Number of hits

Content View Hits : 733751

Subscribe to newsletters!


Designed by:

Instant Conversational Malay for Determined Newbies - the whole lesson PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 25
Friday, 10 September 2010 11:40

Instant Conversational Malay for Determined Newbies

I can gladly promise you that this will be the easiest language to learn and you will be sufficiently communicative in the shortest possible time.

Before you even embark on this page, go to Useful and Colloquial words and phrases where you can learn single words and short phrases that convey a world of meaning when communicating in Malay.

Instead of lists of words, I am taking you directly into conversation or such single words or phrases as are ‘complete’ and naturally used in communication among Malay speakers.

Boleh! = ‘can’, ‘ok’, ‘will do’, ‘it is permissible’, ‘go ahead’ and similar.

Bagus! = ‘Good!’, ‘I’m fine’, ‘Lovely!’

If you use one of these judiciously and at an apt moment you will instantly be thought of as actually a good speaker but modestly holding back.

There are already many familiar words e.g. bas = bus, doktor = doctor and as a Singaporean you know all the food terms like nasi lemak.

This is spoken Malay not formal written Malay.

This means that spoken Malay is shorter than the written form. Quite apart from having to use all the correct prefixes and suffixes the pronunciation of words are also shortened. E.g.

Dia hendak minum air is said Dia nak minum air = ‘He/she wants to drink water.’

Saya tahu is said Saya tau = ‘I know’

Buah itu pahit is said Buah itu pait = That fruit is bitter-tasting.

My own command of the language can be kindly described as terok, which means lousy. I roped in some Johorian Malays who have been generous with time and teh to make sure what is presented is correct for spoken Malay purposes.

Malay pronunciation is based on the Johor-Riau Malay spoken in southern Malaya and the Riau islands. I has a soft ‘eh’ ending (previously known as the e tanda) instead of the strong ‘aa’ of Bahasa Indonesia, so bahasa would be ‘ba ha ser’ in Malay and ‘ba ha sa’ in Indonesian.

When a word has a ‘c’ in it, it is pronounced ‘ch’ e.g. cerita – ‘story’.

Malay people are very happy to see you making a real effort with trying to speak their language. They will tolerantly put up with all sorts of mistakes if honestly made. They are not thrilled when you intersperse words in Bahasa Indonesia with Bahasa Melayu but mostly will tolerate these lapses too.

In particular these two words rankle:

boleh = ‘can’ … do not say bisa e.g. Boleh masok? = Can one enter?

pukul = ‘the hour of’ … do not say jam e.g. pukul lima = five o’clock

A few basic grammar rules:

Malay is free of the past/present/future forms of verbs. So, for example, the verb ‘eat’ would be makan whether you are eating right now, ate yesterday or will be eating tomorrow.

Adjectives usually come after nouns e.g. ‘big house’ = rumah besar (house big). But when using numbers it might go before or after the noun.

a/an/the are not actually used, and itu (‘that’) is often used, so ‘The house is big’ = Rumah itu besar.

[Yes, I can go all grammatical on you and say instead “There is also no definite article in Malay, but the demonstrative pronoun itu or ‘that’, is sometimes used in its place, and follows the noun or adjective.” If that is what you need … waal, sorry.]


Plural forms do not have an ‘s’ added or such, so you double the noun e.g. ‘balls’ = bola-bola, flowers = bunga-bunga


Greetings & Introductions

Good morning!

Selamat pagi!

My name is …

Nama saya ___

What’s your name?

Nama anda?

I’d like to introduce my friend …

Ini kawan saya ___

I don’t speak much Malay yet.

Saya hanya boleh cakap Melayu sadikit.

Don’t be shy. Just try!

Jangan malu. Cubalah!

Could you speak more slowly please?

Tolong cakap perlahan sedikit?

Do you understand?


I don’t understand.

Saya kurang faham.



Yes, I am driving around Malaysia for 15 days.

Ya, saya akan melancong di-Malaysia selama lima belas hari.

- Where are you planning to go?

Anda nak kemana?

Not sure. Here and there.

Belum tentu. Sini–sana.

I am afraid of mosquitos

Saya takut nyamok.

I have brought you a small present.

Saya ada bawa buah tangan.

Thank you so much! Giving you trouble!

Terima kasih banyak-banyak! Buat susah sahaja!

You are welcome.


Meeting someone again

Good evening! How are you?

Selamat petang! Apa khabar? [What’s news?]

Very well, thank you, and you?

Baik, terima kasih. Awak?



Let’s sit and chat a bit?

Mari kita dudok berbual sekejap?

Very sorry but I have to rush to an appointment.

Ma’af tapi saya ada temu-janji.

Can you wait a while?

Boleh tunggu sebentar?

Sorry, I can’t. Next week?

Ma’af, saya ta’boleh. Minggu hadapan?

Sorry! I won’t be around because of work. I will call you when I return?

Maaf, saya tak ada kerana kerja. Bila saya pulang, saya akan talipon?

OK. Have a safe journey.

Baiklah! Salamat jalan.

Be well where you are.

Selamat tinggal.

Enquiring about someone

Which country does he come from?

Dia datang dari mana?

Does he need any assistance?

Dia perlu bantuan?

Do you know how I can locate Enche Sani?

Di mana saya boleh cari Encik Sani?

Is that Enche Sani?

Itu kah Encik Sani?

Saying goodbye

I have to go home now.

Saya mesti pulang sekarang.

We have another meeting

Kita ada mensyuarat lain.

Please say ‘hello’ for me to your family

Kirim salam kepada keluarga.




Where is the toilet?

Tandas di mana?

Someone is shouting for help.

Ada orang jerit ‘tolong’.

Someone snatched my bag while I was waiting here.

Ada orang ragut beg saya di sini


Our car’s back window was smashed and some things stolen.

Tingap belakang kereta di pecah dan ada barang yang di curi.


Our house was broken into.

Rumah kita di pecah masuk.

My husband has fainted.

Suami saya sudah pengsan.

My wife is feeling ill.

Isteri saya tak sihat

Where is the doctor?

Doktor di mana?

Where is the closest hospital?

Di mana hospital yang terdekat?

There is a big fire in that building.

Ada kebakaaran besar di bangunan itu.

Note: In spoken Malay, the root verb is used without all the formality of the prefixes required in written Malay e.g.

Saya hendak baca buku becomes Saya nak baca buku (‘I want to read a book’)

Asking for and getting Directions

Can you tell me where the bus station is?

Di mana stesen bas?

Close by. The bus station is only five minues walk from here.

Dekat. Bas stesen hanya lima minit dari sini.

Is the building close by?

Bangunan itu dekat ke?

Can I walk there?

Boleh saya jalan ke sana?

If you go by car it’s fifteen minutes away.

Kalau naik kereta, hanya lima belas minit.

Is there a bus that goes there?

Ada bas ke sana?

If you go by bus it will take you three hours.

Kalau naik bas, tiga jam.

Where can I catch a taxi?

Di mana saya boleh cari teksi?

The taxi stand is next to Central.

Tempat [pengkalan] teksi di sebelah Central.

How far away is Larkin?

Larkin berapa jauh dari sini?

Is this the direct route?

Ini jalan yang terdekat?

Is there a short cut?

Ada jalan pendek?

Clarifying the time schedule

- What time does the bus for Mersing leave?

Pukul berapa bas ke Mersing bertolak?

You need to ask at the bus station.

Awak perlu tanya di stesen bas.

I don’t know. Ask the office?

Saya tidak tahu. Tanya di perjabat?

Very soon, better hurry.

Sekejap lagi, baik cepat.

In about an hour.

Dalam satu jam.

Tomorrow morning.

Besok pagi.



Not now. Maybe in 10 minutes.

Tidak sekarang. Mungkin dalam sepuloh minit.

Daily routines

At what time would you be awake?

Pukul berapa anda hendak bangun?

What time is breakfast?

Sarapan pagi pukul berapa?

I usually skip breakfast.

Saya jarang makan sarapan pagi.

At home or visiting somone at home

Please come in!

Sila masuk.

Please take off your shoes.

Sila tanggalkan kasut.

This is my Mother.

Ini emak saya.

This is my Father

Ini ayah saya.


I have this present (for you).

Saya ada buah tangan


In Malay tones are very important. ‘Please’ is not really used as much as you would use it in English. If you are asking for more rice, “Tambah lagi nasi” is just fine in polite tones. No need to add tolong … which is a little like you are begging.

Sila might sometimes be appropriate, as when inviting someone to begin eating.

Discussing and ordering food

This should not generally be a problem. Here are some specifics:

Is it very ‘hot’ [spicy]?

Terlalu pedas ke? [You could just ask – Pedas? ]

Give me a spoon and a fork (please).

Beri saya sudu dan garpu.

Less oil

Kurang minyak

Less salt

Kurang masin

Less spicy

Kurang pedas

I am vegetarian.

Saya hanya makan makanan sayura.n

What do you have that is suitable for children?

Ada yang sesuai untok budak-budak?

Give me more rice.

Tambah nasi lagi.

Less rice.

Kurang nasi.

Do you have any dessert?

Ada manisan?

Do you have any fruit?

Ada buah-buahan?

This fruit is spoiled/rotten

Buah ini busuk.





No ice

Tanpa air batu

No sugar

Tanpa gula

Less sweet

Kurang manis

That was delicious, thank you.

Sedap sekali! Terima kasih.


How much is this?

Apa harga nya?

Can you lower the price?

Kurang lah! [make it less expensive, ok..?]

It’s a bit expensive

Terlalu mahal

May I have a smaller size?

Beri saya saiz lagi kecil?

Do you have other colours?

Ada warna lain?

I am looking for a small box.

Saya cari peti kecil.


Buying property

Mostly, you will not need to speak any Malay as for such big transactions someone will be around to translate for you.

Malay is a language of passion. This means that people speak with emotion and feeling. A simple ya for ‘yes’ doesn’t cut it. It should be

ya-a-ar to give the word proper passion.

This section is a work in progress

As and when time permits – and when your suggestions and questions come in - I will keep expanding on it.

Meanwhile, when you really get into this, get a English-Malay, Malay-English dictionary. Also, watch old P.Ramlee movies and current TV programmes. Learn a few songs. Practise like mad and never mind the mistakes.

“I love you” = Saya cinta pada mu.

I will not be giving out swear words.



Last Updated on Sunday, 12 September 2010 17:23