Manglish – A Truly Unique Malaysian Language

As a non-Malaysian, have you ever conversed with a Malaysian in English and found yourself confounded?  You thought you heard some English words used, but couldn’t understand what was being said?  Well, don’t be too quick to dismiss us as uneducated and backward for you have just been exposed to an entirely unique version of English – Manglish!

Malaysians were first introduced to the English language during the British colonial rule over two centuries ago.  Over time, exposure to various cultures and dialects resulted in a more locally adapted form of English known as Malaysian English.  This refers to the proper and appropriate way of speech and writing, thus taught in schools and used in newspapers, official writings and business dealings.

And then we have our beloved Manglish (mangled English) which is the colloquial and informal spoken form of Malaysian English. Many Malaysians are familiar with Manglish, and can easily switch between proper English and Manglish depending on whom they are speaking to.  So what are some characteristics of Manglish?

  1. The vocabulary consists of words originating from the main languages spoken, namely English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Some colourful examples include “gostan” (reverse a vehicle), “abuden” (duh/obviously), “siasui” (humiliating/embarrassing), “cincai” (casually or simply doing things), “fuyoh”(exclamation of amazement) and “aiyah”(expression of exasperation, equivalent to “Oh no!”)
  2. Phrases are translated directly from one’s first language into English. For instance, “Why you so like that one?” is used instead of “Why are you behaving in that way?” and “go where eat?” is used instead of “where should we go to eat?” (both translated directly from Mandarin).
  3. Short, concise and straight to the point. Malaysians love taking short cuts and this applies to language as well. Instead of saying “I don’t recall agreeing to this proposal” we say “where got?”
  4. Usage of ‘lah’ at the end of sentences to either affirm a statement or soften a command. Examples include “I think it’s very good lah” or “Come on, hurry up lah!”
  5. Adding suffixes such as mah, hor, liao, meh, ah, leh, one and what after a word. Each adds on a different meaning to the word and choice of usage depends on the thought that is to be conveyed. (please refer to picture below)


Indeed, Manglish is an enjoyable, informal and down-to-earth form of communication for every day speech among Malaysians. We are especially tickled if non-Malaysians pick up some Manglish when conversing with us as we know it takes real effort to understand when and how to use Manglish appropriately.  Intercultural training will help you understand the local style of communication and know how to communicate in a way that local Malaysians can easily understand you.


By Boleh Blogger