Cross-Cultural Influence

(Image credit)


Compared to most other languages, Malay is a very easy language to learn. No gender distinction, meaning no he nor she, just a dia suffice to refer to both male and female.

Arabic meanwhile, according to some, is one of the hardest languages to learn. Not only is there the gender distinction such as he/she, but also a dual form of nouns to make the categorization effectively singular-dual-plural.

So, there are specific pronouns referring to two of he, or three of she, and so on.

In essence, there are 8 pronouns for English (I, he, she, you, etc.), vis-a-vis 5~ for Malay. Compare this with 14 for Arabic.

This is a real conversation had in an Arabic language class between a teacher and a student. The student is a foreigner who understands very little Malay.

Teacher: …The gender distinction in Arabic makes it quite a challenging language to be learnt, unlike, for instance, Malay.

Student: But I heard that some of my Malay friends using gender-specific words sometimes.

Teacher: Really? In Malay? How?

Student: Usually when they receive bad news… Or shocked or surprised.

Teacher: Hmm, I’m a native Malay speaker, but can’t say I’ve heard of that. How does it sound like?

Student: I cannot remember exactly. Something like, “na-jo-go” for a girl. If it’s a male who is shocked, he will say something else.

Teacher: Really? I’ve never heard of that before. Then what does the male say?

Student: (Sounding pleased) Ah, I remember! my friend taught me that the male will say “na-jo-boy” if he is shocked.

Teacher: (Confused) Na-jo-boy for male? Sounds like English to me.

Student: Yes. My Malay friend taught me to say that in Malay if I’m shocked.

Silence ensued.

Teacher: Only if shocked or surprised? Na-jo?

Student: Urmm, or an-jo.


Teacher: Of course!

Student: What?

Teacher: Anjat-boboi and anjat-gegerl!

Student: Yes! That’s it!

Teacher spends the next hour explaining the different usage of Malay slangs, and its bastardisation, including among gangstah-aspired Malays.

Never underestimate the influence of black-attired, trucker-hatted, tapered pants (still?), swearing-suffixed speech patterns of the  mats and minahs on the Foreign Talent.


Further reading:

The Mat Dictionary


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