Because of the extreme cultural diversity, most of the people you will interact with in Malaysia will understand English extremely well. Regardless, knowing how to say hello in Malay will help you break the ice, shows that you have an interest in the local culture, and is actually fun!
First, see this Malaysia profile to better understand the country.
A Little About Malaysia's Language
Vowel pronunciation in Malay generally follows these simple guidelines:
- A – sounds like 'ah'
- E – sounds like 'uh'
- I – sounds like 'ee'
- O – sounds like 'oh'
- U – sounds like 'ew'
How to Say Hello in Malay
As in Bahasa Indonesia, and similar to how we say 'good morning' or 'good evening' in English, you say hello in Malay based on the time of day. Generic greetings such as 'hi' or 'hello' do not formally exist.
All greetings in Malay begin with the word selamat (sounds like 'suh-lah-mat') and are then followed with the appropriate phase of the day.
- Good Morning: Selamat pagi (sounds like 'pag-ee')
- Good Afternoon: Selamat tengah hari (sounds like 'teen-gah har-ee')
- Good Evening: Selamat Petang (sounds like 'puh-tong')
Continuing the Conversation
After you say hello in Malay, you can keep the courtesy going by asking how someone is doing.
How are you?: Apa kabar (sounds like: 'apah ka-bar').
Hopefully, their response will be baik (sounds like 'bike') and means 'fine' or 'well'.
Saying Goodbye in Malay
The expression for goodbye depends upon who is staying and who is leaving.
After the interaction is complete, you can say goodbye in Malay with selamat tinggal (means 'stay'; sounds like 'teen-gal') if you are the one leaving or selamat jalan (means 'go'; sounds like 'jal-lan') if you are the one staying.
If either of you are off to bed, you can say goodnight with selamat tidur (means 'sleep'; sounds like 'tee-dur').
- These 10 basic expressions in Malay will come in handy on your trip!