Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia part 1

Many people think that Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) spoken in Singapore and Malaysia is the same with Bahasa Melayu in Indonesia. This is actually not right. The 2 languages are similar but not the same. Most Indonesians can understand the Malay language spoken in Singapore/Malaysia but on the other hand, the people who speak and understand Malay don't necessarily understand Bahasa Indonesia especially when Bahasa Indonesia is spoken very fast. This is because some Indonesians (those who live in Sumatra Island) do speak the same kind of Malay language like in Malaysia and Singapore. To them, the Malay language is their dialect so they still have to know Bahasa Indonesia as their national language. But in Malaysia and Singapore, the Malay language is their national language.

Because of the similarity in the 2 languages, we often go ahead talking to each other with our own languages thinking that the other party will understand what we talk about forgetting the fact that many words have a completely different meaning and some words are not used in the same way. But we just don't care. The Indonesians go ahead talking to the Malaysians/Singaporeans using Bahasa Indonesia, and the Malaysians/Singaporeans talk to the Indonesians using their Malay language. Sometimes, this thing poses no problem at all; but some other times, this can create a misunderstanding and miscommunication problem.

Just to give example on how different the languages are:
  1. In Bahasa Melayu: budak means 'children'
    In Bahasa Indonesia: budak means 'slave'
    So, the Indonesians can get offended if someone calls their children 'budak'.
  2. In Bahasa Melayu: boleh means 'you are allowed to/you can'. In Bahasa Indonesia: boleh means the same thing but we don't usually use 'boleh'. We use 'bisa'. 'Bisa' means 'poison (usually referring to snake poison)' in both languages, and in Bahasa Melayu, bisa is only used when someone is referring to poison, not to say 'you can/you are allowed to'.
  3. In Bahasa Melayu: polisi means 'policy' - like insurance policy for example. In Bahasa Indonesia: polisi means 'the police', while the police in Bahasa Melayu is polis. But polis in Bahasa Indonesia means 'policy', for example: the insurance policy - polis asuransi in Bahasa Indonesia.
Before I got a chance to live in Singapore and Malaysia, I always thought that I would not find any difficulties talking in bahasa Melayu. But I was wrong because when every time I try to speak bahasa Melayu, many Malaysians still don't understand me. Apparently, I speak in Bahasa Indonesia but trying to use Melayu accent and it turns out to be so weird and I get people staring at me trying to understand what I say... :)

For example when I wanted to order a bowl of cold Leng chee kang dessert, I said, "Kak, boleh kasih satu leng chee kang, dingin." - (May I have a bowl of cold leng chee kang, mam?)
I heard the lady asked me again, "sejuk kah atau panas?" - (cold or hot?)
Hmmm... I wondered why she still asked me again when I have clearly said "dingin" which means "cold".
So, I repeated "Dingin". I made mistake here by forgetting that in bahasa Melayu, cold is translated into 'sejuk' not 'dingin'. While I do understand the word 'sejuk' refer to 'cold', I am not accustomed to use the word 'sejuk', so I kept on repeating the word 'dingin' instead.
Then the lady changed the word to "ice or no ice". I replied to the lady "Ice". Both of us understood this one so I finally got my cold leng chee kang... :)

Another time when I wanted to buy an oil splatter screen but I did not know what is the name for it so I said, "I nak beli tutup minyak yang bolong-bolong." - (I want to buy oil cover that has holes on it) trying to explain what I wanted to buy. Bolong-bolong is a slank in Bahasa Indonesia for 'holes'.
The shop keeper stared at me and asked me back, "Apa itu bolong-bolong?"
I stared back at her trying to remember the malay word for bolong-bolong and I could not remembered it at all so I kept on saying "bolong-bolong is holes". Then I heard the lady said "Oh, lobang-lobang. Kita tak cakap bolong-bolong lah. Kita cakap lobang-lobang." - (Oh, the holes. We don't say bolong-bolong for holes. We say lobang-lobang).
I was so relieved she finally got what I meant. I said to her, "Yah. Tutup minyak yang berlobang-lobang."
The same reason as the above example, I do understand the word 'lobang' for 'hole' but I don't remember to use it because I am so used to say bolong for 'hole'.
At the end, I found my oil splatter and bought it.

For the past 2.5 years living in Malaysia, I have learned a lot about the differences in our languages and now I am very careful if I want to speak in Malay language. I will make sure to use the words that can be understood by both parties. If I get stuck, then English is the common language.
So far, I notice that more and more people who speak Malay language are willing to adapt the words and accent of Bahasa Indonesia. I can see that they have no difficulties in doing so. As a result, the Indonesians feel more comfortable and a lot more confidence when talking to them.
The Indonesians also on the other hand, are trying do the same towards Malay language.

Understanding and willingness to adapt to each other language are the best way to bridge the differences of the 2 languages so at the end we will not have miscommunication and misunderstanding toward each other.


johnorford said...

i always imagined that indonesians would have more "flexible ears" than malaysians cos they're used to ppl speaking indonesian in diff dialects and as a second language in some instanes.

it's cool that malays are willing to speak in a way which is easier to understand -- seems to me that ppl generally don't try to learn how to communicate with immigrants -- altho i suppose it's easier for malays to breach that particular gap.

v interesting post! great language lesson :):)

Anonymous said...

It's the same, mate.
They call it 'rubbish' here in England. 'Garbage' is not used at all but most would understand it after all. Of course you have to use appropriate words depending where you live.

Anonymous said...

Aneh sekali, bro!
perkenalkan, saya org malaysia.
saya pikir level pendidikan wanita yg jual Laici kang itu masih rendah. 'Dingin' is widely used in Malaysia. But, we often use 'sejuk' instead.
'Budak' in Bahasa Malaysia have two diffrent meaning. One is 'Child' and the other one is 'slave'. For example (budak=slave), we say "budak suruhan"
'Bolong' in Bahasa Malaysia means 'Hollow'.

jazrul said...

malaysia bagus la man ada aneh

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jazrul said...

aku bangga jadi orang melayu

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FainOnline said...

I have to agreed with one of the Anonymous posted when he think the education level of woman who selling Laici kang is still low.(Maybe she is Chinese?), if she is Malay, i don't think this will be such a issue at first place.

When you turn on TV in Malaysia you see and can hear so many TV show or radio with difference language and dialects, but when i was in Indonesia, i don't see this. this what makes Malaysians Truly Asia and are more flexible compare Indonesians.

I am 3 Generation Malaysian, with strong Javanese and Bugis Background, also have connection with I'sia, M'sia and S'pore. :)

Cheers Mate!

NK said...

I have to disagree with this post. While BI and BM are indeed not exactly the same, they are in fact different dialects of the SAME language, Malay.

Differences are minor, usually limited to Dutch, English or Javanese influence in nouns. Syntax and grammar are identical and while BI favours some terms over BI and vice-versa, you will find that the lexicon of both dialects includes all meanings in their dictionaries.

While the difference b/w a language and a dialect can be debated, it is generally accepted that mutual intelligibility is the hallmark of the same language. BI and BM are far closer than the Portuguese from Portugal and Brazil.

Not only this but there is a common language council known as MABBIM (Majlis Bahasa Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia) which cooperates in standardising scientific terms and to plan and monitor the development of the language.


coffeeliqueur said...

Hi NK,
Thank you for your explanation. It enriches this post! I really appreciate it.

Patria Sandy said...

I am javanese indonesian and i am also native of bahasa indonesia. I have stayed in malaysia for 1 year, but i have no problem talking malaysian, alot of indonesian tv show broadcast in malaysia nation tv station, it feels like home actually

I disagree if bahasa indonesia and malaysia is different, if u ever learn bahasa indonesia and read Kamus Besar Bahasa indonesia, you will notice that all bahasa malaysia word is also avalaible there, it just indonesian never know or use it

In level of daily conversation both indonesian and malaysian will understand each other if they both speak in standart way or bahasa baku, but i agree that both BI and BM has their own term / diction