Saturday, 17 May 2008

Malaysian Manglish and culture shock

Aren't we speaking the same language? Why are you doing it that way???!!

Do you get that puzzled look when talking to people from other countries? Why is it that Malaysian accent is so easily identified? Do you get very self-conscious when speaking to the local people because your usual way of speaking contains loads of grammar and pronunciation mistakes? Do you get a shock of your life while watching your flatmate wash the dishes?

These were the things I've encountered during my stay in England since the September of 2005. Whoa, that's a long time. I haven't been back since the summer of 2006 and I'm anticipating for my flight on the 14th of June from Manchester to Kuala Lumpur.

This recent conversation which I had with my GP partner during our 3 hour lunch break came up as we were bored. He's half Malaysian but was born in the UK. I can't believe he even visits his relatives in Malaysia more than the number of times I went home over this 2.5 years.

Talking about Malaysian accent, we are really famous for ending our sentences with all sorts of different additional sounds. Our most popular and infamous one is -Lah. It is so, so, soooooo difficult to remind myself not to end each and every sentences with it when I first came over to the UK. Without the -Lah, it feels like the sentence is without a full stop left hanging in mid-air. Usually I start off the conversation fine, but as I get more and more comfortable, the -Lahs will start appearing before I could stop myself. I used to use a lot of -Bah as well when I was in Sabah last time and even both -Lah and -Bah next to each other. For example, 'Janganlah, Bah' which translates to 'Don't be like that'.

The next thing is grammar. My goodness! This is even worse than trying to get rid of the -Lah. I've never realised that my grammar was so poor until I forced myself to speak proper English with my course mates. It is really difficult. Sometimes, it's already too late when you've started with a wrong structure and then, to savage the sentence, I'll try to correct it midway and it ends up sounding really awkward. I was talking to M the other day and she told me the same thing as well. So difficult! Sometimes I wished that I'd grew up speaking perfect English and don't have to change the old habit when I'm already this old. Ok, ok, 22 isn't that old yet. Oh yes, M, what happened to our 1 hour a day English conversation session? We wanted to try to improve on our language skills but in the end, laziness and too much work overtook that priority.

I'm not sure about you, but most Malaysians which I've spoken to tend not to pronounce the Th- but instead, we pronounce it as just T- without the sound of blowing air and withdrawing the tongue after placing it between the teeth. I'm not sure if this is the correct technique of pronouncing it, but my mum has taught me this way when I was younger but I've never followed it. Please correct me if I'm wrong. There are times when I've pronounced a few English words especially those which I'm unfamiliar with using the Bahasa Baku way and that brings puzzled looks from my friends.

Don't you feel that the way we talk resembles singing at times? We have a really rich intonation while speaking as compared to the British. I think it's thanks to our multi-language skills and influence from so many cultures that we share and borrow words from other languages and dialects to enrich our vocabulary and intonation. No wonder lecturers here sound so boring. Hehehehe.

I've been brought up to greet people who are older than me by addressing them as 'Uncle' or 'Aunty' as a sign of respect. But over here, they will only call their actual relatives uncles and aunties. My GP partner told me that it was really awkward for him to just call his mother's friends uncles and aunties as he's never done that over here. Another phrase which he said was really funny to him was 'making noise'. We do hear this so very often when somebody is complaining about someone else. We mean complaining when we use this 'special phrase'. I've never realised that this phrase was never in the English dictionary.

Coming to culture. This one totally shocked me in my first month in the UK. I was chatting to my local house mate while watching her do her dishes when she announced that she was done.

She has soaked her dishes in a mixture of water and dish-washing detergent, scrubbed them with a piece of cloth to make sure nothing else was stuck on them, place them on the plate holder to drain off the water, and proceeded to use another cloth to dry them off before placing them in her cabinet.

'Aren't you going to rinse your dishes?' I asked her with a horrified face.

'No, it's done after I've dried them'

'But, there's still soap on them'

'The soap is for killing the bacteria' (I don't even know if she was telling the truth or not)

This is definitely a culture shock to me. A big one too. Since that time, I used my own plates for everything, even when she cooked for me. Never mind, don't think about how she washed her pots and frying pans. Hehehehehe.

Food, this one I still cannot accept it. Do you treat crisps a.k.a. keropok as part of your proper meal? One of the famous menu for lunch is sandwich with crisps. After finishing their lunch, my local friends always end it with either a bar of chocolate, cereal bar or just something sweet. I find it unhealthy, therefore I've never come around to trying sandwiches with crisps yet. My friends were trying to convince me that it was delicious but I still cannot accept the crisp being part of lunch. It is not only weird to me but also unhealthy.

Phew, this is a long entry. I'm sure that you all will have your own unusual or funny experiences and encounters as well. Come share it with me and we'll have a good laugh.


h3l3n said...

i think they do the soak-in-detergent and dry in restaurants also..

i tot crisp is the snack alongside the meal? in lunch packs at work i always get sandwiches with biscuits and crips and a bottle of water or orange juice..

pp said...

yah la..everytime b4 i speak i'll b so self conscious that i have to reherse afew times in my mind what i wana say...when it finally comes out, it sounded weird n so not me...n they all speak so fast, no chance 2 speak also..i tot i am considered very talkative oredi, but still not fast enough...haih...

yah, the sabun thing, i think its jus culture lo..or mayb their sabun is organic 1, eat also nevermind..haha

pp said... n helen posted at the same timee

h3l3n said...

me faster by 1 second.. woohoooo

Windchaser said...

waaah. got competition going on here. i still have the 'yuck' feeling whenever i think about dishes not being rinsed. never mind, don't think about, Don't think about it.

Windchaser said...

oh ya helen, they put the crips in between sandwiches like an extra filling. might try it one day but am too afraid that i'll develop a liking towards it and end up with this bad habit.

angchoonseong said...

i gave up so long ago.

I just speak the way i want. If they cant understand, just smile la.

- "English is not my first language" and give them a cudly look ...