How To Learn Bahasa Malaysia?

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.

Wan is an ordinary Malaysian who observes idiosyncrasies in Bahasa Malaysia and is currently uploading them to where you can learn Bahasa Malaysia free online, please visit


  • Global Spotlight on Malaysia?s Political Tragedies
    Malaysia is currently confronting its worst crisis caused by its inability to explain the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. The government in particular is accused of being less transparent in presenting updates about the search for the missing MH370. But before Malaysian gained global notoriety for mishandling the situation, it was already facing [?] Read More...
  • I am Sabahan - and that is that
    As much as we value our individual heritage and history, the barriers built by colour, race and ethnicity are immaterial. Read More...
  • Spanish isn't Spanish when it's Spanish
    It's a bit embarrassing to admit that after 16 months in Latin America, I'm still thoroughly confused by the Spanish language. I cannot speak, hear, or even read Spanish fluently. Not even close. Read More...
  • Comment on New Form 3 exam system open to bias, abuse, says education activist by waterfrontcoolie
    Even with the low quality public examinations, we are already 3/4 years behind after 9 years of education; meaning in reality half of them have only 5/6 years of REAL education. With this system, it could be 4/6 years behind. Just like the students of Detroit City; which one commentator said they were equal to the mind-set of the cavemen! In most of the form 1/3 classes, the recent graduates ... Read More...
  • New Form 3 exam system open to bias, abuse, says education activist
    The new exam system that will replace the PMR for Form Three students this year is open to bias and abuse, and could jeopardise the future of children from poorer families, said an education activist today. Mohd Noor Izzat Mohd Johari (pic) said that unlike the old system, where the Form Three exam is produced and graded by an independent body... Read More...