Language is one of my interests. I learnt English since I was in my elementary school. When I was in high school, I learnt French, managed to get a certificate for it but of course, already forgot most of it. I tried to pick up Arabic in university, I learnt it and amazed by its beauty but finally didn’t have any more time to learn it (or maybe losing momentum). Arabic is so beautiful and the meaning of its words is so in depth that you can imagine living as a Bedouin in the Desert of Arabia, stargazing at beautiful moon and sky.
I appreciate any language more when I able to speak it. I learn faster as well if I get the chance to practice it and use it in context. I remember going to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey but having so little knowledge of Arabic. So, I just memorised dozens of common phrases and compliments to help me at least having some personal engagement with the people that I met.
Therefore, for you, travellers that maybe looking forward to visiting Malaysia, here are 5 useful Malay phrases for you.
5 useful Malay phrases
First of all, excuse me as this list will not include simple phrases like yes, no, thank you, good morning, good night, see you etc. Most Malaysians especially the younger generation learn English since elementary school and high school. Courses in the university are also thought in English. Therefore, at the very least of proficiency, most people will understand these very basic phrases. Unless you are going to a very remote place like jungle trekking in the very heart of Borneo.
1) Berapa? – How much
Be – as in Bermuda, Ra – as in Rat, Pa – as in Pearl
Usually, people will understand that you are asking for the price if you ask them Berapa?
However, if you feel like wanting to say more, just add Ringgit (Malaysian Currency) after this word, so it becomes Berapa Ringgit?
2) Tak Nak – I don’t want or NO!
Maybe you find yourself in a tricky situation. Anyone asking for your money for something that you don’t think worth as much, or a taxi driver that offer you a ride and about to rip your wallet apart. Just say,
Tak – as in Tuck, and Nak as in – Knuckle
3) JOM! – Let’s go!
I introduce this word to my Arab friends, they became so obsessed with it that they say it on every occasion that fits this word. If you are Arab, you can imagine this word as Yalla! Yalla! Lol. For the rest of you, I can guarantee that you will impress your Malaysian friends by saying this simple phrase.
Just say Jom! as in Joe + mmm sound.
4) Sedap – Delicious
Imagine that you booked your accommodation here with AirBnB, your guest invites you for a free meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner and you want to compliment his/her food as a nice gesture. Or maybe simply you want to appreciate foods that you bought from any street carts and you want to compliment the sellers.
Just say sedap.
Se – as in Serene and Dap as in Dark plus P sound
5) Bereh Boh – No problem (Boss)
This is an agreeing gesture or a word that you say when you feel like expressing awe.
You can use this on so many occasions. One interesting fact, being Malaysian, we call everyone as ‘boss’, ‘uncle’, ‘aunty’, bro, sis – although we don’t even work for them or having any family relationship with them. It is just a way to show common respect. You call one person boss, he will call you boss too. Isn’t crazy? So we end up being the boss for our boss? 😇😇
I save this one for the last as this phrase is rather a slang for people living in the east coast area but generally, everyone understands it. For example, when your mate invites you for a teh tarik, and you want to join him/her, say Bereh Boh!
Be – as in Bear, Reh as in -Breath and Boh – as in Boar plus H sound
Hope this helps.