So you've decided to learn Malay as a second language - congratulations! Apart from being a fairly easy language to learn, learning Malay for the first time expands your knowledge not just in the language, but also in the cultural and historical elements that have shaped it. One way to learn it as a beginner is through the IGCSE Malay syllabus.

The IGCSE looks at two Malay exams: IGCSE Malay 0546 and IGCSE First Language Malay 0696. Not to be confused between the two, native speakers of Malay will often find the First Language Malay 0696 syllabus to be a more relevant and stimulating course. This is because the syllabus is designed for students who have a near-native command of the language, or have already been assessed in their Malay secondary school curriculum.

On the other hand, Malay 0546 is targeted at foreign language learners or those who do not have any prior experience with the Malay language. Today, we'll be looking at IGCSE Malay as a Foreign Language, also known as Malay 0546 in the Cambridge IGCSE exams.

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Let's go

Is the IGCSE Malay syllabus hard?

There are five broad topic areas covered in the IGCSE Malay syllabus:

  • everyday activities
  • personal and social life
  • the world around us
  • the world of work
  • the international world

Students will be required to show knowledge and understanding of these topic areas. Following these topic areas, students are exposed to contexts that enhance Malay grammar and vocabulary, as well as unique grammatical structures found only in Bahasa Melayu. By the end of the course, you should be able to achieve these targets:

  • understand and respond to spoken Malay
  • understand and respond to written Malay
  • communicate in speech, showing knowledge of a range and variety of vocabulary, and accurately applying Malay grammar and structures
  • communicate in writing by using a range and variety of vocabulary, and again applying the grammar and structures correctly

At the same time, you can pick up fun facts about the history of the Malay language.

If you decide to take on this IGCSE Malay second language syllabus, you'll be expected to read and understand various spoken and written texts on familiar Malay topics. Additionally, you are required to demonstrate a comprehension of the main ideas and opinions, along with being able to point out relevant details and definitions for occasional unknown words in these contexts.

Therefore, you should take the IGCSE Malay 0546 exams if you want to:

  • be able to communicate effectively in Malay at the basic user level
  • gain insights into the culture and society of countries and communities where Malay is spoken
  • develop a positive attitude towards continuous language learning
  • form a sound base of the skills, language and attitudes required to progress into further study or work that involves Malay

After getting to know the syllabus, it'll be helpful to learn about what makes Malay grammar distinct from that of any other language. You can find out these details in the Malay curriculum for Malaysian students.

Learn Malay fast in Malaysia
When you learn Bahasa Melayu, you can also learn more about Malaysian culture. Learn how to communicate using Bahasa Melayu with the locals. (Image source: theazb.com)

How does Malay grammar work?

Did you know that there is no grammatical gender in the Malay language? 

He, she, him, her... instead of creating four separate terms for these common English words, Bahasa Melayu has consolidated them into just one word, which is dia. That aside, most Malay words that refer to people, such as professions and family terms, do not distinguish between genders. Adik, for example, can be used to refer to both your younger sister and younger brother.

If we compare Malay grammar and English grammar, the simple sentence structures of these two languages are almost similar. While English follows the Subject + Verb + Object rule, Malay follows the Subject + Predicate rule. When we want to "describe" the Subject in Malay, however, these descriptions must come after the subject, which is different from English. Check out the example below.

Perempuan itu cantik. = That lady is beautiful.

Note that in this sentence, perempuan refers to "lady" and itu refers to "that", but it only makes sense in Malay to say "Lady that is beautiful". Did you also notice that the word for "is" does not present itself in the sentence either? That's because verbs are not needed before adjectives (cantik) in Malay!

If you want to learn Malay fast, it'll be great to get textbooks for Malay for adults and learn from the IGCSE Malay syllabus 2022.

Malay grammar elements
There is no difference in gender when it comes to Malay grammar. As an example, "adik" is used to refer to both "younger sister" and "younger brother". (Image source: orami.co.id)

What exams are there in the IGCSE Malay syllabus?

Now that you've completed the IGCSE Malay syllabus, you can finally move on to the exams. All exam candidates are to sit for four papers. Each paper carries a weightage of 25 marks to contribute to a total of 100 marks by the end of the exams. Upon completion of the exams, candidates will be eligible for grades A* to G in terms of IGCSE Malay second language proficiency.

Let's take a look at all the papers.

Exam ComponentOverview
Paper 1: Listening Candidates listen a number of recordings and answer multiple choice and matching questions
40 marks
About 50 minutes
Paper 2: Reading Candidates read a number of texts and answer multiple-choice questions, matching questions, and short-answer questions
45 marks
1 hour
Paper 3: SpeakingCandidates carry out a role-play and conversations on two topics
40 marks
About 10 minutes
Paper 4: Writing Candidates complete one form-filling and directed writing task, and one task in the format of an email/letter or article/blog
45 marks
1 hour

Take note of these details for your IGCSE Malay exams. 

In Paper 1, answer all 37 multiple-choice and matching questions by selecting the correct option or options. You will hear each recorded text twice, which usually includes dialogues, announcements and conversations. Remember to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet at the end of the test.

There are 6 groups of questions for you to answer in Paper 2 but they often relate to one another. For instance, Groups 3 and 4 both look at candidates' comprehension of emails, messages or letters. It will also help to understand common signs, notices and instructions to effectively answer Groups 1 and 2 of this reading paper. Groups 5 and 6 will test your understanding of short-description texts, advertisements and articles.

Paper 3 can be an easy paper to score because it tests your ability to role-play and converse in predictable, everyday contexts which are based on the topic areas that you've already studied in your IGCSE Malay syllabus. Practise your speaking skills daily by using textbooks for Malay for adults. You will also get a warm-up section before proceeding to answer the questions by the examiner.

Finally, there are just three questions to complete in Paper 4. Question 1 will ask you to respond with single words or short phrases, whereas Question 2 asks you to complete a directed-writing task on an everyday topic, which has to be 80 to 90 words long. In Question 3, choose only 1 task to complete and ensure you have about 130 to 140 words in your short essay.

When you learn Malay as a student in Malaysia, you can learn Malay fast to earn this international qualification.

IGCSE Malay syllabus exam
There are four papers to sit for in the IGCSE Malay as a Foreign Language syllabus. You will be tested on your ability to read, write, speak and listen in Malay. (Image source: britishcouncil.ma)

How to learn Malay fast as an adult?

One of the fastest ways to learn Malay is to engage with Malay-speaking friends! To speak is to learn the language - start by sharing that you'd like to learn more Malay through speaking so that they too will use more Malay in conversations. Or if you're looking for Malay-speaking buddies, attend your local club gatherings and social events, or find online groups.

You'll be encouraged to use this national language with every Malaysian you meet!

You should also take notes wherever you go. Keep a notebook on hand, or create a note on your phone that's specific to new Malay terms or phrases that you've picked up. Then, learn to apply these new phrases every day. Practise writing sentences with them or use them as words in your speech: any practice is sound practice as long as you are making it a habit.

To learn Malay fast is to pick up the necessary language skills both efficiently and effectively.

You can learn Bahasa Melayu efficiently and effectively with the right Malay tutor. At Superprof, we are passionate about providing learners with the best possible learning experience, which is why we encourage you to browse through our catalogue of Malay tutors. Unlike the conventional method of registering for any Malay lesson, we invite you to know your tutor first.

Each tutor's profile comes with descriptions of their teaching levels, hourly rates and student packs, response times, and reviews from other students - just click on any tutor you are interested in learning with. Did you know many of our Malay tutors are offering their first lesson for free? Quickly sign up with Superprof now to book your lesson!

If you're just getting familiar with Bahasa Melayu, you'll notice how widespread the language is spoken in Malaysia, no matter which part of the country you're in. For an average price of RM39 per lesson, learn how to speak Malay from certified teachers and practitioners of the language, while also preparing for your IGCSE Malay syllabus exams. Semoga maju jaya!

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Ayleah

One part counsellor-to-be, one part food lover - Ayleah simplifies even the most complex ideas to make all things learning accessible to everyone. Read about interesting topics in Malaysia from a psychology student's perspective!