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Lesson 17 of A Basic Malay Language Course by pgoh13

Lesson 17 Bila .....(When .....)

Click to listen to the Malay sentences.

A second reading (by Michelle Nor Ismat, a native speaker)

When did he return? - This morning. Bilakah dia balik? - Pagi ini.
When did they arrive? - Yesterday. Bilakah mereka tiba? - Semalam.
When did he stop working? - Last week. Bilakah dia berhenti kerja? - Minggu lalu.
When did he get married? - Last year. Bilakah dia kahwin? - Tahun lalu.
balik = to return
mereka = they
tiba = to arrive
berhenti = to stop
kerja = work
minggu = week
kahwin = to get married

Asking about the future

When Bila is used to ask questions about future events the word akan, which indicates a future event (see Lesson 15), is always used with it. In such a case the above questions become:

When will he return? - Next month. Bilakah dia akan balik? - Bulan depan.
When will they arrive? - Tomorrow. Bilakah mereka akan tiba? - Esok.
When will he stop working? - At the end of this month. Bilakah dia akan berhenti kerja? - Pada hujung bulan ini.
When will he get married? - Next year. Bilakah dia akan kahwin? - Tahun hadapan.
Instead of saying Pada hujung bulan ini (= At the end of this month) you can also say Pada akhir bulan ini as both hujung and akhir mean "end".

For those who want to know more

The written form of the verb kahwin ("to marry") has the ber- prefix added to it (berkahwin). You might come across another word (bernikah) which means exactly the same thing.
The suffix kah is often added to Bila to indicate that a question is being asked. It is often omitted by native speakers as the rising intonation alone leaves no doubt that a question is being asked. Thus: Bila dia balik? instead of Bilakah dia balik?
There are two Malay words widely used for "yesterday", namely kelmarin and semalam. However as semalam could lead to confusion since it means "last night" in some places, it's better to stick to kelmarin for "yesterday".
"Last week, last month, last year" is usually translated as minggu lalu, bulan lalu, tahun lalu respectively though you will also hear minggu yang lalu, bulan yang lalu, tahun yang lalu as well as minggu lepas, bulan lepas, tahun lepas.

Question of priority:

When something has got to be done urgently (and in answer to the question Bila...) the usual answers are: Sekarang juga (Right now) or Dengan segera (Immediately). When it is not that urgent the answer can be Secepat mungkin (As soon as possible) or Bila-bila saja or Bila-bila masa sahaja, both of which mean "Anytime at all". You can also say Bila senang or Bila ada masa, both meaning "When you are free".

Cultural note (1):

Although dropping by a friend's house unannounced is common practice in a rural environment, most people in the city telephone in advance to fix a time that is convenient to both parties. Incidentally the Malaysian hospitality is such that if you are at a friend's house around lunch time or dinner time you are also invited to stay on for a meal. The following sentences might come in handy when socializing:
Saya hendak menjemput anda ke rumah saya. (I would like to invite you to my house.)
Datanglah ke rumah saya bila senang. (Come to my house when you are free.)
Another way of saying that is Datanglah ke rumah saya bila ada masa.
Note that senang has got two meanings depending on the context. It can mean "free, not busy" as in the above sentence. It can also mean "easy, simple" as you will learn in Lesson 47 and again in Lesson 58.
But when you are in Indonesia remember that senang over there usually means "happy" and that it can also be used as a verb to mean "like" eg. Aku senang nonton TV (= I like to watch TV.)
If you are very keen that a friend visit you, you can say to him:
Bilakah anda dapat datang ke rumah saya? (= When will you be able to come to my house?)

Cultural note (2):

The word balik, you have learnt, means "to return". While in Malaysia you might often hear the term balik kampung. It simply means to return to one's hometown (where one's roots are) especially during the Hari Raya holidays or when one takes a week's leave from work.

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