How to speak Manglish ah? Malaysians get really creative when it comes to our spoken language. I've never come across any other country except for Singapore that uses a variety of languages in one sentence. We call our language Malaysian English aka Manglish, an English Creole spoken across Malaysia. We assimilate English, Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil into our spoken language. And what defines us as Malaysians is our wonderful language.
In our daily conversations with people, we use 'Jom' which means 'let us' in the Malay language, 'yum cha' which means 'drinking tea' in the Chinese Cantonese dialect and 'macha' which means 'brother' in the Tamil language.
Let me show you an example of how we used all three languages in one sentence.
'Eh macha, jom yum cha together lah!' literally means 'Hey brother, let's have tea together.'
You might have also heard of some of the phrases we use like:
Sure ah? Where got? Eh hello! How can? Aiyo! So how? What lah you? Like dat cannot lah! Why you like dat one?
Recently, I had a conversation with an American friend and she was impressed by our usage of languages in our daily conversations.
"I realized that when Malaysians talk among each other, I can't seem to understand the language they are using but at the same time it sounded so much like English."
"Haha. Yes. It's called Manglish."
"It is a spoken language among Malaysians. We use a mixture of different languages and dialects in our daily conversations."
The most commonly used word in Manglish is 'lah'. It means everything and nothing, commonly used to add emphasis to a sentence. It is most often use at the end of sentences and in some cases, the word 'lah' is dragged.
Why Lah? (Why? with emphasis) Yes Lah! (Yes, with emphasis) What Lah you. (What is wrong with you?) Cannot lah... (I can't do that) Don' lah... (Please don't...) Got Lah (Yes I did that!) Come on, Lah! (Come on, don't waste anymore time.)
Here, I'm presenting a cross section of some of the common Manglish words and phrases we use.
It carries different meanings when used in different conversations.
"You say one ah." (Giving your word/ promise)
"My one." (When someone tells you something belongs to him/her)
- 'Bo jio'
'Bo jio' translate as 'Did not invite' in Hokkien. You don't quite have to mean it when you say 'bo jio'. It's more often used to annoy your friends who are having a greater time than you.
"What? You are going to hike at Zion National Park with Amanda? Bo jio!"
"You and Amanda are going for a hike at Zion National Park and you are not inviting me to it?"
'Cincai' refers to 'Whatever'. Malaysians do not make up their minds. We could spend hours deciding on a place to eat.
A: "Eat what ah?" B: "Cincai lah."
A: "Where should we have lunch?" B: "I'm fine with whatever."
A word used to describe the feeling of surprise or disbelief.
"Walao! Are you serious??! Did she really say that?"
"Oh man, I don't believe this! Did she really say that? Unbelievable!?"
- 'Where got!?'
Used to deny or disagree with an accusation. It's a direct translation from Malay language 'mana ada' or the Mandarin Chinese language '哪里有" (na li you). It's a short, concise and straight to the point.
In standard English, we say: "I don't recall agreeing to this proposal" In Manglish, we use: "Where got?"
- 'On the way'
Used when you are running late for an appointment or meeting but in actuality you are still in bed or in the shower or at home. This is what we call Malaysian timing.
A: "Eh, you coming or not for lunch?" B: "Yes, on the way...on the way lah." (Instead of being in the car driving to the restaurant, B is still at home just getting out of bed)
Means reverse, mainly used when you are reversing your vehicle.
"Would you reverse our car?"
- 'Want... or not'
Used when asking someone to decide if they want something.
"Want ice cream or not?"
"Would you like some ice cream?"
- 'Win liao lor'
This phrase is usually used to praise someone sarcastically.
A: I catch all Pokemon dy.. B: Wah, win liao lor.
A: "I caught all the Pokemon already.." B: "Alright, you win."
- 'Ah-bo-den' or 'Ah-bu-den'
It literally means 'If not, then?' The phrase is commonly used in scenarios when the answer to a question is really obvious.
A: "Eh, you are jogging ar?" (It's obvious that the person is jogging and you are asking if he/ she is jogging) B: "Ah-bo-den...."
A: "Are you jogging?" B: "Can't you see that? Why are you asking the obvious?"
- 'Beh tahan'
Someone not being able to withstand or put up with something. 'Beh' derives from Hokkien, a Chinese dialect for the word 'cannot'. 'Tahan' means 'withstand'.
"I beh tahan today's hot weather. So panas!"
"I cannot put up with today's hot weather. The temperature is so hot!"
Means 'to go' or 'takeout' for food you ordered at a restaurant.
"Eh waiter, I want to tapau the food. I'm too full."
"Hello, I want to takeout the food. I'm too full."
- 'Ho Jiak'
Used to describe a particular cuisine or food is delicious or tasty.
A: "Soup noodles nice or not?" B: "Ho jiak!"
A: "Is the soup noodles delicious?" B: "Yes, it's very tasty."
Used to describe the feeling of nervousness or anxiousness.
"I got an exam tomorrow. Super gan-jiong! Wish me luck!"
"I have an important exam tomorrow. I'm quite nervous. Wish me all the best!"
- 'See how lah'
A neutral phrase used to let someone know that you have not decided on something.
A: "Eh, you want go watch movie or not this Sunday?" B: "Dunno...see how lah."
A: "Do you want to watch a movie this Sunday with us?" B: "I'm not too sure about my plans on Sunday, let me get back to you."
Below are examples of words used among Malaysians that are considered British English.
'Petrol' instead of 'Gas'
'Toilet' instead of 'Restroom'
'Lift' instead of 'Elevator'
'Lorry' instead of 'Truck'
'Rubbish' instead of 'Trash'
Some might say that Manglish is a form of broken English but let us not forget that it is only a spoken language and we generally do not write in Manglish.