“Manglish (or sometimes Malglish or Mangled English) is an English-based creole spoken in Malaysia.
The vocabulary of Manglish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Malayalam” – from Wikipedia

After being here for two years, I have become quite accustomed to most of the British accent I have heard in Southampton and London (Scottish accent is to me, a completely different territory). The trouble I had initially was not the difficulty in understanding them, but getting them to understand me. Even removing most of my lahs and mahs, and trying my best to speak proper English (at least proper to the malaysian standard), the difference in intonations was enough to cause confusion to the British listeners.

Some of the Malaysians I have talked to has remarked that they maintained their Malaysian accent, even when speaking to their Ang Moh [ang moh is a racial epithet describing white people] peers, just so they have to be the ones to get used to the malaysian accent, and not the other way around. I on the other hand, will subconsciously adjust my accent, so that the ang moh can understand with ease. I don’t only do that to my English, but also to my Mandarin Chinese when I speak to people from China. The thing about Malaysian languages is that they are all so mixed up, thanks to most of us being bilingual or even trilingual. I am by no way embarrassed of Manglish, in fact I am proud of it and I think it is beautiful language with so many cultural influences.

I realised the major difference between the way I speak to an ang mo and to Malaysians recently when¬†I tried to borrow a pen from my fgroup member. I asked him, “Can I borrow a pen?”; whereas to a Malaysian, I would simply say, “Can borrow pen ah?”. I realised Manglish has a more¬†simplified grammar and has added words at the end of the sentences that sometimes has no meaning and sometimes, completely sets the nature and tone of the sentence.

It is almost impossible to list out all the difference between Manglish and British English, it is so complex that I myself cannot really give a summary of it – you know it is complex when an ang mo will have absolutely no idea malaysians are speaking english if they overheard us speaking among ourselves.

  • Well first of, it is more than just -lah.

One of my USMC lecturer will occasionally try to awkwardly end a sentence with -lah to sound more Malaysian.

There are various other words that are added to the end of the sentence, below are some of the example when those end words are added to ‘can‘.

mah:     Can mah?    Р   Is it possible (to do something)?

ah:         Can ah?       Р    (informal) Is it possible?

meh:     Can meh?    Р   Is that even possible? (skeptical)

lah:       Can lah!       Р   It is possible!

leh:       Can leh..      Р   I think it is possible (slightly unsure)

ba:         Can ba..       Р  (in this case, it means similar to -leh)

lor:         Can lor.      Р    I am quite sure it can be done.

liao:      Can liao!     Р    It has been done/achieved!

  • We use ‘got‘.. a lot

You got anything to do?    Р   Do you have anything to do?

And similar to ‘can’, most of the end words can be added after ‘got’

(when your friend tells you about an incident)

Got meh?    Р   Is that true?

Got lah!       Р   Yes, it is true!

and etc..

  • We also sometimes add ‘one/wan‘ at right before the end words or¬†at the end.

– Can one meh?

РWhy like that one?    Р   Why is it done in that way?


It is not easy to state the main grammatical differences in a logical manner as I have only spoken and not properly learnt Manglish.

Obviously there are a lot of words borrowed from other languages that I will not like to touch upon. (To name a few: paiseh (Hokkien), dabao (Cantonese), tahan (Malay), Cincai and etc)

Also Manglish is similar but different to Singlish (Singapore English). I know because I can easily differentiate a Malaysian and a Singaporean just by listening to them speaking.

I will abruptly end the post here and direct you to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manglish) for more information.

p.s. I will also like to just briefly answer one of the questions that I have (and any Malaysians really) regularly been asked by the Ang Mo “Why is your English so good?”

Well you see, Malaysia has been colonised by the British for approximately 100 years and we have achieved independence in 1957. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Malaya) During those years, English language has been introduced in schools and is currently considered a very important first/second language in Malaysia.




Manglish (Malaysian English)

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