In Malaysia, the English language is taught all the way from primary school right up until university. In fact, Malaysia is the top third country with the highest English proficiency in Southeast Asia.
Many Malaysians, especially those living in urban areas, can speak English really well. In fact, more often than not, we are bilingual (if not trilingual or quadrilingual considering many of us are also proficient in either Mandarin, Cantonese, or Tamil, too.)
So, it’s absolutely normal to hear us switch between any of these languages during conversations and when writing online.
On the wall in my local Malaysian cafe @rotiking2 :— James Wong (@Botanygeek) November 15, 2018
This (typical, slang) sentence means ‘Hey Mate, Eating in or takeaway?’ using 4 different languages. Tamil, English, Malay & Mandarin.
It’s lovely when cultures get along. pic.twitter.com/91umqDRaU0
However, it appears that our practice of bahasa rojak has left quite a number of foreigners completely confused when reading our tweets and comments online.
Russian YouTuber and Twitter user, @roman_nfkrz recently expressed this frustration in a funny little tweet.
Accidentally stumbling across malaysian or indonesian twitter is weird af, they’re speaking english and then mid sentence they just go bhek somyg zjyrb tkdifys tkdlgk sgahf glfowf fodgfk afrbdisk kgo wcqxa mfbsa jglh sfagqjf ahr— NFKRZ 🇷🇺 (@roman_nfkrz) July 5, 2019
Obviously, Twitterjaya didn’t miss a beat.
yo i feel attacked plez dlete tapi kenapa kau kisah roman HAHAHAHA tak sangka kau mention negara aku uhukz anywho thnks 4 comin to my tedTalk— arissa’s tinder profile (@spicyflex1) July 5, 2019
“Yo, I feel attacked. Please delete. But why do you care Roman? HAHAHAHA I did not expect you to mention my country. Anyway, thanks for coming to my TedTalk.”
I know right? I have a though time deciphering depa ni dok cakap apa jugak. Sat lagi tetiba speaking utagha, pastu dok ghoyak klate la apa suma. Tu belum lagi keluaq bahasa sarawak pening na palak tok eh ke loghat sabah aduh palui ini— 💎✨💖 (@aymeemin) July 8, 2019
“I know right? I have a tough time deciphering what they are saying as well. One minute they’re speaking in with the Northern dialects then they switch to the Kelantanese dialect. That’s not counting the Sarawak language. It makes…(?????????)”
Code mixing and code switching are sexy! Monolinguals can never— Tutu kitty (@thatprancingcat) July 8, 2019
Nikmat tau guna bahasa campur2. Nak maki? guna mother tongue. Nak converse? rojak. Hotel? Trivago
“Code mixing and code switching are sexy! Monolinguals can never. It is so satisfying to mix languages while speaking. Want to scold someone? Use your mother tongue. Want to converse? Use mixed language. Hotel? Trivago.”
Standard lah Roman. Bukan Twitter Malaysia lah kalo xde macamtu…— Knight Rays (@KRays78) July 5, 2019
How we type is kinda how we speak really.
“That’s the standard, Roman. It’s not Malaysian Twitter without it. How we type is kinda how we speak really.”
Twitterjaya also pointed out that we relate to this confusion when reading tweets by Indonesians and Filipinos too.
But still nothing can top filipino twitter, they have the most interesting opening tweet in english then suddenly the rest of the story changed into tagalog like a cliffhanger— Khansa S. (@khansabiila) July 7, 2019
Honey that is what Malaysians feel when we met Filipino’s twitter. They started a thread with an English title yet the whole content is mixed with Tagalog 😂😂— nasa (@_naddddzirah) July 7, 2019
Meanwhile, Twitter users from Indonesia replied by flexing their ability to speak in multiple languages (Although, we have to admit that we have no idea what they’re saying)
Wait until Indonesian nganggo our trilingual or bahkan quadrilingual skill. Sampe ngelu mocone baca tulisan tiba-tiba ganti bahasa in the midst sentence. Kapok tu un connard…— Z̶.̶E̶.̶D̶ (@AlcyoneGuyZ) July 7, 2019
we have several languages up on our belt jadi kita cuma ketik whatever language comes up pas lagi ngetwit, biar kepala ga sakit cuma gara2 one language fights with the others in our head— 뷔 (@zwolftenaugust) July 6, 2019
And then Twitter users from other countries chimed in with their own experiences with people mixing languages.
India is worse. They switch from Hindi, to English, to Bengali, and then to Punjabi before the sentence even finishes.— LePetitChef(lol) (@noble_nicholas) July 5, 2019
Same with filipino, they be tweetin in english tas biglang kung wala ka nang maintinidhan kung wala ka nang makapitan, kapit ka saakin kumapit ka saakin— ram (@catgoesarf) July 5, 2019
I know what you mean veo lo mismo entre los hispanos and I dont get why they do that like perdon pero me estan confundiendo— weenie 😔 (@NoahbodysArt) July 5, 2019
It’s our invented net language 😂😂😂 bas 3al twitter ba3da mna ma3rofe la2no l3arb ( 5osestn lebanese ) bysta3mloha 2ktar shi 3al What’s Up hone mnktob bl Eng 2ktar 😂😂😂😂 2aw ymkn bas 2nah 😅 la2no ma b3rf 7ada 3arbe, all my matuals are not Lebanese— NU’EST_(L.O./\.E) (@hawraa_komiko) July 7, 2019
Is it just us or does it seem like most countries with an official language other than English are more likely able to mix their mother tongue with the widely spoken language?