Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Hola! I'm back! Decided to write again of the blue.

I forget sometimes me speaking Bahasa Malaysia (BM)* confuses people. The other day I called Proton to make an appointment to service my car and after trying to find an available date, the telephonist asked for my name. I said 'Ooi' and there was silence and she asked me to repeat, so I did and spelled it out for her. She laughed and said she thought I was Malay at first. I feigned a small laugh and hung up.

These days, I automatically speak BM to any Malay I meet even though they're speaking in perfect english to me. It's hard wired like that in my brain.

Not really sure how I picked up the language so well. Sure, working with mostly Malay colleagues is one reason but even before I started work people thought I sounded like a Malay when I spoke BM.

I remember coming back from the US for summer when I was a student there and my brother heard me speak BM. He said I spoke the language really well. This surpised me because I hardly spoke the language when I was in the US. I didn't have any Malay friends or opportunities to use the language.

I probably put it down to me mimicking the accents of the people I talk too. When I'm talking to an American in St. Cloud I find that I start speaking English in an accent. So when I speak to Malay I speak to them like a Malay.

Its interesting as I don't have to translate my thoughts from English to BM now. Some days I think in BM.

When I watch my niece trying to speak BM I see her pause to translate every word in her head and I smile. I probably was like that once too.

Besides my BM, my hokkien has somewhat improved too. My wife's family, especially my
mother-in-law speaks hokkien and I'm trying to communicate with her in Hokkien.

I find that I can order food from hawker stalls in hokkien now. Recently History channel aired the documentary 1941, The Fall of Penang. It had interviews mostly in Penang hokkien. I found that I was listening to the interviews instead of reading the subtitles.

There's something about Hokkien that makes it so funny. When I watch stuff on youtube that has been dubbed into hokkien it instantly sounds comical.

I'm still pretty bad with numbers and time. If someone tells me the bill amount, I take out a RM50 and hope it's large enough to cover the amount. If not and the cashier is still waiting, I take out another RM50. So far it's always worked. This only works of course if the cashier is honest as I have to rely in them to give me the correct change.

My cantonese is worst than my hokkien and I can barely understand mandarin.

Now I'm also picking up a few Korean words like Sarang (love), Oppa (uncle/brother or abang) and ne (yes). In case you're wondering, I already knew the meaning of the word Oppa before I heard the song Oppa Gangnam Style. A korean language lecturer explained it to me when I asked her what was the most popular word her students asked her to translate. In drama series, girlfriends will call their boyfriends Oppa. So when I heard the song Oppa Gangnam Style I knew it was some wierd parody song.

*note I call the language Bahasa Malaysia and not Bahasa Melayu. It's our national language and should be spoken by all Malaysians.

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