(Friday Post) : Similar but Different – Indonesian and Malaysian


This is what I think when for the first time I met Malaysians. Physically we are identical. Linguistically we can say mutually intelligible, our languages are derived from the same root, High Malay which developed from Johor-Riau Sultanate (divided into Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia nowadays). Most of the time we can understand each other, but there are several misunderstanding related to the vocabularies. Some are different spellings, even how to pronounce alphabets. Indonesians follow identical to Dutch or Romance languages, while Malaysians follow English rule. If we do not know how to spell in both two variants, it could be a fatal mistake.

The differences between Bahasa Indonesia and Malay (Malaysian) are actually not too much. It is caused of geographical, historical, political and social aspects after 1824. Much alike British and American English, European and Brazilian Portuguese, European and Latin American Spanish, Azerbaijani and Iranian Azeri, even between Hindi and Urdu which are genetically derived from Khari Bholi, though in several languages, the differences are so pronounced till each variants can hardly understand each other or takes some time to train themselves.

For this case, and based on several literatures as well as my own experiences interacting to Malaysians and Singaporeans (sometimes I can understand Singaporean Malays better than Malaysian ones as they pronounce much alike Indonesians), I’d like to share the differences, particularly in its false friends. Similar words, but different meanings, and it can raise misunderstanding among them. Even though it has been regulated by MABBIM (Language Associations of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam), but in colloquial and sometimes even in formal occasions, the false friends happened, and even they need to open dictionary for knowing Indonesian (or Malaysian) meanings.

Several false friends or obscure categories have got offensive meanings and it should be understood by those who want to learn Bahasa Indonesia and Malay at the same time. Actually, those have got same meaning in each dictionary (KBBI or Kamus Dewan), but here I share its current use as many dictionary meanings have been misused.  Middle row is Malaysian meaning, while right one is Indonesian.

Banci

Census

Transsexuals, shemale

Comel

Cute

Fussy

Bisa

Poison

Can, poison (rare)

Budak

Kids

Slave

Polisi

Policy

Police

Tambang

Fare

Rope, mine

Pejabat

Office

Officer

Repot

Report

Busy, occupied

Sejuk

Cold

Cool

Pusing

Turn around

Dizzy

Jemput

To invite

To pick up

Bual

Chatting

Telling lies

Pengacara

Master of ceremony

Lawyer

Percuma

Free of charge

Pointless

Tewas

Defeat, lose

Death

Ibu pejabat

Headquarters

Female officer, officer’s wife

Lemas

Drowned

Tired

Punggung

Buttock

Back

Belakang (body parts)

Back

Behind

Butuh

Penis

Need

Mesra

Friendly

Intimate

Ahli

Member

Master

Undi

To vote

To draw a prize

Rayuan

Request

Flirting

Getah

Rubber

Sap

Bina

Build

Develop, help

Gampang

Illegal child

Easy

Anjur

To held

To suggest

Cadar

Bed cover

Face cover

Cemas

Emergency

Worry

Kemalangan

Accident

Misfortune

Cukai

Tax

Custom

Jabatan

Department, office

Position

Jimat

Economical

Talisman

Jeruk

Pickles

Orange

Seronok

Fun

Erotic

I just share this one, especially for those who love languages. I believe it will be suitable for you all.  Divergences cannot be avoided, but by knowing it, we can understand each other when speaking.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Hanno Phenn says:

    It is fascinating how different Languages can be and on the other hand they are not.

    1. Even though from the same root.

  2. Angelica Dores says:

    Seronok according to KBBI means also ‘fun’ in Indonesian, on the other hand Senonoh means ‘patut’ in Indonesian, so Tidak senonoh means ‘tidak patut’. That’s where most indonesian confuse senonoh with seronok.

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