Or rather, how to learn Bahasa Malaysia as a standard language instead of being contented speaking the very easy Creole Malay?
The first step is to assess your motive. While it is not my business to query the purity of your motive, bear in mind that purer motive is the more powerful motivation in learning a language. For example, a desire to communicate Malay-speaking people is a motivation that lasts longer than...flirting.
Next, work on your qualities as a learner:
Adaptability--Learning Bahasa Malaysia implies learning the Malay and Malaysian culture which is not synonymous with monetary gain, prestige and super power. Do you have an open mind? Are you willing to show interest in the food, music and life-style of the Malaysians? can you accept them just the way they are?
Humility--Children have no problem with this quality. For an adult, this may be a challenge as the book How to Learn a Foreign Language points out:"When you are new to the language, you must be willing to speak like-and in the respects, be treated like a child...You have to shed some of your own self-
importance and your worries about dignity if you really want to make progress ."
That includes facing the inevitable prospect of other people laughing at your mistakes...just laugh along with them.
Reasonableness--Set reasonable goals for yourself. Don't compare your progress with that of others. Don't force yourself to read books claiming to teach Bahasa Malaysia but bore you stiff or you can never understand with your great IQ. If you don't have the potential to pass for a native speaker, concentrate on communicating clearly.
Patience--It can take a long time to learn Bahasa Malaysia. Adult learners have to put aside time from their busy schedules to study only to notice a lot of inconsistencies. Well, look at it this way, scholars are still sorting things out and everyone is still waiting.
Now, we can talk about the basic learning methods:
Set aside time to study-The good news is regular short periods of time to study is more effective than irregular large chunks of time. Take word lists with you and have a look a them whenever you have a few minutes to spare or paste the list on your bathroom door.
Practise, practise, practise--You cannot learn to swim just by reading, you have to get into the water. So it is with learning Bahasa Malaysia. Interact with people whenever you can.
Put yourself in Malaysia-The best place to absorb the flavour of language, if your circumstances allow you to do so. If not, try to get radio, TV and video programmes in Bahasa Malaysia.
Caution: At times you maybe struggling along at the same level without much improvement. Don't give up. Reflect on your goals, progress and expectations. Don't be shy to ask friends to help and speak to you in Bahasa Malaysia on a regular basis.
When you reach a stage where you can understand Malaysian jokes, you will know it's worth the effort.