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Behasa Melayu is the cutest

By , 28 December 2007

Behasa Melayu is the cutest

A few days ago it was my friend's birthday. She is Malaysian so I sent her a message saying "Salamat Harijadi!". She replied me in the wee hours of the day this morning. (actually, more like the middle of the night really). It was quite a nice surprise though, since my late night messages usually come from a computer called gravox and say something like "HTTP service down". Anyways, so it was nice to hear from her but also fun because it made me think in Malay which I haven't done in ages and ages. It reminded me why I like Malay so much.

The more and more words I remembered, the more I realized how much I miss Malay. It made me laugh and got me excited :) Anyways, so I jotted down a few random thoughts about the things I like about Malay and why I reckon it's just the cutest language around. Here they are:

Behasa Melayu is the cutest

1. Lah, bah and kah

Ya lah!!! In Malay (and Malaysian English) you add emphasis by adding lah to the end of the sentence. It's so much fun lah. You can use kah / kan for questions and I'm still trying to figure out exactly when bah comes into play.

  • dia besar lah (he is _big_)
  • di mana kau pergi kan? (where are you going?)

2. Exaggeration by looooooong vowels

This is really cool too:

  • ini pedas (this is hot)
  • ini pedaaaaaaaas (this is bloody hot!)

We do it in English too of course, but usually add an adverb and exaggerate this instead like in the example above.

3. Yes/no questions answered with verb phrases

Here's something we definitely don't do in English. In Malay you can answer yes/no questions by repeating the verb from the question:

  • kau mau pergi dengan saya? (do you want to go with me?)
  • mau! (want!)


  • tak mau! (don't want!)

4. Spelling of foreign words

Malay is written strictly phonetically. i.e. each letter only has one sound. If a foreign word makes it into the language it gets respelled:

  • kiut (cute)
  • motosikal (motorcycle)
  • talivisyen (television)

5. Cool abbreviations

When words are abbreviated colloquially in Malay, the seem to lose their middles:

  • mahu -> mau (want)
  • tahu -> tau (know)
  • tidak -> tak (not)
  • terima kasih -> masih (thanks)

6. Glottal stops

So many words end in glottal stops in Malay that it can start to sound like a game of ping pong.

7. The people

Malaysian people, and especially the Malays, Kadazans and Ibans, seem to be particularly happy and like to laugh and play a lot. They also value their families highly and always seem to be saying good things about them. It's fun to chat to Malaysians :)

That's all for now folks. I did have a handful of other reasons but right now I'm kind of tired. I will surely blog about Malay again soon :)

Goodnight then!


About Roger Keays

Behasa Melayu is the cutest

Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. Since he left Australia in 2009, he has been living as a digital nomad in over 40 different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, and finding good food. Click here to subscribe to his weekly blog, or stalk him on Facebook and Twitter.

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