Do you find yourself relying a lot on Google Translate when you can’t seem to think of the Malay word that is equivalent to the English word that you intend to express?

Learning Malay is becoming as essential as learning English in an increasingly global and multicultural setting in Malaysia. After all, the national language of Malaysia is Malay. It is widely used during official occasions which include the usage of both the written and spoken language. In fact, international undergraduate students who are studying in Malaysia’s higher education institutions are also required to take Malay as one of their required general studies.

Whether you are a Malaysian or you are from overseas and currently based in Malaysia, you can always learn Malay from a good Malay teacher regardless of your current Malay language proficiency.  You can either start learning from the basics or opt for different levels after several assessments. With the right guidance from your Malay teacher, you will be able to master Malay progressively!


Malay is important in Malaysia
Malay is Malaysia's national language. Source: Adil Alimbetov from Pexels

Building a strong foundation with Malay lessons for beginners

What’s the most common sentence that language beginners always learn? The answer is most likely an easy self-introduction, such as saying one’s name.

To introduce yourself in Malay, for instance, you can say, “Nama saya Peter.”
Let’s break this down. The Malay word for NAME is very similar to the English word, with only a difference in the alphabet, which is NAMA. Interesting, right? Next, you need to know how to address personal pronouns ranging from the first person, second person and third person. Take note that the noun comes before the personal pronoun in Malay.

Saya (My, me, I, mine),
Kita (We, us- inclusive of the person you are speaking to)
Kami (We, us- not inclusive of the person that you are talking to)
Kamu (You, your, yours)
Mereka (They)

When learning a language, remember that there is no age limit to start learning. Do not be put off by the stereotype that only children can master a foreign language perfectly. Several studies have shown that adult learners acquire a new language faster as compared to younger learners because they tend to know which learning methodology and style suit them well.

If you are beginning to learn Malay, set your language learning goals based on the purpose and outcome that you wish to achieve through the mastery of the language. It could be to improve your overall grades in school, to help you to be more skilful at work. After that, you can use whatever that you have learnt by consistently practising between lessons with native Malay speakers. Most importantly, you will discover that you will be a better communicator as you learn the various components of the Malay language.

Adult learners can learn Malay
Practising Malay between lessons is important.
Source: Unsplash

The next step- Mastering the various components of the Malay language

The speaking component of the Malay language boils down to your pronunciation of suku kata (syllables) and how often you practice speaking it according to the local Malaysian accent. The pronunciation breakdown of Malay words results in mostly two or three syllables which follow the rule of pronouncing the next syllables after a vowel ending.

Below are some examples that you can observe how Malay words are pronounced according to their syllables.

Ayam (pronounced A- yam)
Selamat (pronounced Se- la-mat)
Buku (pronounced Bu- ku)
Mengapa (pronounced Me-nga-pa)

Vocabulary is of course essential for you to proceed to different levels and settings of the Malay language, especially when you learning to read and write Malay words. You can also compare the synonyms and antonyms of words and also study interesting homophones. For instance, the word, “perang.” Do you know that perang has two completely different meanings and pronunciations? Perang means war and also the colour brown.

During language learning, what glues listening, speaking, reading and writing together? It is none other than your overall language comprehension. When it comes to the best guide to learn Malay, it is ideal to have someone with the right expertise to guide you consistently for all the language components so that all your language components skills are equally good.

Finding Malay teachers at different locations in Malaysia

There are many physical locations and online learning platforms for you to start learning Malay in Malaysia. You can easily find good and experienced Malay tutors in every state of Malaysia. Here are three recommendations that you can refer to before you decide to enrol for your Malay lessons.

1. My Teacher Languages and Cultures

Located in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, this is a language centre with 10 years of history in Kuala Lumpur. It caters to a variety of subjects, which include Malaysia’s national language, Bahasa Malaysia (known as Malay). The lessons and syllabus taught are prepared according to different age groups (kids, teenagers and adult learners) and also various examinations in Malaysia.

Language learners also get to choose which type of class that they prefer to enrol in according to their schedule and personal preference. Among the classes available are physical corporate classes, group classes, private classes and even online classes. The Malay lessons at this centre follow a 10-class package, where the average fee charged for one student ranges from RM100 to RM120 depending on the mode of learning that you select from.

2. A to Z Language Centre

This language centre has several branches in Malaysia, which include Damansara Utama, Sri Petaling, Johor Bahru and Penang. The main core languages taught are Japanese, English, Malay and Mandarin. Students can choose to enrol in various class packages. For instance, there are online classes for 4 hours and 10 hours as well as in house classes for 4 hours and 24 hours respectively.

The class duration ranges from 1 hour to 2 hours per session and the package is valid for 2 months (online classes). Apart from the standard tuition fee (which differs according to the duration and package that you take), students also need to pay an extra RM20 for study materials as well as RM50 for a one-time registration fee.

3. Superprof

Superprof  is an online learning platform that connects students to tutors according to their location and also their desired subjects. It is a user-friendly platform that assists learners to connect to the most suitable tutors and their preferred learning methodology and also their budget.

When it comes to searching for a Malay teacher, you firstly just need to key in your location and the Malay subject in the search box on the home page of the website. Then, all you need to do is just browse through the tutors’ profiles and also adjust your requirements at the filtering system which includes the cost of your Malay lessons per hour and you will be led to the most suitable tutor for your subject.

This is a good step for you to know more about your lessons before meeting your tutor as their teaching experience and current academic qualification will also be updated there. You can also see which tutors are available for physical or online lessons or even both.

Benefits of being fluent in the Malay language

Like any language, being fluent in Malay leads you to a whole new world of opportunities. Whether you are a local or from another country, language proficiency is one of the factors that make you a valuable asset at your workplace. Many job recruitment reports show that effective language skill is one of the most essential abilities for career development, especially for all four language components.

This is especially true for a multicultural country and an increasingly globalized nation like Malaysia where the demand for bilingual communication is high in people-centred industries such as education, media and business.

Usage of Malay language
Communicating in Malay at work
Source: Kindel Media from Pexels

For fellow Malaysian students, if you intend to work as a civil servant or become a doctor, bear in mind that you need to have at least pass your Bahasa Melayu subject in your SPM examination to apply to study medicine at local universities as well as to practice medicine in local hospitals in the future. This also applies to students who are studying in private and international schools, which means you have to undergo a separate Malay subject test as a private SPM candidate despite passing your IGCSE or O- Levels previously.

Culturally speaking, when you are fluent in Malay, you also automatically take up the role of becoming an ambassador and international communication bridge within the South East Asia region which includes South East Asia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and of course, Malaysia! In terms of personal achievement, your fluency in Malay can also boost your confidence as a global communicator!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
All you need to do now is to start searching for a Malay teacher to guide you systemically. With a few clicks on Superprof’s website, you are on your way to learning Malay comprehensively and flexibly. Start exploring and learning Malay today!

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Joycelyn is an INFP and media girl who loves her books, music, dramas and movies. She is a full-time dreamer who believes in the power of words.