He’s fluent, but his wife isn’t
Serious about security
I don’t know a word of Malay. Now, I could blame it on
the short time I’ve been here so far, only three days or I could blame it
on my laziness, but I’d rather not. There is a simple reason I don’t
know a word of Malay (or Thai for that matter); everyone knows English and
not just English either.
Amazing to my native English and passable Russian self,
Malaysians usually know excellent Malay, of course, passable Chinese
(Mandarin or Cantonese), and a bit of Tamil or Hindi. The Chinese and
Indian Malaysians, about 40% of the population, know their own dialects better
than Malay or English, understandably, though I’m just ecstatic that with
the exception of the rude Chinese lady at a kiosk last night, everyone
I’ve met is English-fluent.
Surprising, it’s not just the tourist-related peoples
either. Bus drivers gossip in it, little Malaysian kids tease each other in
it, and even bums yell at each other in English. At first, when I heard
the bums, I though they were heckling me. Only when I heard the bus driver
talking to one of the passengers, and both being Malaysian, that I finally
accepted the obvious.
Yes, like Hong Kong, all the store signs are bilingual,
either English & Chinese, English & Malay, or all three. I kinda
expect that after Thailand, though still, there were not all that many
Thais outside of the tourist industry that spoke English.
I guess the British influence helps, though their Roman
letter alphabet doesn’t hurt. Sometimes it looks as if its Arabic in
Roman letters and other times, as in the case of the ‘Bas Sekolah’
its tormented English. I’ll let you figure out what that means too, with a
hint: think yellow bus.
With all this English present in the country, I feel no
guilt in not learning Malay. In fact, I’m overjoyed that I’m getting
closer to Singapore, where English is the official language. I can’t
wait for Australia, where after three long years, I’ll finally be living
in a native English speaking country again.