", that "a" has the ə (her) sound. (e.g. Saya (I/me) /sɑːyə/)
  • e = er /ə/ (her) For some words, ay /ɛ/ (café). e.g. meja /mɛ jɑː/ (table); sate /sɑːtɛ/ (satay).
  • i = ee /ɪ/ (sit)
  • o = oh /ɔː/ (no)
  • u = oo /ʊ/ (put)

These rules may be safely ignored if the word, mostly technical and modern technology terms, is borrowed from English language. e.g. televisyen, automatik, ambulans, komputer.

Plural

For plural terms, simply repeat the word. e.g. books: buku-buku; cars: kereta-kereta; people: orang-orang
However, when the context is already in plural, it cannot be repeated.

  • Three fingers - Tiga jari (correct); Tiga jari-jari (incorrect)
  • Many people - Banyak orang (correct); Banyak orang-orang (incorrect)

Past tenses

There is no past tense in Malay. To say something that's already happened, add the word sudah (already) before the verb.
e.g. Saya sudah makan. - I have already eaten.

However, this is not required if the context indicates that the action is in the past tense.
e.g. Dia pergi ke sekolah pagi tadi. - He went to school this morning.

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Useful Malay words and phrases

Note: The following are examples of Standard Malay in the Malaysian context, with some colloquial terms common to Malaysians and Singaporeans. These examples may also be used in Indonesia, in general.

Basic words

  • This - Ini / ni (colloquial)
  • That - Itu / tu (colloquial)
  • Am/Is/Are - Ialah | Adalah {Indonesian} (sometimes not required in a sentence. e.g. My name is Adam - Nama saya Adam)
  • And - Dan
  • Or - Atau
  • If - Jika or Kalau
  • Now - Sekarang
  • Later - Kemudian or Nanti (also means wait)
  • Like (similarity) - Seperti or Macam
  • (Dis)like - (Tak) Suka
  • Many/Few - Banyak / Sedikit or sikit
  • More/Less - Lebih/Kurang
  • Big/Small - Besar/Kecil
  • Long/Short - Panjang/Pendek /pɛndɛk/ (péndék)
  • Fat/Thin - Gemuk/Kurus
  • Fast - Cepat or Laju (speed)
  • Slow - Lambat or Perlahan (speed)
  • Early/Late - Awal/Lewat

Prepositions and directions

  • At - Di
  • By (me) - Oleh /ɔːlɛh/ (o-layh)
  • With - Dengan
  • From - Dari (used for places/things) or Daripada (used for people/establishment)
  • To - Ke /kə/ (kuh)
  • For - Untuk
  • Here/There - Sini/Sana
  • Inside/Outside - Dalam/Luar
  • Front/Back - Depan/Belakang
  • Next to - Sebelah
  • Opposite - Seberang
  • Up/Down - Atas/Bawah
  • Left/Right - Kiri/Kanan
  • Middle - Tengah (also means in the midst of)
  • North/South/East/West - Utara/Selatan/Timur/Barat
  • Centre - Pusat

Greetings and parting

  • How are you? - Apa khabar? | Apa kabar? {Indonesian}
  • Welcome - Selamat datang
  • Good morning - Selamat pagi
  • Good day (after 10am to 3pm) - Selamat siang {Indonesian}
  • Good afternoon (noon to 1pm) - Selamat tengah hari
  • Good afternoon (1pm to 6pm) - Selamat petang
  • Good afternoon (after 3pm to 6pm/before sunset) - Selamat sore {Indonesian}
  • Good evening/night (after 6pm/when night falls) - Selamat malam
  • Goodbye - No direct equivalent. Colloquially, bye-bye.
  • Have a safe trip/journey (Bon voyage) - Selamat jalan
  • See you again - Jumpa lagi | Sampai jumpa lagi {Indonesian}

Terms of address

  • I/Me - Saya or Aku (Saya is used in polite or formal conversation, whereas aku is used when speaking to peers or speaking in authority)
  • You - Kamu or Awak (Just like in Aku, Awak is usually used when speaking with peers or speaking in authority), Engkau or Kau (Quite rude and infomal. Only use it with close friends)
  • He/She/Him/Her - Dia (Malay does not use grammatical gender)
  • They/Them - Mereka
  • Person - Orang
  • Male/Man - Lelaki or Jantan (crude, usually used to refer to animals) | Laki-laki/Pria {Indonesian}
  • Female - Perempuan or Betina (crude, usually used to refer to animals) | Cewek {Indonesian}
  • Woman - Wanita
  • Child - Budak | Anak {Indonesian} -- note: in Indonesian languange, 'budak' means slave.
  • Children - Budak-budak or Kanak-kanak | Anak-anak {Indonesian}
  • Boy/Girl - Budak lelaki/perempuan | Anak laki-laki/perempuan {Indonesian}
  • Mr - Encik | Bapak/Tuan {Indonesian}
  • Mrs - No direct equivalent. Puan (madam) is usually used. | Ibu/Nyonya {Indonesian}
  • Miss - Cik | Nona {Indonesian}
  • Sir - Tuan
  • Madam - Puan
  • Father - Bapa or Ayah (dad)
  • Mother - Ibu or Emak/Mak (mum)
  • Brother (elder) - Abang (Note: Malays, like most Asians, address their elder sibblings by term rather than by name)
  • Sister (elder) - Kakak
  • Elder Brother/Sister - Kakak {Indonesian} -- the word 'abang' (elder brother) and 'kakak' (elder sister) is used in Sumatra dialect in Indonesia.
  • Brother/Sister (younger) - Adik (gender neutral) (also used to address children when you don't know their names)
  • Cousin - Sepupu
  • Grandfather - Datuk | Kakek {Indonesian}
  • Grandmother - Nenek
  • Uncle - Pak Cik (also used to address male elders of significant age gap as a sign of respect) | Paman {Indonesian} (most people use the word 'Oom', from Dutch language)
  • Aunt - Mak Cik (female counterpart of Pak Cik) | Bibi {Indonesian} (most people use the word 'Tante', from Dutch language)
  • Other people - Orang lain
  • Local - Orang tempatan or Orang sini (colloquial)
  • Foreigner - Orang asing (also means a stranger)

Thanks and apology

  • Thank you - Terima kasih
  • You are welcome - Sama-sama
  • Sorry/Please forgive me - Minta maaf (ma-af - two syllables) | Maaf / Mohon maaf {Indonesian}

Actions

  • Do - Buat | Lakukan {Indonesian}
  • Give - Beri or Bagi
  • Take - Ambil
  • Get - Dapat
  • Want - Hendak or Nak (colloquial) | Ingin {Indonesian}
  • Talk/Say - Cakap | Bicara {Indonesian}
  • Sell - Jual
  • Buy - Beli
  • Help - Tolong
  • Walk - Jalan
  • Run - Lari
  • Go in/out - Masuk/Keluar (also means entry/exit)
  • Stay - Tinggal
  • Go (there) - Pergi (sana)
  • Leave/return - Balik | Kembali {Indonesian}

Questions, answers and request

  • Who/Whom - Siapa
  • What - Apa
  • When - Bila | Kapan {Indonesian}
  • Where - Mana
  • Why - Kenapa
  • How - Bagaimana or Macam mana (colloquial)
  • Yes/No - Ya / Bukan or Tak/Tidak (depending on context)
  • Can(not) - (Tak/Tidak) Boleh | Tidak bisa {Indonesian}
  • Right/Wrong - Betul / Salah (or Tak/Tidak Betul)
  • Right (truth) - Benar
  • May I ask - Boleh saya tanya or Tumpang tanya (colloquial)
  • What is your name? My name is John. - Apa nama awak? Nama saya John. | Siapa nama anda? {Indonesian}
  • Where is the toilet? - Tandas di mana? | Toilet / kamar kecil di mana? {Indonesian}
  • Which one? - Yang mana satu? | Yang mana? {Indonesian}
  • What is the price for this? - Berapa harganya?
  • How much/How many? - Berapa?
  • I want this/that - Saya nak ini/itu | Saya ingin/mau ini/itu {Indonesian}
  • This/that one - Yang ini/itu.
  • I (don't) want - Saya (tak) nak | Saya (tidak) ingin/mau {Indonesian}
  • Give me this/that - Bagi saya ini/itu
  • Wait - Tunggu (Wait for me - Tunggu saya; Wait a moment - Tunggu sebentar)

Food

  • Eat - Makan
  • Food - Makanan
  • Drink (verb) - Minum
  • Drinks (noun) - Minuman
  • Water - Air (ah-yer)
  • Fruit - Buah (most fruits have the same pronunciation as per English fruit names)
  • Vegetable - Sayur
  • Egg - Telur
  • Meat - Daging (when speaking to an ethnic Malay, daging is the defacto for beef unless specified otherwise)
  • Fish - Ikan
  • Chicken - Ayam
  • Cow - Lembu (beef - daging lembu) | Sapi (beef - daging sapi) {Indonesian}
  • Goat - Kambing (mutton - daging kambing)
  • Pig - Babi/Khinzir (pork - daging babi) (Be careful with the usage as it also can be used as an insult, and is deemed sensitive to the Muslims)

Traffic and transportation

  • Road/Street - Jalan (other terms are also used: Lebuh, Persiaran, Changkat)
  • Lane - Lorong | Gang {Indonesian}
  • One-way street - Lorong/Jalan Sehala | Jalan satu arah {Indonesian}
  • Highway/Expressway - Lebuhraya | Jalan raya {Indonesian}
  • Stop/Go - Berhenti/Jalan
  • Caution - Awas
  • Keep right/left - Ikut Kiri/Kanan | Tetap di kanan/kiri {Indonesian}
  • Yield/Give way - Beri laluan | Beri jalan {Indonesian}
  • Train - Tren, Keretapi | Kereta api {Indonesian}
  • Bus - Bas | Bis/bus {Indonesian}
  • Taxi - Teksi | Taksi {Indonesian}
  • Car - Kereta | Mobil {Indonesian}
  • Lorry - Lori
  • Motorcycle - Motosikal | Motor / Sepeda motor {Indonesian}
  • Air/Land/Sea - Udara/Darat/Laut
  • Aeroplane - Kapal Terbang (literally flying ship) | Pesawat [terbang] {Indonesian}
  • Airport - Lapangan Terbang | Bandara (abbrev. of 'bandar udara') {Indonesian}
  • Boat/Ship - Bot/Kapal | Perahu/kapal {Indonesian}
  • Seaport - Pelabuhan

Public places

  • Town/City Centre - Pusat Bandar/Bandaraya | Kota / Pusat kota {Indonesian}
  • Police Station - Balai Polis | Kantor Polisi (literally police office) {Indonesian}
  • Hospital - Hospital | Rumah Sakit (literally sick house) {Indonesian}
  • Clinic - Klinik
  • Fire station - Balai Bomba (Bomba means fire brigade) | Kantor pemadam kebakaran (pemadam kebakaran means fire brigade) {Indonesian}
  • Post office - Pejabat Pos | Kantor pos {Indonesian}
  • Toilet - Tandas / Bilik Air (water closet) is sometimes used | Toilet / kamar kecil (lit. small room) {Indonesian}
  • Shop - Kedai | Toko {Indonesian}
  • Restaurant - Restoran | Restoran / rumah makan (lit. eating house) {Indonesian}
  • Food court - Medan Makanan or Medan Selera (colloquial, literally Appetite Court) | Food court / Pujasera (abbrev. of 'pusat jajan serba ada') {Indonesian}
  • Food stall - Gerai Makanan
  • Mosque - Masjid
  • Temple (Chinese) - Tokong | Klenteng {Indonesian}
  • Temple (Hindu) - Kuil | Pura (Balinese Hindu Temple) {Indonesian}
  • Temple (non-Chinese Indonesian Bhuddhist temple) - Candi {Indonesian}
  • Church - Gereja

Numbers, Dates and Time

Numbers

  • 1. satu, 2. dua, 3. tiga, 4. empat, 5. lima, 6. enam, 7. tujuh, 8. lapan | delapan {Ind}, 9. sembilan, 10. sepuluh
  • 11. sebelas, 12. dua belas, 13. tiga belas, 14. empat belas, ...
  • 20. dua puluh, 21. dua puluh satu, 22, dua puluh dua, 23. dua puluh tiga, ...
  • 30. tiga puluh, 31, tiga puluh satu, 32. tiga puluh dua, 33. tiga puluh tiga, ...
  • 40. empat puluh, 50. lima puluh, 60. enam puluh, ...
  • 100. satu ratus / seratus (literally a hundred), 200. dua ratus, 300. tiga ratus, ...
  • 1000. satu ribu / seribu (a thousand), 2000. dua ribu, 3000. tiga ribu, ...
  • 1 million. satu juta / sejuta (a million)

Dates

  • Day/Week/Month/Year - Hari/Minggu/Bulan/Tahun
  • Day of week (M,T,W,T,F,S,S) - Isnin | Senin {Ind}, Selasa, Rabu, Khamis | Kamis {Ind}, Jumaat | Jum'at {Ind}, Sabtu, Ahad | Minggu {Ind}
  • Month - Januari, Februari, Mac | Maret {Ind}, April, Mei, Jun | Juni {Ind}, Julai | Juli {Ind}, Ogos | Agustus {Ind}, September, Oktober, November, Disember | Desember {Ind}
  • Day before yesterday/Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow/Day after tomorrow - Kelmarin/Semalam/Hari ini/Esok/Lusa
  • Day before yesterday/Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow/Day after tomorrow - Kemarin dulu/Kemarin/Hari ini/Besok/Lusa
  • Last/Next year - Tahun lepas/depan | Tahun depan {Ind}

Time

  • Pagi (sunrise until before noon)
  • Tengah hari (midday/noon)
  • Petang (1pm - 6pm/before sunset)
  • Malam (after 6pm/when night falls)
  • Tengah malam (12am until before sunrise)
  • Jam (hour/clock), Minit (minute), Saat (second) | Jam, Menit, Detik {Ind}
  • Time: 11:32am (sebelas tiga puluh dua pagi), 4:15pm (empat suku petang - literally a quarter past four in the afternoon), 10:30pm (sepuluh setengah malam - literally half past ten at night), 12:45pm (dua belas tiga suku tengah malam - literally three quarter past twelve midnight)

Colours

  • White - Putih
  • Black - Hitam
  • Red - Merah
  • Orange - Jingga / Oren
  • Yellow - Kuning
  • Green - Hijau
  • Blue - Biru
  • Purple - Ungu
  • Brown - Perang / Coklat (colloquial)

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Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about Malay language, the following websites provide more detailed courses.

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This is version 21. Last edited at 19:34 on Nov 23, 09 by Hien. 16 articles link to this page.

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