Friday, August 24, 2007

Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia part 2

Since I have many examples on how misunderstanding can be created because how different the 2 languages are, it's better to create a new post so that you can read them easily and learn together from my experiences.

Story 1:
This incident happened when I just got married for a week.
My Malaysian husband asked my help, "Dear, tutup lampu, please." - Dear, switch off the light, please.
I automatically answered him, "Tutup pakai apa?" - Close with what?
He realized that I have misunderstood him and said, "I mean, just switch off the light."
I misunderstood him because in bahasa Indonesia, tutup means 'close' and in bahasa Melayu tutup here means 'switch off'.
In bahasa Indonesia, we usually use the word 'matikan' for switch off and we say, "Tolong matikan lampu." for "Please switch off the light."
In both languages, matikan = kill, but Malay language doesn't use 'matikan' for switch off.

Story 2:
My husband was having a hair cut in one of Indonesian hair salon. He saw there was a heavy traffic jam on the road. He talked to the Indonesian hair dresser, "Ada banyak kereta di luar. Macet sangat. (There are so many cars (kereta in Malay language = car) out there. It's heavy traffic jam.)"
The lady hair dresser was shocked and quickly looked over her window and said, "Mana ada kereta?Itu semua mobil yang kena macet. Kereta tidak jalan di jalan raya. (Where's a train? (kereta in bahasa Indonesia = train) I see only cars that stuck in the traffic jam. A train doesn't run on the road.)"
I was sitting there listening to the conversation, burst into laughter! :D
I just had to explain to them to avoid the confusion.

Story 3:
My parents were in Malaysia for the first time and my husband was driving them around the city.
My mom asked my husband, "Kita mau dibawa ke mana ini?" - Where are you taking us?
My husband answered her, "Pusing-pusing saja." - Just driving around.
My mom was shocked and said, "Walah...datang jauh-jauh buat liburan kok malah mau dibuat sakit." - Walah (to express her disappointment)...we come to have a holiday not to get sick.
She has completely misinterpreted what my husband said because 'pusing' in bahasa Indonesia means headache.
I couldn't hide my laughter. When I settled down, I explained to my mom what my husband meant by saying "pusing-pusing".

Another confusion caused by the differences in our languages:
imagine this situation: an Indonesian in Kuala Lumpur was in panic to call a police and she screams around "Polisi...polisi...mana polisi? Panggil polisi! (Police...Police...where's the police? Call the police!)" and the nice Malaysians trying to help get confuse, "Polisi? Polisi untuk apa? insurans polisi kah?Insurans polisi awak hilang kah? (Policy? Policy for what?Is it your insurance policy? Are you loosing your insurance policy?)"

Wha lo! Aren't you confused? Bingung kan?

So far, these are all I could remember. If I remember more incidents I will add them in here. Keep on checking this post.

Additional stories:
Story 4:
This incident happened when my husband drove my parents to show them the headquarters of his office.
My husband said,"Ini ibu pejabat tempat saya bekerja." - This is the headquarters where I work.
In Malay language: ibu pejabat means headquarter
My mum looked puzzled and asked my husband, "Ibu pejabat di tempat kamu kerja sanggulan juga gak kayak di Indonesia?" - Do the officers' wives in your office have a bun on their head too just like in Indonesia?
In Bahasa Indonesia: ibu pejabat means wives of high rank government officers, and usually, these ladies have a bun on their head.

Story 5:
I experienced this incident during my 1st visit to a hospital in Malaysia. I had to wait for my turn to pick up and pay the prescribed medicines. While waiting, I saw a big note on the door of the dispensary unit. It said "Dilarang masuk selain kaki tangan"- only employees are allowed to enter.
In Malay language: kaki tangan here refers to the employees of the dispensary unit.
In bahasa Indonesia we will say, "Dilarang masuk selain yang berkepentingan" or "Dilarang masuk selain pekerja farmasi"
While in bahasa Indonesia, kaki tangan means foot and hand.
I got confused for a while. I thought I really had to make sure that my head and my body did not enter the room when I collected and paid the medicines because only my foot and my hand were allowed to be in.
Luckily, my husband came to the rescue and cleared up my confusion.. :)


bleu said...

I've confused people here with "kapan" (vs. bila) and "bisa" (vs. boleh). And of course, it took me a while to get the correct es teh manis in my first couple of weeks here...

Angie said...


m i t a said...

oh yes. i always do get amused whenever i board a malaysian airline and read their safety manual..

web design said...

tak sama

jazrul said...

lebih kurang je
co2 system

jazrul said...

And of course, it took me a while to get the correct es teh manis in my first couple of weeks here...

fire detection

Kenneth Tang a.k.a Fishbonezken said...

hahahahaha! man, this post and part 1 is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,
im indonesian studying in singapore and nothing can beat this experience. i had to do a speech infront of 100 ppl and i said 'kita butuh pertolongan dari pemerintah (we need help by the govt) and the whole auditorium burst into laughter. apparently, i learnt the hard way that 'butuh' maknanya ialah the man's penis in malay. so i said in a speech that 'we cock help from the goverment'. sad case rite? hahahaha

coffeeliqueur said...

Whahahaha...:D I can imagine that!! BTW, why on earth did u use Bahasa Indonesia in your speech when your audience is not only Indonesians? Use English better..:)

Anonymous said...

there is that said indonesia language is language real ones

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Anonymous said...

I think the indonesian is confused.. not the malay speaker from Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, South of Thailand, South of Philippines..

I never have problem speaking to any Indonesian who live and work in Malaysia. Not mentioned also Indonesian in Sumatara region and Kalimatan (Borneo)..

FYI Mati dan tutup lampu , we used both and it well understood.. stop assume something is not true. That Bahasa Indonesia are actually Bahasa Melayu Johor Riau itself..The history never lies!

coffeeliqueur said...

Thank you for your comment. It really enriches the content of this post.
Yes, I agree with u. The Indonesians confuse when they hear Malay language for the first time, because we always think that Malay language is the same as Bahasa Indonesia. True also that Bahasa Indonesia comes from Malay language. I won't deny the history :) oh btw, have u read the 1st part of this topic? I wrote in the 1st paragraph that Indonesians also do speak Malay especially those who live in Sumatera.

Anonymous said...

The difference is often dialectical. It is the same with British English and American English.

There are scores of words that can mean one thing in America and another in Britain.

American would say pants to mean trousers but the British would never use pants, it means underpants.

British would sometimes use frock for a dress while American would use dress.

20 years ago Brits would say lorry . Yanks would say truck. But now both use truck.

and many many more.......

I believe with more contact between people of the two nations, we will learn each other phrases so as to avoid misunderstandings.

Luckily we have Upin and Ipin and Bawang Merah Bawang Putih....

NIM said...


The post is funny :) It really shows the differences between the two dialects of Malay language used in Malaysia and Indonesia.

But, I'd like to add my two cents about the language. It seems to me that you don't quite understand the differences between different languages and different dialects of certain language.

Bahasa Indonesia itself, literally means the national language of the country called Indonesia.

Bahasa Malaysia (Bahasa Melayu is also called Bahasa Malaysia sometimes in Malaysia) is the national language of the country called Malaysia.

Both Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are obviously Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language).

In other words, the title and topic should be The differences between Bahasa Melayu Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu Indonesia.

coffeeliqueur said...

Hi NIM, Thank you very much for your suggestion. I should change the title to The differences between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia. I think it's better, right? ;)