Saturday, January 29, 2011

Malay in one easy lesson

Hey everybody, I can speak Malay!

I took a teksi from the kolej to the butik, where I saw lots of fesen and tekstils. I was hungry so I went to a restoran, where I had chokolat and iskraim. I got sick, and raced to emergensi, but the polis stopped me and gave me a penalti.

Not bad eh, after only a day in the country?

Another small relief after many months of pidgin and hand gestures is speaking and reading English. We have been functionally illiterate since December 1. It so strange understanding signs and sharing a common language again. And Malaysia, a former colony of Britain, has adopted hundreds of English words into its language, as you can see from the small sample above. So even the Malay (which uses English characters) can be worked out in general terms.

Funny though. After a month of the politeness of Laotian, where you can express many degrees of thankfulness, just saying 'thanks' to a clerk seems inadequate. And it seems like we're cheating ourselves- we should be learning local words when we're away from home. But it's the working language here, so when in Rome...

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