Malaysian Mandarin

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Malaysian Mandarin
mǎláixīyǎ huáyǚ
Region Malaysia
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Malaysia Chinese Language Standardisation Council of Malaysia
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Malaysian Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 马来西亚华语; traditional Chinese: 馬來西亞華語; pinyin: Mǎláixīyà Huáyǔ) is a variety of Mandarin Chinese (官話) spoken in Malaysia by ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese tend to perceive the Mandarin Chinese is a variation of Standard Mandarin (Putonghua), however, it is a Mandarin dialect in its own right. Its closest linguistic cousin is not Standard Mandarin, rather it is Singaporean Mandarin, the language widely used in films like Tiger Woohoo 大日子(2010), Namewee's Nasi Lemak 2.0 辣死你妈 and movies created by Singaporean movie director Jack Neo.

Malaysian Mandarin speakers seldom translate local terms or names to Mandarin when they speak. They would prefer to verbally use Malay place name in its original Malay pronunciation, for instance, even though the street name "Jalan Bukit Kepong" is written as 惹兰武吉甲洞 (rělán wǔjí jiǎdòng) in local Chinese printed media, the local Chinese almost never use "rělán wǔjí jiǎdòng" in daily conversations. There are exceptions of course, for example Taiping, since this name is derived from Chinese language, when people mention this place when they speaking local Mandarin, they always use its Mandarin pronunciation, tàipíng, instead of using its Malay pronunciation, which sounds more like taipeng. Another examples is when a place's Chinese translation varied vastly with its native Malay name, for example: for Teluk Intan, Seremban and Kota Kinabalu, they are preferably referred respectively as ānsùn (安順) (which refers to "Teluk Anson", Teluk Intan's former colonial name), "fúróng" (芙蓉) and "yàbì" (亞庇).

In comparison with Chinese, Taiwanese or even Singaporean Mandarin, Malaysian Mandarin is clearly distinguished by its relatively tonally 'flat' sound as well as its extensive use of glottal stops and "rusheng". This results in a distinct "clipped" sound compared to other forms of Mandarin.

Some differences between Malaysian Mandarin and Putonghua (Mandarin in China)[edit]

  • Jalan Bukit Kepong – 惹兰武吉甲洞 rělán wǔjí jiǎdòng
  • Raja Abdullah – 拉惹亚都拉 lārě yàdūlā
  • Kuih Talam – 达兰糕 dálán gāo
  • Roti Canai – 印度煎饼 Yìndù jiānbǐng

Early Ming and Qing immigrants[edit]

The majority of ethnic Chinese people living in Malaysia came from China during the Ming and Qing dynasties, between the 15th and early 20th centuries. Earlier immigrants married Malays and assimilated to a larger extent than later waves of migrants - they form a distinct sub-ethnic group, known as the Peranakans and their descendants speak Malay.

The majority of immigrants were speakers of Hokkien (Min Nan), Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew, and Hainanese. In the 19th century, Qing immigrants to Malaya had no single common dialect and were mostly uneducated peasants, and they tended to cluster themselves according to the ethno-linguistic group, usually corresponding to their place of origin, and worked with relatives and other speakers of the same dialect. In 1879, according to Isabella Bird, a visitor to the tin mining boomtown of Taiping, Perak, "five dialects of Chinese are spoken, and Chinamen constantly communicate with each other in Malay, because they can't understand each other's Chinese".[1]

The Chinese dialects spoken in Malaysia have over the years become localized (e.g. Penang Hokkien), as is apparent from the use of Malay and English loan words. Words from other Chinese dialects are also injected, depending on the educational and cultural background of the speaker (see Education in Malaysia and Rojak language). Mandarin in Malaysia, too, has been localized, as a result of the influence of other Chinese variants spoken in Malaysia, rather than the Malay language. Loan words were discouraged in Mandarin instructions at local Chinese school and was regarded as mispronunciations.


  • Angela, 你们不是应该要拿那个 'form'(表格) 先, 然后才去四楼那个 'counter'(柜台) 的 meh(吗)?
  • 刚刚从 Penang (槟城) 回来, 它的 traffic (交通) '死伯' (泉漳片闽南)够力, 它 '敢敢'(竟然)跟你塞两个多小时 '那种', 现在 '讲真的' 我很 'Sian' 了.
  • 那个黑色 body 的跟它 '马是'(也是) 同样的, 我看你们重 '砍' 了, 又.
  • Eh,你要不要我帮你叫CAB(计程车)?
  • 唉,讲到这件事我就'死伯' (泉漳片闽南)不爽。
  • 哇,你不sian(闷,烦)我都sian咯。

See also[edit]

Variants of Mandarin Chinese:


  1. ^ [The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Languages & Literature by Prof. Dato' Dr Asmah Haji Omar (2004) ISBN 981-3018-52-6.]

External links[edit]