How-To-Speak Malay Guide Resurfaces, Netizen Assumes It’s For British Colonial Officers

Despite being our national language, Malay or Bahasa Melayu isn’t a requisite subject. Mainly only speaking it via our national anthem, Singaporeans know little to nothing of the language.

Instead of painstakingly taking it up as a third language, there may be a shortcut to learn via an old guide that has surfaced on Twitter, garnering over 9,000 retweets already.

Netizens speculate that the guide to speaking Malay was meant for British officers stationed in Malaya. Since we’re commemorating our Bicentennial this year, this is very timely.

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How to speak Malay like a British

Most of the guide focuses on food terms, which isn’t surprising. How would the British have found something to eat if they couldn’t communicate in Malay?

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However, the amusing part is the transliteration. We’re not sure if they tried their best, but some terms are a little off.

For example, boiled egg in Malay is telur rebus, which is pronounced as “te-loh ruh-boos”. The guide instead says “riboos”, the same way we say “re” in return.

Air, meaning water in Malay, but appears like the word describing the invisible gas around us, was explained as ire. A more accurate pronunciation would be “ah-yeer”, though.

The most hilarious of them all is the transliteration for chicken.

Instead of simply ayam, they wrote i-am kitchy, which many infer to be small chicken. The word for small, however, is kecil or kecik, which sound nothing close to “kitchy”.

Possibly a guide for addressing servants

A netizen mentioned that the list seemed to be a guide for British officers to make special requests of their Malay-speaking servants.

“You can see that the list is just words for them to use with their ‘servants’ at home. That really threw me [off], who teaches intonation because you want to ask for chicken?? Are you that hungry?”
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Some netizens decided to make light of the situation, and mimicked how a British man would order a meal at the mamak shop.

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Of course, you’ll have to read this in your best English accent.

A: Give me boiled chicken!
B: Boiled is sold out boss, is roasted or fried ok?

Hilarious.

Interesting blast to the past

We hope you enjoyed this interesting walk down memory lane.

However, if you want to learn Malay for real, why not check out the available courses at your nearest community centre.

Featured image adapted from Budget Pantry and Twitter.