Having had an interesting past and being a part of the international spice route many hundreds of years ago, Malaysia has turned into a mosaic of cultures. Everything from its people to its architecture reflect a colourful heritage and an amalgamated culture. To understand Malaysian culture, you must first get to know its people. Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture. The largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

People in Malaysia are called Malaysians. Malays are a predominately Muslim ethnic group that make up a large portion of the populations in Malaysia, Indonesia and were the descendants for many people in the Philippines. The adjective Malaysian refers to the people of Malaysia and can mean Chinese, Indians or Malays. Malayan refers to the Malay ethnic group. About three fourths of all Malaysians lives in urban areas (compared to 76 percent in the U.S.). The remainder live mostly in small agricultural villages or kapongs (traditional fishing villages). About 83 percent of the population lives in Peninsular Malaysia.

Malays make up about 50 percent of the populations, Chinese 24 percent, Indians 7.1 percent, and orang asli (indigenous people such as Dyaks, Kadazan, and Negritos) 11.1 percent. Malays are mostly Muslims. Traditionally farmers and fishermen, they have made great advances in the last 30 years. Most ethnic Chinese are non-Muslim. They have traditionally controlled the businesses in Malaysia. The Indians are descendants of laborers originally from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some of them are Muslims. The orang asli live mostly in Sabah and Sarawak.

Thomas Fuller wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “In the shorthand of contemporary Malaysian conversations, Kuala Lumpur is inhabited by Malays, Chinese and Indians. But scratch deeper and Malays are actually Bugis from Sulawesi, Acehnese from Sumatra, Javanese, Arabs and others descending from many more tribes and ethnic groups. The first Chinese tin-mining magnate of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Ah Loy, was a Hakka. But Hokkien and Cantonese were to follow. The Malaysians known as Indians include Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims and Chettiars, as well as Ceylanese, both Tamils and Sinhalese. [Source: Thomas Fuller, International Herald Tribune, December 3, 2006 /*/]



Today, the Malays, Malaysia's largest ethnic group, make up more than 50 percent of the population, although this drops to less than 25 percent in East Malaysia. In Malaysia, the term Malay refers to a person who practices Islam and Malay traditions, speaks the Malay language and whose ancestors are Malays. Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s, largely influenced by the decision of the royal court of Melaka. The Malays are known for their gentle mannerisms and rich arts heritage. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Indigenous Malays are known as “Bumiputras” (literally "sons of the soil"). They speak Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, and nearly all of them are Muslims. They have their roots in scattered villages and seaside communes known as “kampongs”, and set up small Islamic republics ruled by sultans.

The Malays have traditionally been the poorest group in Malaysia and have been dominated by other groups, particularly the Chinese, but since independent, through their numbers and government policies that favor them, they have become a powerful political and economic force.

About 90 percent of Malays live in peninsular Malaysia. There they have traditionally lived in river delta areas and wet-rice-growing regions. They dominate the east coast states of Kelantan, Terenganu and Pahang. Sizable population live along the West Coast, in Johor, and in Singapore.

New Economic Policy: Malaysia’s Affirmative Action Plan

The New Economic Policy (NEP) is an affirmative action plan implemented in the 1970s in response to the ethic riots of 1969 to counter the economic dominance of the country's ethnic Chinese minority and improve economic position of naive Malays. The policy has helped indigenous Bumiputras (native Malays, literally "sons of the soil") improve their positions by giving them preferential treatment in education, business and government, and setting quotas that limited the number of Chinese and Indians in universities and public jobs. Malays were given preferences in housing, bank loans, business contracts and government licenses.

The policy is backed by a special clause in the Constitution guaranteeing preferential treatment for Malays. It imposes a 30-percent bumiputra equity quota for publicly listed companies and gives bumiputras discounts on such things as houses and cars. Money is provided by banks and investment firms to Malays and indigenous people to start businesses. Businesses are required to have a bumiputra partner, who would hold at least a 30 percent equity stake.

The policy was adopted when Abdul Razak, the father of current Prime Minister Najib, was Prime Minister. Shamim Adam of Bloomberg wrote: “ The 1969 riots started in part because the Malays felt the Chinese controlled the economy. To raise the share of national wealth held by Malays and indigenous groups to at least 30 percent, Najib's father crafted a policy that gave them cheaper housing as well as priority for college enrollment, government contracts, and shares of publicly traded companies. For the most part, the pro-Malay policy has kept the peace. "Malaysia has done very well, and affirmative action was a strong contributor to the stability that allowed for such development," says Masahide Hoshi, a director at Phalanx Capital Management HK in Hong Kong. "However, these same policies could impede Malaysia in the long term.[Source: Shamim Adam, Bloomberg, September 09, 2010]

The policy worked quite well for the Malays. Over they years Malays have taken over many business run in the past by Chinese and Malays prospered without destroying Chinese business. By the 1990s, Malays controlled the nation's major businesses and achieved more prosperity while it seemed relatively few Chinese and Indians resented the quotas. One minister of Chinese descent told National Geographic, "I've been quite critical of some specific cases when Chinese people got blatantly unfair treatment. But the situation we had at the end of the sixties, where the distribution of wealth was so skewed—it couldn't last. It made for an inherently unstable society. Because of NEP, there is less racial resentment now, and more a feeling of Us—you know, Us Malaysians."

The Malay privileges stem from a "national social contract," drawn up by various races at the time of independence in 1957, which put the majority community on a higher footing in exchange for sharing political power with minorities and giving them citizenship. According to Associated Press: “Today the policy is considered by most Malays as their birthright. No notable politician of any race has ever suggested scrapping it for fear of alienating Malays. [Source: Associated Press, August 6, 2005]

Criticism of the New Economic Policy

Many people feel the New Economic Policy has outlived its usefulness. The Malays have made great advances and are no longer a marginalized people like they were when the policy was adopted in 1970. According to Associated Press : “The policy is widely acknowledged to be only a moderate success, benefiting largely a few Malay elite and taking away from others the incentive to excel. Although Malays form 60 percent of the country's 26 million population, they control only 19 percent of the corporate equity and most of the country's wealth is in the hands of the Chinese. Indians are about 7 percent and are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Thomas Fuller wrote in York Times: “The government's apparently indefinite extension of an affirmative action program for the Malays, a policy that has been in place since 1971, has stirred impatience among the country's Chinese and Indians. Terence Gomez, a Malaysian academic who has written widely about Malaysian politics and the ethnic Chinese, and who is now a research coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in Geneva, says the notion that one race should have supremacy is an anachronism in a country where ethnic identities are becoming less important in everyday life. "The idea of being Malay or being Chinese or Indian is not something that is part of their daily thinking or discourse," Gomez said. The political elite, he said, "seems to be caught in a time warp."[Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, December 13, 2006 \]

“The government says the affirmative action program is still needed to narrow the overall income gap between the Chinese and Malays, the original justification for the policy. But determining which race has the highest ownership levels in the country is also now a point of contention, involving disputes over how assets should be calculated.” \\

John Burton wrote in the Financial Times, “There has been a debate whether the policy should remain in place since it is seen as obstacle to Malaysia's international competitiveness. A study by a local think tank suggested that Malays had exceeded the government's goal of owning 30 percent of domestic businesses, which called into question the continuation of the affirmative action policy. The government this week revealed its own statistics on Malay corporate ownership, saying the Malays owned 37 percent of listed companies but only 24 percent of all registered companies. [Source: By John Burton, Financial Times, November 9, 2006]

“Economists warn that the NEP represents a barrier to improving Malaysia’s economic efficiency when the country is facing increased competition for foreign investment from regional rivals such as Vietnam. Mr Abdullah has sought to ease some affirmative action provisions in response to those concerns. But when he announced last year that the government would waive such rules for a new economic zone near Singapore, he was criticised by hardliners in his own United Malays National Organisation, Malaysia’s dominant party.” [Source: John Burton, Financial Times, January 9, 2008]

Population and Demography of Malaysia

Population: 29,628,392 (July 2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 43. Median age: total: 27.4 years; male: 27.2 years; female: 27.6 years (2013 est.). Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.1 percent (male 4,433,911/female 4,186,635); 15-24 years: 17 percent (male 2,552,709/female 2,487,366); 25-54 years: 41.3 percent (male 6,195,754/female 6,027,160); 55-64 years: 7.4 percent (male 1,112,529/female 1,069,036); 65 years and over: 5.3 percent (male 739,696/female 823,596) (2013 est.) [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Population growth rate: 1.51 percent (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 79. Birth rate: 20.41 births/1,000 population (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 83. Death rate: 4.97 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.). country comparison to the world: 184 Net migration rate: -0.35 migrant(s)/1,000 population, country comparison to the world: 129 note: does not reflect net flow of an unknown number of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region (2013 est.).

Total fertility rate: 2.61 children born/woman (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 78/ Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female; 0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female; 15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female; 25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female; 55-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female; total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2013 est.).

From 1960 to the most recent census in 2000, the total population grew from an estimated 8 million to 23.3 million persons. The annual population growth rate averaged 2.6 percent for that period, gradually declining to 1.8 percent for 2005–6. Government figures for the first quarter of 2006 put the total population at 26.5 million. In 2000 the state with the highest population was Selangor (4.2 million), and Labuan had the lowest population (76,067). Total population figures include approximately 1.4 million non-Malaysian citizens, who comprised 5.9 percent of the total population in 2000. From 1960 to 2000, population density grew from 24 to 71 persons per square kilometer. In 2000 population density was lowest in the state of Sarawak 10 (17 persons per square kilometer) and highest in the federal region of Kuala Lumpur (5,676 persons per square kilometer). From 1960 to 2000, the percentage of the population residing in urban areas increased from 25 to 62 percent. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

According to the 2000 census, 50.9 percent of the population was male and 49.1 percent female. Furthermore, 33.3 percent of the population was less than 15 years of age, 62.8 percent was 15 to 59 years of age, and 3.9 percent was 65 years of age or older. According to government data, from 1980 to 2005 life expectancy at birth increased from 66.4 to 71.8 years for males and from 70.5 to 76.2 years for females. During the same period, the crude birthrate fell from 30.9 to 19.6 births per 1,000 persons, the crude death rate fell from 5.3 to 4.4 deaths per 1,000 persons, and the infant mortality rate fell from approximately 23.9 to 5.1 deaths under one year of age per 1,000 live births. However, these figures often vary among ethnic groups.

Malaysia's Fertility Rate Falls

In July 2009, AFP reported: “An increasing number of Malaysian couples are seeking fertility treatment as the country's birthrate declines, a newspaper has reported. A recent United Nations report showed the country's fertility rate dropped from 3.6 babies per couple in 1990 to 2.6 babies currently, the New Sunday Times said. [Source: AFP, July 11, 2009 ++]

“A key reason for the decline is an increasing fertility problem among Malaysian women, with as many as half of those who visit gynaecological specialists asking for treatment to help them conceive, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said. "Many of the couples will remain childless unless they are helped using the 'assisted reproductive technology' technique," Liow told the paper. Liow said between 10 and 15 percent of childless couples in the country, aged between 30 and 40, had fertility problem. ++

“A 2004 government study predicted that Malaysia's fertility rate would decline 0.1 percent every five years, as women postpone marriage and having children. The study also revealed the number of children being born varied widely according to the educational level of the mother. Women with no formal education had almost twice as many children as those with a tertiary education. Officials have voiced concerns that the low fertility rate could bring about changes in the country's demographic structure, including a gradual ageing of the population.” ++

Malaysia's population is currently estimated around 30 million. Government policy sets a target of 70 million by the year 2100.

Languages of Malaysia

Languages: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai. In Eastern Malaysia on Borneo, several indigenous languages are spoken, but Iban and Kadazan are the most prominent.

The Malaysian census does not maintain data for the population of linguistic groups, but language and ethnicity are strongly associated. Chinese is spoken by the Chinese population and Hindi is spoken by ethnic Indians. Mandarin is not only the most widely spoken language in China, it also has many speakers in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

English is spoken by most Malaysians to varying degrees. Malaysia is a former British colony and English is taught in the school. An English dialect, sometimes called "Manglish," is used by people from different ethnic groups often to speak with one another. Although it is not difficult to pick up a few words of Malay, visitors generally have no problem getting by without knowing any of the language.

Malay (Bahasa Melayu)

Bahasa Melayu is the official language. It similar to the language spoken in Indonesia and is not a tonal language like Chinese or Thai.Malay (Bahasa Melayu) belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages, which are spoken from mainland Southeast Asia to Easter Island. Malay is about as similar to Indonesian as American and British English are to each other. The primary difference between Malay and Indonesian is that former has many British influences and the latter has more Dutch influences. Malay is written in a Latin alphabet (Rumi and an derived Indian script (jawi).

Malay is also considered an Austronesian language. There are 1,200 Austronesia languages—about a fifth of the world's total. They are spoken on islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans from Madagascar to Hawaii. About a hundred different languages are spoken on Vanuatu alone. Malay, Formosan, and most of the languages of Indonesia, the Philippines and Polynesia are Austronesia languages.

According to The Malay language is an Austronesian language spoken not only by Malaysians but all Malay people who reside in the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau islands, parts of the coast of Borneo, Cocos and Christmas Islands in Australia. It is also very similar to Indonesian, known locally as Bahasa Indonesia.In Malaysia, the language is officially known as Bahasa Malaysia, which translates as the "Malaysian language". The term, which was introduced by the National Language Act 1967, was predominant until the 1990s, when most academics and government officials reverted to "Bahasa Melayu," which is used in the Malay version of the Federal Constitution. [Source:]

Malay Proverbs

1) A fool is like the big drum that beats fast but does not realize its hollowness. 2) A heavy load should be borne together as well as a light load. 3) After Falling, The ladder falls on you. 4) An ox with long horns, even if he does not butt, will be accused of butting. 5) An unasked excuse infers transgression. 6) Ants die in sugar. 7) As long as you happen to put your hand in a container full of pickles, might as well dip your whole arm in the container. 8) Because of a drop of blue dye,a whole pot of milk is contaminated. 9) Because of lack of talent in dancing, the floor is blamed. 10) Bit by bit, in the end it becomes a hill. [Source: //\

1) A calf is given, but then thigh is requested. 12) Clapping with the right hand only will not produce a noise. 13) Do not think that placid water is without crocodiles. 14) Gold rain drops on a foreign country,wherelse rain of stones drops on our country,but our country is better. 15) If there is no reason, why would the tempua bird nest on the low branches? 16. If you have, give; if you lack, seek) 17. If you want something, you'll do a thousand things to obtain it) But if you don't want something, you'll give a thousand excuses to refrain from it. 18) Just because you are irritated by a mosquito, you burn the mosquito curtain. 19) Like a monkey who eats belacaan. 20) Like the peanut, who forgets its shell. //\

1) Sehari selembar benang lama-lama jadi kain Sedikit-sedikit lama-lama jadi bukit (Incremental efforts do make a difference as the benefits accumulate. A little effort in time makes a hill, and a thread woven eventually becomes cloth). 2) Berakit-rakit kehulu Berenang-renang ketepian Bersakit-sakit dahulu Bersenang-senang kemudian (An old pantun (quatrain) that contains within it a proverb. "Tis better to suffer in the beginning for the pleasure that comes later). 3) Air yang tenang jangan disangka tiada buaya (Still water runs deep. Never take for granted a quiet person, for he may have qualities that belie his quiet nature). 4) Bagai aur dengan tebing Bagai kuku dengan isi (Like the bamboo and the river bank, and like the fingernail and the flesh beneath, each is dependent on the other for their mutual survival). 5) Air dicincang takkan putus Biduk lalu kiambang bertaut (Water cannot be cut, and blood is thicker than water. Like the seaweed that clings to each other after each passing boat separates them, so too a family will come together with the passing of each crisis). 6) Kalau menggenggam bara biar sampai jadi abu Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam biar sampai kepangkal lengan (Something is worth doing that is worth doing well. If you choose to hold a burning ember in your hand, hold fast until it turns to ashes. So too, should you decide to plunge your hand into a pot of pickles, go in all the way up to your elbow). 7) Kalau meluntur buluh, biarlah waktu rebong (To bend a bamboo, start when it's still a shoot. To mould a person's character, begin when he's still young and impressionable). [Source:, Contributed by Ms Siswahani Saban]

Malay Insults and Cuss Words

“Half past six” is an insult used in Singapore and Malaysia that means “useless.” “Mak kau ada kotek. Mak kau ada puki. Mak kau jolok diri sendiri sebab tu dapat anak sial macam kau! means “Your mother has a dick. Your mother has a pussy. Your mother fucked herself and got a retarded child like you!”

Pantat (Sabah-East) — Pussy, vagina; Pantat (West Malaysia) — Ass, buttocks; Amput puki babi — Fuck a pig's cunt; Amput puki anjing — Fuck a dog's cunt; Puki — Pussy; Pepek — Pussy; Lempuduk — Pussy; Puki mak — Fuck your mother; Saya mahu amput mama kau — I want to fuck your mom; Hisap telur — Suck my balls; Konek — Penis, cock, dick; Peler — Penis, cock, dick; Tantalau — Penis, cock, dick; Tetek — Boobs, breasts; Chin hooi — Asshole; Kepala Butoh — A stupid jerk; Jubur — Ass; Bodoh — Stupid; Celaka — Infidel; Jilat puki — Lick my pussy. [Source: ~]

Perempuan sundal — Whore, Slut; Melancap — Masturbate; Anak haram — Bastard (illegitimate child); Anjuk (Sarawak Malay) — Fuck from behind; Jantan sial — Bastard; Bapuk — She-male; Pondan — An effeminate man; Puki mak — Mom's pussy; Sial — A pitiable unfortunate; Pelacur — Whore; Anak gampang — Child of an unmarried women; Mak Nyah — Drag Queen; Jalan macam ala-ala akak lagi nyahh — He is walking like a drag queen; Pantat mak ko laaa — Your mother's pussy; Burit — Pussy; Gampang — Bastard; Cingkak — Crazy Bitch; Sundal — Whore; Jalang — Whore; Babi — Pig; Tonyok — Pig; Pukimak Kau — Your mother's pussy; Konek — Penis; Kote — Penis; Ngongkek — Fucking; Aku henjut mak kau — I fucked your mum; Pergi mampus — Go and die; Butoh pak hang — Your father's dick; Nonok — Pussy; Nonok Kau — Your Pussy; Jilat nonok kau — Lick your pussy; Totok — Pussy; Totok kau — Your Pussy; Jilat Totok Kau — Lick Your Pussy. ~

Pantat Kau lah! (Sabah) — Your Ass!; Hentam Pantat (Sabah) — Fuck Ass (referring to a gay men); Iut (Pro: 'E-youth'; new Malay swear word) — Fuck; Iut mamak kau lah — Fuck your mother!; Mari iut — Let's Fuck; Iut pantat kau — Fuck your ass; Kaki iut — Mother Fucker (means promiscuous); Iut totok kau — Fuck your pussy; Anak luar nikah — Bastard (Illegitimate); Lahanat — Infidel; Batang bengkok — Crooked dick; Miang — Pervert; Bantaton! — Damn it!; Cingkolou — Penis, cock; Tonton (Sabah) — Pussy; Jilat tonton — Lick pussy; Ne-nen — Breast, tits; Hisap ne-nen saya! — Suck my tits!; Kepala bana — Dick head; Kecing berapi — Extreme liar; Mangkuk hanyun — Stupid idiot; Bahlul — Idiot; Konek babi — Pig's dick; Mak kau main belakang — Your mum takes it up the ass; Bapak kau telur kecut — Your dad has puny balls; Gatal burit — Itchy cunt; Kopek lanjut — Saggy tits; Haram jadah — Fucked up dipshit mother fucker; Pergi mampus — Go to hell; Tetek senget — Uneven tits; Telur loyot — Saggy balls; Burit lebeh — Ugly cunt; Pepek daki — Dirty cunt; Palat — Smelly dick; Hisap konek — Suck dick; Jilat jubur — Lick asshole; Kulum kote — Suck dick; Puting lendir — Nipple discharge; Bijik kelentit mak kau busuk — Your mother's clitoris stinks; Kaki toceng — Wanker; Bapak kau main jubur — Your dad fucks up the ass; Puki basi — Expired/menopausal cunt; Puki Busuk — Smelly cunt; Kepala Butoh — Dick head. ~

Anjing kurap — Sick dog; Mangkuk hayun — Pussy, cunt; Kodok, katak — Pussy, cunt; Bijik hang — Your clit; Bijik gatal — Horny girls; Kodok tersengih — Spread pussy; Mulut bawah — Pussy, cunt; Kerang busuk — Smelly pussy; Bijik panjang — Long clitoris; Nanti tercicir bijik — Don't run; Sial — Damned; Butu buruk — Broken penis; Pelir mamak — Uncle dick; Butuh tua — Old dick; Jilat lubang puki — Lick pussy; Lahanat — Asshole; Barua — Ass; Tetek menglebeh — Big breast; Cipap — Pussy; Kote neraka — Big cock; Pondan — Gay; Jual pungkuk — Slut; Yet meh — Fuck; Ai heh — Asshole; Isap kote anjing/kuda — Suck horse cock; Bulak kau — Your penis; Balabak kau — Your balls; Badus — Penis; Toli — Penis; Bintorung kau — Penis; Ngegeh — Annoying; Gambong (Sarawak Malay) — Show off; Pukek — Vagina. ~

Punat gajus — Small nipple; Konek gajus — Small dick; Dasar puki mak tak pernah basuh dapat anak sial macam engkau — A cursed son like you comes from your mother's dirty pussy.; Cubuk mamak kau mandi — Peeping your own mother while she was showering.; Sebelum awak mati, saya nak kau tahu, saya iut mak kau. — Before you die, I want you to know that I fucked your mother.; Kodok tembam — Swollen pussy; Bijik tersentil — Erect clitoris; horny girls; Pantat berserabai — Big ugly pussy; Burit — Vagina; Boon Chon Doi — Refers to a man who walks behind his boss, reaching between his legs and supporting his balls. English equivalent would be 'ass-kisser'.; Kepala butto — Dick head; Lanchiau — Dick; Cibai — Pussy. ~

English in Malaysia

Although he railed against the West, Prime Minister Mahathir moved for English to be more widely taught in schools. Fundamentalist want children to learn Arabic as a second language.

Malay word that have entered the English language include bamboo, bantam, orangutan, sarong and gingham.

When Malaysia was a British colony and in the first years of independence, English was the primarily language of upper learning and a prerequisite for getting job and achieving success. Now Malay is the primary language of interaction in Malaysian schools and universities and students no longer need to pass an English exam to graduate.

In 2000, 40 percent of the high school students failed the national English exam. Survey have also shown that teachers and principals lack good English skills.

Many Malaysians are worried about their declining English skills at time when English is more essential than every to compete on the global market place. Malaysia’s English skills had traditionally been regarded as something that gave it an edge over other countries in Asia.

In Malaysian English: Agak-agak is a verbs that means to estimate or guess.

Malaysians without English Skills Can’t Get Good Jobs

Stephanie Phang of Bloomberg wrote: “ Sevan Doraisamy earned a business management degree from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1999. With limited English skills, he ended up working in a factory — in Singapore. “I couldn't find any job'' in Malaysia, said Doraisamy, 32, whose Singapore stint and subsequent jobs taught him some English, and who now works at the Center for Independent Journalism in Kuala Lumpur. "All this Malay-orientated when you go to university, but then when immediately switch to work environment, everything is in English. I speak like the sentence never end.'' [Source: Stephanie Phang, Bloomberg, December 5, 2006 +^+]

“Malaysia shifted to the Malay tongue, Bahasa Melayu, from English as the language of teaching in 1970. Now, universities are producing graduates who don't make the grade in the workforce. In a country with 237,000 job vacancies, about 45,000 college grads are unemployed, mainly because of poor English, according to the government. Many of those who have found work aren't using their degree skills. “The cause of the under-employment? I'll give you one reason for it: English,'' said Rafiah Salim, vice chancellor at Universiti Malaya, the country's oldest university. "The only industry that's really using Bahasa is the government service.'' +^+

“The glut of graduates was confirmed in 2005, when the government's Economic Planning Unit asked the unemployed to register for a survey to gauge who was out of work and why. Nearly 60,000 jobless grads — equivalent to a quarter of those who finished their higher education this year — signed up. About 15,000 since have found work. The finding prompted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to budget a 53 percent increase in spending on education and training to $2.2 billion next year. Malaysia risks losing more overseas investment to India and China if graduates don't have the right skills, said Gan Kim Khoon, head of research at AmSecurities Holdings Sdn. in Kuala Lumpur. Foreign direct investment fell 14 percent in 2005 to $4 billion, the only decline among the 10 Association of South East Asian Nations members. +^+

“Apart from learning little English, students are choosing subjects not suited to business employment, such as arts, Islamic studies and administration, said Gan, 43. Almost 30,000, or 60 percent, of first-time graduates from public colleges in 2003 took arts degrees. “Those are not very useful,'' he said. "There is no thought going into whether these are the kinds of graduates that the country needs.''+^+

“Malaysia switched to Bahasa education in a bid to promote integration between the country's more than 60 percent of ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese, who comprise a quarter of the 26 million residents. Lawmakers also set college quotas from 1970 to 2002 to ensure that Malays gained access to professional jobs. They rolled back some language rules in 2003, reviving math and science lessons in English starting in primary school. Lobbyists for wider use of Bahasa want that decision reversed. Only underdeveloped countries "practice the colonial policy of teaching science subjects in a foreign language,'' Hassan Ahmad, a former chief of the government body responsible for coordinating the use of Bahasa, told the Bahasa and Malay Literature Congress in Kuala Lumpur last month. +^+

“Proficiency in English is a key component of college training programs introduced this year, said Deputy Higher Education Minister Ong Tee Keat. Higher Education Minister Mustapa Mohamed didn't respond to requests for comment. Safura Mohd Hariri, 22, earned an information technology management degree from Multimedia University in Selangor in May. She waited six months to land a job as a systems analyst, and many of her peers now work in call centers where they don't need degree knowledge, she said. +^+

“About 50,000 high school graduates, 25,000 higher-education graduates and 20,000 degree holders are unemployed, Deputy Human Resources Minister Abdul Rahman Bakar told parliament last month. Colleges should ensure they have up-to-date textbooks and use English in lectures, said Rahmat Roslan Hashim, head of human resources at the Malaysian unit of Standard Chartered Plc, a British bank that makes two-thirds of its profit in Asia. “Communication basically is the area where local grads lag,'' Rahmat said. "About two generations lost English skills.'' +^+

“More than half of 3,800 recruiters and managers surveyed last year by online recruitment company Jobstreet Corp. cited poor English as the reason for rejecting graduates. They also blamed antiquated skills in subjects such as engineering. "People don't have the type of skill sets that companies are looking for, whether it's commercial or technical,'' said Suresh Thirugnanam, vice president at Jobstreet in Cyberjaya, Selangor. Nga Lik Hing, 22, gained a multimedia degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia in May and now earns 1,500 ringgit ($422) a month keying in data for an online recruitment company. Employers want different skills from those he learned, Nga said. Questions at interviews for English-language jobs aren't easy, either. "Like, why our company want hire you,'' Nga said. "Sometimes don't know how answer.'' +^+

Names and Honorifics in Malaysia

In Malaysia the family name comes first. For example, with Anwar Ibrahim, Anwar is his family name, Ibrahim is his given name. Women keep their maiden name. Azizah Ismail is Anwar's wife.

Malays and Indians have customarily not had family names. Instead they inherited their father’s given name. Malays often have the prefixes “bin,” which means “son of” and “binti” which means “daughter of” in front of their names. Indians have prefixes that were imposed during Britain colonial rule. To bring Malaysian names in line with international standards the government has proposed giving for everyone a surname. Muslims have opposed the proposal on the ground sit would compromise their cultural identity.

According to The way names are used also varies between ethnicities: 1) The Chinese traditionally have 3 names. The surname (family name) is first and is followed by two personal names. Many Chinese adopt more Western names and may ask you to use that instead. 2) Many Malays do not have surnames. Instead, men add their father's name to their own name with the term "bin" (meaning ‘son of’). So Rosli bin Suleiman, would be Rosli the son of Suleiman. Women use the term "binti", so Aysha bint Suleiman is Aysha the daughter of Suleiman. 3) Many Indians do not use surnames. Instead, they place the initial of their father's name in front of their own name. The man's formal name is their name "s/o" (son of) and the father's name. Women use "d/o" to refer to themselves as the daughter of their father. [Source:]

Datuk Seri is a title granted by the Malaysian sultan that is similar to the British title Sir.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.