Languages of Malaysia..

In my first session of the ELLH03 Module (Language, Education and development). My lecturer asked about the number of the languages that exist in Malaysia. All of us could not give the exact answer. We just explained that Malaysia has mainly four languages. Malay language is the Malaysian national language, English is considered as the second language, and Chinese (mainly Mandarin) and Tamil are the mother tongue for the Chinese and the Indian community.

The fact

Actually, the number of the languages that have been mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg if it is compared to the actual number of the languages that is used by the Malaysian citizens. At first, we guessed that it would be just about 20 languages used for the whole citizens in the country. However the findings from my research was quite a shock. It was about 141 languages used in Malaysia. Sadly according to one of the sources, one of the languages has died. I believe that if there is no action taken to preserve the languages, they will eventually die and overpower by the languages that are commonly used by the majority.

My dialect (and slang)

It is quite a shame to note that among the list of the languages, I only know Malay and English. My ‘standard’ Malay is not that good as I always use the mixture of Malay and English (Manglish), as well as my regional dialect.

I make such statement because I have my own reasons. One of the obvious reasons is that when I meet a new guy which I’ve never met before, they can straight away tell me that I am a Kelantanese (citizen of Kelantan, the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia). My tongue is thick with this regional dialect.

According Zuraidah in her artical (Language-dialect code-switching: Kelantanese in a multilingual context), Kelantan dialect has its own set of features of pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax, which differ from standard Malay (2003:3). This explains why one could easily detect my origin although I tried my best to hide it.

Actually I must should be proud of the this unique dialect as ‘the Kelantanese regard their dialect as a fundamental part of their regional culture and a symbol of group membership and loyalty’ (Zuraidah 2003:3). And at the same time, I should respect other dialects and languages as well.

Before I acquire the Kelantan Dialect, I had been the expert in the Sabah Malay and the Penang Dialect (also known as North dialect and Kedah Malay) because I lived there for quite a number of years. However, these special abilities were eventually died in me as I did not use and practice them anymore. What a sad ending..

p/s: please read the artical because it is an interesting artical especially the code-swithing’s part.

My language learning process

I have learn English since I was in the Kindergarten. And my English is still at the spaghetti English level. There are many factors which hinder me to be a proficient language user. Perhaps it is mainly because of my attitude? hmm..

When I was in the remove class, I learned Mandarin for a few months. Just the basic stuff for speaking and writing. But almost 90% of the knowledge was eventually dissapeared as I grew older. Whom should I blame to? hmm (again)..

I had an attemp to learn Tamil. I learned and wrote a few words from my friends, like Kalay vanakem (is it the correct spelling? Please forgive me if I am wrong). It was just for fun and to know others better. It was just in my foundation years back in IPBA and that was it. hmm..

I learned Arabic in my secondary school as I am from religious school. This involved mainly in learning the grammar and translating the religious text (the text book came from Al-Azhar University, Egypt. ie Fiqh, Tauhid, Nahu, Saraf, Balaghoh, Akhlaq, Adab and Nusus, Sirah, Khat and others). The communication part was in my opinion still lagging behind as it was more toward the exam oriented approach in the teaching and learning process. However, I should thank God and both of my parents for sending me to the school. It helps me a lot in my way searching for the Truth. A friend of mine requests me to teach Arabic to him. Maybe the right phrase for this is ‘to help and share’ instead of ‘to teach’ because I am not the expert in this area.

Besides that, I also learned Dutch and Japanese language. One semester for each language. Again, it was just the basic stuff. Luckly, there was no exam for these minor subjects or else I would be at the dead end.

Last few night, I starts learning Polish language from my work colleague which is obviously a Polish. I started with learning just a few words I, you, hello and thank you. Sadly, all of the simple words disappeared when I woke up in the next morning. Maybe I need to eat dates (kurma) to strenghten my memory power. huhuhu


There are many issues concerning the different languages used by the communities within an area. This includes the employment, education, religion, cultural and identity and power issues. Maybe I’ll write about these issues in the other post.

Things to ponder..

All of Mankind are the Children of `Adam and Hawwa’ (taken from tafsir Ibn Kathir)

Allah said:

يأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَـكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَـكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَـرَفُواْ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عَندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَـكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ (Al Hujraat:13)

(13. O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.)

Allah the Exalted declares to mankind that He has created them all from a single person, `Adam, and from that person He created his mate, Hawwa’. From their offspring He made nations, comprised of tribe, which include sub-tribes of all sizes. It was also said that `nations refers to non-Arabs, while `tribes refers to Arabs. Various statements about this were collected in an individual introduction from the book, Al-Inbah, by Abu `Amr Ibn `Abdul-Barr, and from the book, Al-Qasad wal-Amam fi Ma`rifah Ansab Al-Arab wal-`Ajam. Therefore, all people are the descendants of `Adam and Hawwa’ and share this honor equally. The only difference between them is in the religion that revolves around their obedience to Allah the Exalted and their following of His Messenger . After He forbade backbiting and belittling other people, alerting mankind that they are all equal in their humanity.

Allah said,

﴿يأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَـكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَـكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَآئِلَ لِتَعَـرَفُواْ﴾

(O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another.) so that they get to know each other by their nation or tribe. Mujahid said that Allah’s statement,


(that you may know one another.) refers to one’s saying, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so, from the tribe of so-and-so.” Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “The Himyar (who resided in Yemen) dealt with each other according to their provinces, while the Arabs in the Hijaz (Western Arabia) dealt with each other according to their tribes.”

Allah the Exalted said,

﴿إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عَندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَـكُمْ﴾

(Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa.) meaning, `you earn honor with Allah the Exalted on account of Taqwa, not family lineage.’ There are many Hadiths from the Prophet that support this meaning. Al-Bukhari narrated that Abu Hurayrah said, “Some people asked the Prophet , `Who is the most honorable among people’ He replied,

«أَكْرَمُهُمْ عِنْدَ اللهِ أَتْقَاهُم»

(The most honorable among them with Allah is the one who has the most Taqwa.) They said, `We did not ask you about this.’

for more info and flow, refer to the Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Quran Tafsir) Surah Al Hujraat.

The moral of the story

The word that can be best described the whole post is “respect”. All of the differences show how great and unique the diversity is, how small each of us is. Ironically, there are some people tend to be a bit ethnocentrism especially who has the power. Yes, we should be proud of what we have but at the same time respect others (I need to have more space to explain about this issue = another post) . If we respect others, others will do the same. What goes around, comes around. The most important key element is that ‘Shuhudul wahdah fil kasra, shuhudul kasrah fil wahdah’. If you know what I mean.

Ps: What if what goes around does not come around? The answer is you can be either a tree full of fruits or a beehive full of bees. If you throw something at the tree, you’ll get fruits. But if you throw something at the beehive, you’ll be badly injured. Which one would you choose? huhuhu..



  1. KunangKunangHijau said,

    February 29, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Kelantan .. not South East my bro.

    It’s in the North East, on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

    sorry for my lack of knowledge.. it shows that I slept a lot in the Geography classes during school days.. huhuhu.. I’ll correct the mistake.. thanks..

  2. halaa said,

    February 29, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    ‘Shuhudul wahdah fil kasra, shuhudul kasrah fil wahdah’ – ‘All for one, and one for all’, just helping to translate it. Hehe… Your favourite quote, eh.

    Anyway, just to support, I love this post. Islam recognizes and accords rights to all human beings regardless of race, color or creed. Muslims are required to show respect and tolerance even to non-believers. Prophet Muhammad said: “God has no mercy on one who shows no mercy to others”. Islam further encourages Muslims to respect the rights of all living things. Therefore, Muslims are required to be conscious of the environment and are not allowed to cause harm to nature. (Wider range of respect on this). Just to top up some point about your post regarding ‘saving the world’, if you dont mind – at least don’t waste ^_~ (Quran verse 7:31).

    This is just my own opinion; I think the breaking up of the Muslims into the seventy three sects is because of lack of respect and lack of acceptance. The root of the sickness of dissatisfaction with the other group is that at the heart of it they say, “I am right, and I only like people who say what I say.” But the Deen of Islam is not based on what this one says or what that one says, the Deen is your individual transaction with Allah. You have to pay your bill with Allah. The Yawmid-Deen is not for saying which Islamic ideology was correct, it is to say what you have to account to Allah.

    BTW, just to say, if you didnt re-type the word, I wouldnt know the paintings was actually spelling ‘respect’. hehe…

  3. Zurairi AR said,

    May 28, 2008 at 7:50 am

    hey, this is a good article. I was searching for facts regarding dead languages in Malaysia while researching for my post on extinct and constructed languages:

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