Malaysian English vs Standard English

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Malaysian English versus Standard English


Many countries use the English Language as a second language or perhaps its official language. When we talk about English Language, the most acknowledged kind is called Standard English (SE). In Malaysia, English is widely used, as it is our country’s second language. However, the type of English that is more commonly used here is known as Malaysian English (ME).

Malaysian English (ME) Vs Standard English (SE)

ME is quite different from SE and many view it as more inferior. Its popular use among the locals, however, has caused concern about the declining standards of English. This paper looks into the perceptions and attitudes of Malaysian people towards SE versus ME. The study discovers that generally Malaysians think that ME is not a threat to SE. Many are more comfortable using ME as compared to SE. However, most would switch to SE in formal situations.

The British introduced English to Malaysia more than two centuries ago. It became the most important language for generations and it is often associated with power and prestige. However, in post-British era, when Malaysia became independent in 1957, English was made the second language in conjunction with the promotion of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language. Then, in the 1990s, spurred by the government desire to push the nation into globalization, the importance of English increased.

Today, English has become a means of communication that reflects the culture, expressions and emotions of its Malaysian speakers. It continues to be used for many purposes in this country: art, play, business and so on. However, in many instances, these activities do not require the same words and grammar as some of the other English Language activities do, thus leading some language purists to label such language use as sub standard.  T

his development has also caused concern among educators, language activists and the government. They fully understand that to meet the global challenge of competitive markets, the country needs Malaysians who are able to communicate well on various issues, showcase the country’s abilities and products, and to establish political, trade and technological relations with other nations. If we wished to achieve this, should we then allow only Standard English to be spoken in formal situations? How acceptable are Malaysians towards the use of Malaysian English?

Malaysian English

Malaysian English (ME) or formally known as Malaysian Standard English (MSE) is a form of English used in Malaysia and is the lingua franca in Malaysia. However, Malaysian English should never be confused with Malaysian Colloquial English which is famously known as Manglish or Street English.

Malaysians are generally fluent in two different forms of English – Malaysian Standard English (close to the English spoken by native speakers worldwide) and Malaysian Colloquial English or Manglish (not understood by foreigners) – and are able to switch between them depending on the social situation. In fact, Manglish is widespread throughout all social classes in Malaysia including bank managers, teachers and doctors.

Even though Malaysian English is no longer the official language in independent Malaysia, it is still used widely among Malaysians and is recognised as Business Language in Malaysia. Almost 80% of business premises and urban places in Malaysia use English (both Malaysian English and Manglish) as medium language. (Nair, 2003)

Today's Malaysian English can be categorised into two : the original Malaysian English which is the Malaysian Standard English and the other one; Malaysian Local English (once again not be confused with Manglish) which is the combination of Malaysian English and local languages. Malaysians using Malaysian Local Language usually speak Manglish and they use words such as 'kampung' instead of 'village', 'sin-seh' instead of...
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