British English vs Malaysian English

(For a laugh. Thanks Huang for forwarding the following email:)

Who says our English is teruk.? Just see below –

Ours is simple, short, concise, straight-to-point, effective etc:


Britons: I’m sorry, Sir, but we don’t seem to have the sweater you want in your size, but if you give me a moment, I can call the other outlets for you.
Malaysians: No Stock.


Britons: Hello, this is John Smith. Did anyone page for me a few moments ago?
Malaysians: Hello, who page?


Britons: Excuse me, I’d like to get by. Would you please make way?
Malaysians: S-kew me


Britons: Hey, put your wallet away, this drink is on me.
Malaysians:No-need, lah.


Britons: Excuse me, but do you think it would be possible for me to enter through this door?
Malaysians: (pointing the door) can ar?


Britons: Please make yourself right at home.
Malaysians: Don’t be shy, lah!


Britons: I don’t recall you giving me the money.
Malaysians: Where got?


Britons: I’d prefer not to do that, if you don’t mind.
Malaysians: Don’t want la…


Britons: Err. Tom, I have to stop you there. I understand where you’re coming from, but I really have to disagree with what you said about the issue.
Malaysians: You mad, ah?


Britons: Excuse me, but could you please lower your voice, I’m trying to concentrate over here.
Malaysians: Shut up lah!


Britons: Excuse me, but I noticed you staring at me for some time.. Do I know you?
Malaysians: See what, see what?


Britons: We seem to be in a bit of a predicament at the moment.
Malaysians: Die-lah!!


Britons: Will someone tell me what has just happened?
Malaysians: Wat happen Why like that….


Britons: This isn’t the way to do it, here let me show you,
Malaysians: like that also don’t know how to do!!!!


Britons: Would you mind not disturbing me
Malaysians: Celaka u


Briton: Where is the leak? I shall ask the Works Minister to look into it.
Malaysian: STUPID, STUPID, STUPID question. Where got “bocor” ?

  1. #1 by Chong Zhemin on Saturday, 30 June 2007 - 10:50 pm

    nice one uncle kit!
    i love this : “S-kew me”

  2. #2 by Jamesy on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 12:09 am

    Bolehland English…..hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….

  3. #3 by takazawa on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 1:17 am

    I personally received this forwarded mail from a friend 3 years ago. No wonder it is known as Manglish – an amalgam of Mangled English…LOL. What a shame to our national identity! At least Singlish is enough to get you by.

  4. #4 by bennylohstocks on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 1:59 am

    When a primary Malaysian Chinese girl gets angry with the boys
    “throw your mother’s smelly shoes”..the cantonese-speaking mother must have taught her.

  5. #5 by takazawa on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 2:27 am

    That’s a good one benny. Little did I expect that it could be this lame! It’s more like a transliteration than a direct translation.

  6. #6 by justiciary on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 3:06 am

    Had we continued with the language policy of the 70s until today,I don’t think we would be able to hear such horrendous English spoken by our younger generation today.So who is the culprit for causing such a steep fall to the standard of our English?At one time,Malaysian English was on par with most Commonwealth countries if not better.I remember many people could communicate with Singaporeans at ease in the 70s.But alas today our younger generation will shy away.It is real sheer pity.Isn’t it?

  7. #7 by Woody on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 3:51 am

    When Malaysian talks about any opportunity?

    “Got any lobang ahhh”

    When Malaysia talks about business opportunity

    “Know anybody in UMNO ahhhhh”

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 5:30 am

    One may ask whether “Manglish” (Malaysian mangled English) is really that “horrendous”. I think our usage can be charming, utilitarian and even creative for which we should be proud of.

    We don’t have to follow English exactly the same elaborate way it is spoken or written by the British. It is not our first language.

    Besides English is now an international language. The English have no monopoly to the way it is spoken or written – with local accents, flavours and additions. Indeed the English language is richer for its borrowings from others. Coup de’etat, detour, dossier, laissez faire, fait accompli, nouveau riche were borrowed from the French as amok, paddy gong, orang-utan, satay and sarong, borrowed from Malay.

    The process is both ways : we have also borrowed from the English and created new words like “gostan”, a reference to going backwards, retracting a position, back tracking. This is a very creative expression inspired by the word “go astern”, astern being the back or rear of a ship or boat, and going astern being popularly used for the vessel going stern backwards.

    Language is affected by culture and history. At least between ourselves what’s wrong using “kwei lo” or “Mat Sallehs” in substitution of “Caucasians”?

    If our usage is “simple, short, concise, straight-to-point, effective”, maybe the British should consider following some of our expressions. After all, being “simple, short, concise, straight-to-point, effective” is the first object of any communication.

    I don’t really think there is anything wrong when, for examples, we spice up our spoken English with local embellishments at the end of sentence like “lah” and “man” for emphasis especially when speaking to fellow Malaysians. For practical purposes of avoiding being misunderstood, we should of course try to desist from using these slang expressions when speaking with foreigners not familiar with them.

    Interestingly we Malaysians can be quite flexible in the sense that we can change their speaking styles in accordance with the person being spoken to. We may adopt a completely different slang and accent when speaking to someone of a different race. Some of us speak English to the Brits, American, Australian, Indians differently as we would to own Malaysians. This is to facilitate understanding, a utilitarian objective but where people by training of their mother tongue just cannot pronounce the word properly, don’t laugh at them.

    The Chinese and the Japanese often switch their “l”s for ‘r’s. I have heard some Chinese (Malaysians) say “don’t play play” (intending to mean, be serious or view the importance of a matter) coming across as “Don’t pray pray”. (Another pronounce “rape” as “rap” “rap”…. Then the Japanese pronounce their “general election” as “general erection”.

    I thought it was quite charming – just like “Got any lobang or jalan ahhh” referring to opportunity!

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 5:37 am

    Correction in 3rd para from bottom : “we can change “our” speaking styles…”

  10. #10 by Libra2 on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 8:25 am

    We need break from the political news that only cause us frustrations. Satire is good for the heart. Malaysian affairs shorten it.

  11. #11 by MWong on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 9:23 am

    The Brits use alot of abbreviations as well.esp. in name callin’..David as ‘Dav’..Victoria as ‘Vic’. In daily conversations, they’re concise too..some of the above sounded a lil ‘Long-winded’

    Yeah,Like ‘Singlish’, ‘Manglish’ is not w/out its’ charm..

    A light-hearted one!

  12. #12 by Jefus on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 9:46 am

    Spicy lah, if the whole world speak English oso over time the language will change one.

    Like what it is today. Different part of the world got English but not the same. A bit different here and there.

    Only then got local color what?

  13. #13 by madmix on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 10:29 am

    Malaysians are to the point. No beat around bush. why waste words?

  14. #14 by HJ Angus on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 11:02 am

    When I studied in the UK in the late 60s, I used to correct the grammar and spelling mistakes of my English friends.

    At first they challenged but I always asked them to check the dictionary etc.

    After a few months, they would refer to me whenever there was a dispute about the language.

    But during my time, English was the medium of instruction and we had some very good English teachers.

    Nowadays one needs to be wary of the English used, even with Singapore TV channels.

  15. #15 by HJ Angus on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 11:03 am


    missing “me” after “challenged”

  16. #16 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 11:54 am

    Whilst written and spoken language should be “simple, short, concise, straight-to-point, effective”, the contentious part relating the Manglish is whether these objectives should be achieved at the expense of turning upside down and bastardising English rules concerning grammatical structure.

    “Why are you behaving in that way?” or “why has the situation become that way?” may be compendiously expressed “Why like that?” (a translation from Cantonese?) Or the Brits’ “I haven’t seen you in a long time” become in manglish “Long time no see” with all rules of prepositions thrown to the wind.

    “La” and “mah” are new suffixes of Malaysian creation functioning expediently without more words to explain a whole gamut of emotion by their inflectional ending. The difference between “I didn’t know la” and “I didn’t know mah” is that in the case of the former, the person is not seeking understanding from the other whilst in the second case the expression imports a touch of regret and apology, implicitly seeking understanding.

    The suffix “what” is somewhat used differently – not to convey emotional states – but to express with brutal efficiency in one word that normally in English would take four : for example, instead of saying “it is plain that” or “it is obvious that” UMNO’s cronies are corrupt or rich, in Manglish it is condensed to UMNO’s cronies are corrupt or rich what!

    The word “arh” is used top denote question mark. You sure you want to marry her arh? Is menat to emphasise doubt and that the other person better think carefully. “Meh” is sometimes used for same purpose as “arh” as for example, “you think you very smart meh?” (note the concomitant dispensation of the subject verb agreement “are” between “you” and “very”.

    So Manglish is often used in an efficient way to say things with maximum effect and nuance and minimum words but the big question is : can these objectives of economy and brevity of words be pursued in sacrifice of grammatical structure and dispensation of prepositions and subject verb agreement; can we still hold claim that our Manglish is an offshoot and a branch of the broader tree of Enghlish as internationally spoken if disregard the grammatical rules? Are grammatical rules so integral part of a language that to dispense them is to jettison the whole language overboard and it is no more there or, no, the language (English) is still being used but modified to make its use more efficient?

    The test is always that of substantiality with an arbitrary benchment delineated at say 50%. If for example 90% of the language usage is English and the disregard of grammar rules and addition of local suffixes like “what”, “Mah” and “Lah” constitute only 10% or 20% of the content, then I suppose it is still “substantially” English.

    However, if the situation is one in which 50% or more of these local variations, then it is probably justified to say that it is no more English, it being some kind of local language borrowing heavily from English.

  17. #17 by private_undergrad on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 1:48 pm

    The situations above are due to the fact that English is 2nd or 3rd language after our mother tongues. For me, whenever I try to elaborate something in English, my brain somehow needs to tune in to the translation from my mother tongue to the English terms, and then incapacitated by my limited vocabulary available for use in casual occasions.Coupled with our social and cultural forces in the background, we are who we are today. The jokes above is actually no jokes!

  18. #18 by BioLovepulse on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 2:24 pm

    Look at some of the words spoken in service situations. People may say that we have poor customer service. The cause? Poor English language proficiency.

    Even in MUET tests, we still have people failing. Lots of STPM leavers cannot get into universities. Isn’t this a waste?

    Regardless of the testing method, poor language proficency won’t get us anywhere. Furthermore, I’ve eye-witnessed a case where a 7 Eleven cashier cannot understand English, thus losing some business from tourists! How can we potray the image of our promotional campaign on tourism (Visit Malaysia 2007)? Hey, half a year has passed!

    In a nutshell, English proficency is no longer an advantage. It is a necessity – having not equipped with it will make us lose our competitiveness.

  19. #19 by WFH on Sunday, 1 July 2007 - 5:27 pm

    Yah-lah! This garmen, er, die-die aso so stubborn one. Why never listen to we people. always ask vote, vote, vote… aso do nothing for us, ar. Everytime tok and tok but do nothing. How to challen Sin-chia-poh? They so clever one, but even they kiasu aso beat us flat.
    Now from nowhere the mata-mata boss say JB safe back aredi.. eh, real or not, ah? The PM also always tok-tok but like fang-pi only do nothing. The mah-wah also 1-kind, so boh-sia in the garmen, dun noe if they work or not lah!
    This serious,man, no joking one!

  20. #20 by ahkumm on Monday, 2 July 2007 - 2:05 am

    I was recently in the UK for two years, studying there. The locals are amazed by our (malaysian) english. To them, we speak like how the queen speaks, it’s word by word and with minimum grammar mistakes. When they (locals) speak, they use a lot of slang and they always get their grammar wrong.

    To be honest, I have yet hear anyone in the UK under the age of 60 speaking like the way this email suggests. Even my lecturers in the university, they never speak like that!

    What I am trying to say is, we do not need to be ashame on how we speak the language, as long as the communication is successful and the message is conveyed.

    By the way, most of the Europeans (Eastern and Western) speaks horrible english or no english at all.

  21. #21 by anakbaram on Monday, 2 July 2007 - 10:15 am

    Dear Kit,

    This is a very good one. May I add some more?
    I often hear some Malaysians talking about the Malaysian politeness and friendliness as opposed to the crude ways of “Budaya Barat”. But having lived in the United Kingdom and Europe for a few years I tend to think otherwise. The average Briton or European are more courteous than the average Malaysian.
    One more example
    Britons: Excuse me Miss.
    Malaysian: Hey! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Oi!

  22. #22 by maya on Monday, 2 July 2007 - 2:01 pm

    Aiyoo, uncle Lim,
    why your friend so like that one ah? We Malaysians all like this lah, i talk you know, you talk i know enough lah! No need lah talking like English people one, some English also donno to talk properly english what!
    Anyway, thankyu ha, i can laugh with this topic lah, the other one all very sad lah, want to cry for my Malaysia lah.

  23. #23 by orchidlah on Monday, 2 July 2007 - 10:09 pm

    Veli funny. Nowdays even spelling also all out. aiyoyo…that day in a certain place also got bocor. I think have to force latuk somebody to be firm on all these kebocoran. Don’t know why not just court bocor. Seems like everywhere bocor especially in the ceiling. I think these contractors got no skills to make the ceiling. In Malaysia, depends on which race to speak English. I denger banyak Melayu cakap you untuk awak. I, I, I here and you, you, you there. Therefore, Malaysia is indeed a colourful country. She is truely unique. At least we still can understand English and not like some who should know English but don’t know English. Like professionals, like university graduates; they are suppose to know English.

  24. #24 by bhuvan.govindasamy on Wednesday, 4 July 2007 - 2:13 pm

    I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter how one speaks a language, as long as the speaker is polite and reasonable. I’ve many Chinese & Japanese friends who do not speak proper English. However, you can see that they do try their best, and, their politeness does add a touch of elegance.

    We, Malaysians, seem to have dispensed with politeness, and, hence not only does our usage of any language seem rough, if not down right uncouth.

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