BASIC VOCABULARY LIST (500 words) English->Malay | French->Malay | Spanish->Malay | Malay->English/French/Spanish (A mastery of this selected list of the most commonly-used Malay words should help you to carry out a very simple conversation in Malay.)
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What is your name?
My name is John. (change to yours)
He is my friend.
What is his name?
His name is Peter.
She is my friend.
What is her name?
Her name is Mary.
Apa = What
nama = name
anda = you or your
saya = I or my
kawan = friend
dia = he OR she
mereka = they
nama anda = your name
namanya = his/her name
nama saya = my name
kawan anda= your friend
kawannya = his/her friend
The first thing you will notice is the absence of the verb "to be" in Malay in the above sentences.
In fact the verb "to be" is simply not needed here.
A sentence without a verb? Yes, it's possible in Malay.
Those who had to struggle with the conjugation of the verb "to be" in French or Spanish will be greatly relieved to hear this! (Having said that, people who feel lost without putting in a verb in a sentence can note that the word adalah is sometimes used for the verb "is". Thus Dia guru saya and Dia adalah guru saya both mean "He/She is my teacher".)
Another thing you will notice is that while in English we have the pronoun before the noun (eg. my name, your name) in Malay it is just the opposite ie. the noun comes first then the pronoun (so in Malay we say "name my", "name your"). If you remember this it will serve you throughout this course as it is the same word order when it comes to adjectives and nouns (so "big car" becomes "car big" in Malay).
The third important thing to remember is something that you'd better get right from the very beginning and that is the same pronoun "dia" is used for BOTH "he" and "she". Only the context will tell whether you're talking about a man or a woman.
Please note that the colloquial forms (Apa nama anda? and Apa namanya? ) are used in this lesson. The formal forms would be Siapa nama anda? and Siapa namanya? The formal forms only confuse English-speaking students because Siapa actually means "Who" as in Siapa dia? = "Who is he (or she)?" while Apa normally means "What" as in Apa ini? (What is this?). So to make it easier for English-speaking students (why be pedantic when you are a beginner?) I am using the colloquial form. Please note that this course is aimed at giving you a basic knowledge so you can get around in Malaysia and not to make you a Malay language expert. Those hoping to become Malay scholars will have to go to a proper school.
You will notice that the suffix nya is tagged on to the noun to indicate "his" or "her". So namanya can either mean "his name" or "her name" (depending on the context). Similarly bukunya can mean "his book" or "her book" and kawannya can mean "his friend" or "her friend".
So far you have learnt the Malay pronouns for I, you, he and she.
The Malay word for the pronoun "they" or "them" is mereka. To help you remember I am going to bring up three common names: Murphy, Raymond and Kazan, the famous Hollywood film director. What is so special about these three people, you might ask. Well, if you remember them, they're not only going to help you remember the Malay word for "they" or "them" but also help you to pronounce the word correctly. How is this possible? Well just pronounce the FIRST syllable of each of the three names and you will get mereka as it should be pronounced (Mur-Ray-Ka). I hope this little mnemonic will be of help to you. At least it will show you that the e vowel has got two different sounds in Malay (see Lesson 50), one the schwa sound as the "Mur" in Murphy (the phonetic symbol for this sound being ə) and the other the ay sound as in Ray (if you know French, it's the sound of é).
Important note on the pronunciation used in this course Email received from BH on 2 January 2015:
I am confused with the "a" pronunciation at the end of a word.
I always hear jumpa, kerja with "a" pronounced as "er" instead of "ar". And it sounds kind of weird to pronounce it as "ar". But when it comes to "anda" I always hear it pronounced as "ar".
I know "ar" is the right way but sound rather unnatural at times. I hear "er" even in radio or TV programmes. Pls advise. Thanks.
The answer is as follows:
Although in a number of states in Malaysia the "a" vowel in the final syllable, as in Apa, nama and saya is pronounced er (as in the second vowel in "butter") and represented by the phonetic symbol ə, I am here pronouncing it exactly as the "a" in the first syllable (which has the sound of "ah"). This was one of the recommendations in bahasa baku (standard Malay pronunciation) which, incidentally, has since been scrapped by the Malaysian government after its attempt at standardizing Malay pronunciation failed. As they say, habits die hard and the Malays in many states are so used to pronouncing the "a" vowel in the final syllable as "er" that nothing can make them change their way of pronunciation.
In all my lessons I try to simplify things as much as possible so that students won't get confused by less important points (the main objective being that they are understood when they speak Malay and not to try to speak like the locals). Well I guess you can't have everything and have to make small sacrifices in the bigger interest.
The following table at the end of each lesson is meant for those who also want to study the Indonesian language at the same time. If it is not mentioned below you can assume that what you learn for the Malay language above applies equally to the Indonesian language.
Quite often there is a slight difference in spelling between Malaysian and Indonesian words, particularly in words containing double consonants. If my memory serves me right Malaysian linguists at some time in the past rejected the use of double consonants, insisting that there should always be a vowel between them. As a result while the Indonesian spelling is Inggris, the Malaysian spelling is Inggeris. The same is true for istri (isteri in Malaysia) and Spanyol (Sepanyol in Malaysia). This is due to the difficulty for some Malaysians to pronounce two consonants together. However if this is not a problem for you, you can always pronounce Inggeris or isteri not in 3 syllables but in two (the way it is spelt in Indonesian).
Please bear in mind that what you hear in Indonesia might not always be standard Indonesian but rather one of the numerous dialects (Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Bugis, Acehnese, Balinese, Batak, etc.)
He/She is my friend.
Dia teman saya.
Dia kawan saya.
his friend or her friend
all of you
kalian, anda sekalian
Addressing a man (politely)
Bapak or Pak
Tuan or Encik
Addressing a woman (politely)
Ibu or Bu, Tante
Addressing a young male person of your age or slightly older
Addressing a young female person of your age or slightly older