Dec 13, 2011

Bahasa Melayu

Bahasa Melayu is the official language of Malaysia. This language, along with it's close relative Bahasa Indonesia, belongs to the Austronesian language family.

Someone who speaks Sanskrit or one of the languages evolved from it ( Bangla, Assamese, Hindi, Gujrati etc. ) should be able to pickup some Bahasa esily. Knowing Arabic would help even more. When the Indian settlers came to Malaysia during 1st century, they brought Sanskrit with them. Later, around 14th century, the Arab traders brought Arabic. The influence of Sanskrit and Arabic on Malaysian language is evident. The Chinese also came around the same time as the Indians, I believe their language has left it's signature too. Since I don't speak any dialect of Chinese, it was beyond my perception.

I had learned a few words of Bahasa before going to Malaysia. The numbers 1,2,3...10 mostly sounded unlike anything I've heard before. So did phrases for thanking (Terima Kasih) and it's response (Sama-sama). But the phrase for greeting "Selamat datang" made me wonder if the "Selamat" part is somehow related to Arabic (and also Muslim) way of greeting with "salam". Another way of greeting is to ask "Apa khabar ?" (how are you). The "khabar" part is definitely from Arabic, meaning "news". The literal translation would be "what is news" or "what's up" in colloquial terms.

The first two words I picked up were "antarbangsa", (internationl) and "antarnagari" (intercity), both of Sanskrit origin. I would often keep note of words I've found written on street sign, billboards or anywhere else and later check with my Malaysian friends if I had guessed the meaning right. Bus tickets, list of ingredients on soft drink bottles and packs of snacks etc. were good source of language lessons. It's easier to guess the meaning of those words. But nothing beats the help of native speakers. They will always help you getting the grammar right.

Combining the contribution from all these sources I learned quite a bit of Bahasa and the longest sentence I can say correctly was :

Ayam berak hari hari di atas bumbong, tidak bagus !

The chicken poops on the roof every day, not good !