British and Malaysian English differences

British and Malaysian English differences

This article outlines the differences between Malaysian English or more popularly Manglish, the form of street Malaysian English spoken by most Malaysians and British English, which for the purposes of this article is assumed to be the form of English spoken in south east England, used by the British Government and the BBC and widely understood in other parts of the United Kingdom.

It is necessary to make a distinction between Manglish and the English spoken by Malaysians speaking so-called proper English. While there are still certain peculiarities in the latter (especially in terms of intonation, accent and choice of words), proper Malaysian English is merely a normal variation in the way English is spoken and does not deviate significantly from common English. It is intelligible to most English-speaking peoples around the world.

Pure Manglish however can be likened to pidgin English, and it is usually barely understandable to most speakers of English, except Singaporeans who also speak a similar patois known as Singlish.


Despite being traditionally based on British English, Malaysian English has, in recent decades, been strongly influenced by American English. This can be commonly seen in web based media and documents produced within organisations. Typically, the writer is unaware of the differences between British and American English, and just uses the default settings on their installed software spellchecker. For example, centre (British) is typically spelled center (American), although colour and color are used interchangeably. In schools and in the print media, Malaysians default to spelling the British way, i.e. "vapour" instead of "vapor" and"organise" instead of "organize"

Manglish does not possess a standard written form, although many variations exist for transcribing certain words. For most purposes it is a spoken tongue.


Much of Manglish grammatical structure is taken from Chinese dialects. Many also claim the structures have also been borrowed from the Malay language, but the amount of borrowing from Malay dwarves in comparison to the borrowing from Chinese. For example, the phrase "Why you so like that one?" means "Why are you behaving in that way" in standard English. In Cantonese, a similar phrase would be rendered as "Dímgáai néih gám ge?" or literally "Why you like that?" The "one" in the sample phrase does not literally mean the numeral one, instead it is used more as a suffix device. It is also sometimes rendered as "wan."

Other common characteristics are anastrophe and omission of certain prepositions and articles. For example "I haven't seen you in a long time" becomes "Long time never seen you already." Or, in Singlish (used in Singapore), natives will usually say "Long time no see".



Words only used in British English

To a large extent, standard Malaysian English is descended from British English, largely due to the country's colonisation by Britain beginning from the 18th century. But because of influence from American mass media, particularly in the form of television programmes and movies, Malaysians are also usually familiar with many American English words. For instance, both lift/elevator and lorry/truck are understood, although the British form is preferred. Only in some very limited cases is the American English form more widespread, e.g. chips instead of crisps, fries instead of chips.

Words or phrases only used in Malaysian English

Malaysian English is gradually forming its own vocabulary, these words come from a variety of influences. Typically, for words or phrases that are based on other English words, the Malaysian English speaker may be unaware that the word or phrase is not present in British or American English.

Different Meanings

This is a list of words and phrases that have one meaning in British English and another in Malaysian English


In Malaysian English, the last syllable of a word is sometimes not pronounced with the strength that it would be in British English.

Also, p and f are sometimes pronounced somewhat similarly among speakers of Malay descent. For example, the two Malay names 'Fazlin' and 'Pazlin' may sound almost identical when spoken by Malays, whereas this confusion would not arise when spoken by a British Speaker.

ee also

* Malaysian English
* Regional accents of English speakers

External links

* - common proper noun list used in Malaysian languages

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