I sound Malaysian lah, so what?


Someone I know very well has this rather amusing habit: He talks normally, with Malaysian ‘lahs‘ and intonation, but the moment he meets someone who is not from Malaysia, or someone who hasn’t lived in Malaysia for quite a while, he changes his accent and suddenly sounds like a rather constipated Queen of England with a numb tongue. He then proceeds to wave his hand imitating a dying fish rolling on a boat, transforming into a parasol-wielding, lace-wearing lady while asking for a cup of Earl Grey, with lemon.

Alright, fine, that may be a wild exaggeration but the fact remains: he changes his accent to what he deems an “English” one whenever he meets others who speak in an “English” way. And he is not alone. Plenty of people do this, and I’m sure some of you readers ( yes, you!) are equally guilty of this.

Why is this so?  Why do we have an inferiority complex over our accents? Why do we have to change our accents in a botched attempt to sound more “high class”?

Hold your horses though. Before moving on, I would like to clarify a few matters. Firstly, this article is directed towards those who have a Malaysian accent but change it when talking to certain kinds of persons, NOT those who have had an international school upbringing, or lived in a foreign country for a number of years. I’m talking about the two-faced, or rather, two-tongued people. Secondly, I would like to confess something: I have been guilty of this “crime”.

As someone who takes part in public speaking competitions, I have been well aware that a good speaker should appear genuine, original, and above all, relatable. And so, it has always been a personal policy to sound natural, i.e. Malaysian. I cringe at the attempts of others to sound more “high class”.  After receiving the title of runner-up in a national level competition, it was my good fortune to be sent to London as Malaysia’s representative. There, I encountered countless other public speakers who spoke in a variety of accents. In an effort to fit in, I started changing my accent slightly, little by little, just to sound more “normal”. And when it finally came to the day of the competition, it was in that altered accent I spoke in. I didn’t make it through. The judges commented that I didn’t sound genuine enough.

Later during the competition, I befriended a guy from Ghana. He spoke in a heavy African accent, elongating and stressing syllables, so that words like ‘insurrection” sounded like “innn- sorr-reck-shan”. He didn’t change his accent and made no attempt at changing how he sounded or who he was. He made it to the finals, speaking about the importance of loving one’s country and cherishing one’s identity. He was voted “Audience Favourite”, one of the reasons being the beauty of his natural accent, accompanied by the authenticity of his message. In other words, he was there as a representative of Ghana, and he embodied his speech. Afterwards while discussing the competition with him and sharing my initial feelings of inferiority, he said to me:

“Your country, like mine, spent years under colonial rule. Why should you subject yourself to ‘their accent, and their way’ again? You represent Malaysia, be Malaysian; there is nothing to ashamed about.”

I have never forgotten his words. In the months after the competition, I have often thought about my accent, my identity. I’ve realized that an English accent does not necessarily mean one speaks good English; in fact, the English say that the Scots, Americans, Australians, and the Welsh can’t speak English for nuts. I’ve realized that our accents add to our uniqueness and are to be cherished, not hidden. I’ve realized that, in the words of Sean Connery:

“To cultivate an English accent is already a departure from who you are.”


A friend in international school said that us Malaysians probably have to start adopting an American accent to fit in. I only have one answer to that: Hell, no! People should accept us for who we are, and embrace our uniqueness. And if we all start sounding like Americans, that wouldn’t be very international now, would it?

At the end of it all, I pepper my sentences with ‘lah’ and ‘mah’. I don’t pronounce Bangsar as if it’s the latest gun or explosive (Bang! Sehr). I sometimes exclaim “Walao eh!” and call for a “Teh Tarik” and not “that peculiar tea that the locals seem to pull”. All this, without compromising the quality of my English. I sound Malaysian, and damn I’m proud of it!

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A young Malaysian who attempts to take on the thorny (and occasionally horny) realities of Malaysian politics and its woes in his own tiny, smelly way. A person who has heard the twin arguments of "You youngsters don't care about anything else except Justin Bieber", and "You youngsters shouldn't get involved in what is too advanced for your age" and wants to disprove them once and for all ( especially the Justin Bieber part, ugh!) Read more of his posts at duriandemocracy.blogspot.com, or tweet him @duriandemocracy.

Posted on 24 October 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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46 Responses to I sound Malaysian lah, so what?

  1. Usually most Malaysians would say that out of annoyance laa. It is just part of the culture here la. It’s like why Brits eat fish and chips and end each and every of their sentence with “cheers” laa; or how Singaporeans would end their sentence with “sia” instead of laa. And sometimes, you might bump into Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and Bruneians that would use laa as well. So, to say Malaysians would to end each and every word and sentence with laa is uniquely Malaysian isn’t quite accurate laa. After all, to say laa and end every sentence you said with laa is partly due to culture or your own personal choice laa.

  2. Caroline

    I'm part English, part Irish and mostly Welsh. I grew up in Wales and got a mixed accent that resulted in people in Wales saying I sound English and people in England saying I sounded "so Welsh they couldn't understand me". I moved to England for work and have lived there for over ten years. My accent sounds more and more English but if I go back to Wales or chat to my Dad on the phone, the Welshness returns. I used to think this was a bad thing, that I was somehow incinscere. But I read that people with empathy for others naturally begin to mimic intonation, tone and accent of those they are talking to. So yes, you lose your identity a bit, but it's because your brain is naturally sympathetic towards whoever you are with. For me it's most embarrassing when talking to Americans because I start to pick up their accent and I'm scared they'll think I'm making fun of them.

  3. James

    I'm thoroughly confused. My first language is English and my Grandmother is British. I have grown up in Australia and considered pronunciation a mark of respect to the language of origin. England.

    Language is for communication… so it's function is to communicate. The more easily this is achieved, the more smoothly human interactions are made… as a lot of language must be inferenced. 91% of communication is body language and vocal tonality. So, when speaking over text, only 9% of any communication can be clearly expressed. Arguments and misunderstandings are not ideal and I find this post patriotic rather than serving the function of language.

    When I learned Japanese, my intention was to learn proper pronunciation to respect the language and improve communication. My Japanese friends hated when English speakers would mispronounce "sushi", "Tokyo" or "Kyoto".

    So, I took this knowledge away with me and pronounced Japanese words correctly, even when speaking to English speaking friends.

    When I learnt Spanish, the same thing. I did not follow the poor pronunciation of foreigners speaking Spanish. No, I took the time to respect the language and learn it correctly. It is after all, their language!

    If a Japanese student came to Australia and pronounced a word incorrectly, I would help them… because their mispronunciation is incorrect. When a child pronounces a word incorrectly, I help them because they need more practise; in exactly the same way. Intelligence is a virtue, not a sin.

    Whomever the first Malaysians were to learn English… they did a terrible job. The mistakes they made are being passed on from generation to generation. So basically, some children got Ds and English class and now everyone in Malaysia speaks like poor language students.

    There is no "upper class"… it's a matter of education. Medicine, physics, maths, these all are information. We should pass along infirmation correctly. Not to distort it and make communication more difficult for everyone.

    Ideally, the world is united, when pronunciation rules are followed. It minimises miscommunication, strengthens bonds and brakes down borders.

    The author of this article only propogates miseducation, and with it, a world divided and unable to understand one another. English is English… not American… not Malaysian. We should respect the country of origin, as we should respect Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and otherwise.

  4. Rich

    As a British expat, I love the accent… also find it endearing when people change it to sound more clear/English when speaking to me. Maybe there's some of that "trying to be high class" as you mention, I always interepreted it as speaking deliberately clearly so I could understand ( "Manglish" is a little tough for me still, but I'm learning ;) )

    Anyway, in general love your country and the characters I meet here. Re: English and Manglish – "Both can also lah!" ;)

  5. henri

    i think what's even more pretentious is to use all those lahs and lehs in english just to prove that you're more malaysian.

  6. June

    i found the post!! :D and i admire the way you reply or counter the comments, the good and the bad. Bravo!!

    and i see there are many contrasting views (: but i'd still give you a thumbs up because, as you can see, language, accents and dielects are such hard topics to discuss. i appreciate your views on being "malaysia-boleh" all the way, and hey, i am too!

    and i can see that you have also accepted that those who do naturally change their accents (pronunciation, intonation) shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed. YES YOU SHOULDN'T!

    i'd rather like to think that it's great that you have the ability to do so when and if the time calls for it.

    However, just adding on to what people say about "making things clearer for others to understand them" and so on. i feel that being able to adapt to a country's english is also a form of assimilation.

    being in a different country, your command of the language plays a key role in assimilation and socialising. i'm sure no one would disagree with me if i said it would be a waste to go to a different country and only end up having malaysian friends (don't get me wrong, i love my malaysian support system here).

    plus. just in my own observations and experiences, the locals are just about as shy as you are, and good communication is key to begin a friendship. AND, if speaking accentless or accented english with no malaysian prefixes or suffixes helps acheive that, we should never have to feel ashamed of it.

    the only thing (i think was meant to be conveyed in this post, but wasn't properly addressed) that i can't stand is the way some malaysians put on a fake accent even when speaking to other malaysians. now THAT makes the other person feel like you want to put yourself on a higher pedestal than i, even if we do speak the same malaysian english.

    :D there you go. my twopence (re-typed) XD

  7. zewt

    I agree with you that we should not alter our way of speaking so as to artificially adopt a new accent. Our pronunciation, intonation and to a certain extent, speed – should reflect our way of speaking.

    However, peppering your sentence with lah, mah, meh, etc. is not an accent, that is altering the language altogether. “This is wrong” – if spoken with a British, Welsh, Scottish or Irish accent will just sound different. It will still be “This is wrong”. But if you say “This is wrong lah” or worse… “Wrong lah this one!”, I bet you wouldn’t have been on that plane to London.

  8. Ryan

    The 1st variant is a grammatically correct sentence followed by -lah, whiles the 2nd variant is grammatically wrong regardless of how you pronounce it. It is actually something you can hear quite often in Malaysia. While in the 1st example it is perfectly okay and understandable, when you say the 2nd sentence to someone other than a Malaysian, you will get a blank stare. You might as well speak Greek to them.

    That is why a lot of Caucasians find foreign accents, such as German, Irish, etc.– "sexy" while nobody finds Malaysian accent "sexy". They pronounce words differently while being grammatically correct.

    Malaysians don't only pronounce words differently, we literally dissected the language, twisted it around, removed all fundamentals out of it and regurgitated it out and call it Malaysian English. Except that it is no longer English. Using a few English words here and there does not make a language.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  9. Ryan

    The real issue with speaking in a Malaysian "accent" is that it is not actually an "Accent" per se. An accent is a modification of how you pronounce certain words like your example, insurrection is pronounced "in-surr-rekh-shen"– You sound different, but are grammatically correct.

    The important part of a conversation is not being able to pronounce every word perfectly– It is to be able to communicate in a grammatically correct fashion.

    The following example illustrates this:

    1—“please bring along a jacket tonight-lah”

    2— in response to a question—“Cannot one-lah”

  10. Shorthorse

    Well, you have certainly brought up a subject that many of us are guilty of … It is like we have this inner switch built into us to change from speaking Malaysian English that laden with it's many 'lahs' and 'lors' to speaking standard English (not necessarily accented) when warranted ….. But then again, this is something that makes us Malaysians unique, no? :)

  11. junaidi

    interesting, my malaysian accent with the mehs, lahs, aiyoyos is the one thats fake.
    so what do I do? Yes I was born in Kuala Lumpur.

  12. Aswan Yap

    I suspect that when most people change the way they talk, it's automatic. Sometimes they don't even realise their tone or the way they speak has changed dramatically; my father is particularly oblivious to this. I find that my accent naturally changes as well, depending on who I'm talking to- when I was in an international school I had a very neutral accent, but studying at Monash Sunway has brought on a seriously thick chinese accent.

    It still changes when I have to speak with colleagues from my work, but I find that I start slipping chinese words in my speech when I'm with my Monash friends. It doesn't mean I'm any less proud of being Malaysian (perhaps not so much nowadays with all the crap going on), but if I don't change the way I speak, it becomes very hard to catch for non-Malaysians.

  13. chooeee

    There's a distinction to be made between dropping 'lah's and 'loh's and changing accents.

    Talk to any group of non-Malaysians long enough (especially those from cultures whose accents differ greatly from ours, such as Americans), and you'd realize that communication becomes very ineffective when your sentences are peppered with a ton of 'meh's and 'leh's. Simple fact — an American would never understand the nuances in meaning between a "lah" and a "loh". They have no idea what your "Yalah!" is supposed to mean.

    I find it quite necessary to drop my 'lah's when I talk to an American, but that is QUITE DIFFERENT from changing my accent. I DON'T speak with an American accent at all, and I'm immensely proud of being Malaysian, but that does not mean I have to 'leh' and 'loh' my way around to showing it.

  14. Charles Leviathan

    All those arguing about correct pronunciations simply don’t realise that ENGLISH is not English anymore! It’s the bloody language of the world. Pronunciations WILL vary. It doesn’t mean we need to have a GOLD STANDARD for English pronunciation, it just means that when 2 people have different accents, they need to be conscious about this when communicating with each other for the sake of clarity and understanding, which is what communication is about.

    Stop trying to be Pronunciation Hitlers and expect everyone to speak the same god damn fucking way!

  15. suneeta

    i just tend to slow down my speech when speaking to non-malaysians! haha! although somehow, when i do that, a weird accent tries to creep in haha!

  16. Charles Leviathan

    Bravo! You nearly brought tears to my eyes with this one! So proud to be Malaysian.

    Malaysia Rocks!!!!

  17. non-English

    I don't usually speak English. When I speak English I try to "neutralize" my accent from my first language (Mandarin). When I try to sound like a Mat Salleh, part of the reason is perhaps inferiority complex, the other is because I don't construct my Malaysian identity on Malaysian English. English has always been a foreign language to me. I speak Malay and Mandarin to Malaysians. (Sorry, haven't learnt Tamil dan lain-lain.)

  18. Sam

    its the ugly chinese accent that makes it sounds so HORRIBLE!!! Its so embrassing when they try to act like mat sallehs , the kids calling them mummy and daddy and then they they around and ask * wat you want ah? *…watta fcuk??

  19. Steve

    I can see what you are trying to say here, but like most people say, some people (like me) speak in a different accent so that we could communicate properly with the other party.

    My family and I moved abroad when I was 14 and I was sent to an international school. I can still clearly remember when I first spoke English to my classmates, they were struggling to understand me, so as my Mandarin in Malaysian accent. This was when I started to adopt an American accent as my school is an American-affiliated school, and a standard Mandarin ( or perhaps a Taiwanese one as my friends were mostly from Taiwan) so that we could communicate more effectively. It is just as simple as that. In fact, my Irish classmate faced the exact same problem when she first enrolled to the school few years earlier than me. The teacher, who was American, even called her parents to voice his concern because he was afraid my classmate "could not speak proper English"! In the end this Irish classmate adopted an American accent. So, such issue does NOT always apply to Malaysians only!

    Having said that, I am proud to be a Malaysian and I still speak in a very Malaysian way when talking to my Malaysian or Singaporean friends. So, I'm sure many people have had the similar experience as me and I don't think we converted our accent because we wanted to be more "high class" or perhaps feel "inferior" with our Malaysian identity! In the end, effective communication is what we are striving for.

    • Steve

      Btw, I went to Chinese primary school and SMK in Form 1 and Form 2 before I moved abroad with my family at 14 due to my dad's work, so I still see myself as someone who is proud to be brought up in Malaysia. :D

  20. YCT

    I think it is alright to cut the 'lahs', 'mah' or 'meh' out when we are speaking to foreigners or are in a more international occasion as they might have difficulties understanding us,i see it as a respect for others. But faking accent is not, i find Malaysian who fake their accent DISGUSTING and TRYING VERY HARD to be someone whom they are not, and worse still, some cant fake it perfectly and i always laugh at these people.

    ps :I also meant the general Malaysian, not someone who had international schooling or who had lived abroad for years.

  21. Mr. Sinjoro, with all due respect, I think there is no need for any of us to resort in name calling.
    While I respect your opinion, I think for now we can just agree to disagree. Thank you for your comments.

  22. and Mandarin is different as it is a language that stresses on different intonations of the same combination of sounds; therefore pinyin, in English it doesn't matter as much.

  23. Well, with all due respect Sinjoro, your argument on accents can't be applied to English since even within Britain, there are so many accents ( Cockney, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English) and they are all distinct. It doesn't mean it's wrong pronunciation, just sounds slightly different. I can speak in an accent and not mutilate a language. If indeed speaking in another accent is mutilating the language; no wonder the English are always saying the Americans can't speak English for nuts! hahah

    While i respect your position on Esperanto, I think its better to master, and beat the "colonial masters" at their own game; rather than running to another language because its easier. Thanks.

    • Take a look of this Kar Jin, the great.


      The acceptance of variety does not mean it is correct. Just as we accept the East coast Malay and West coast Malay language, even the East Malaysian Malay with thick Indonesian accent. Therefore, are the East Malaysians speaking Malay or Indonesian language ?

      If a foreigner comes to Malaysia and listen to these three, should be more include the northern peninsula Malay, would he consider the Malay language in variety. Even the Radio Malaysia is using the Javanese pronunciation but not standard Malay is should be.

      We grew up in this confusion state of life, thus, we believe that things are pretty good for this and that.

      I certainly deem Americans cannot speak English well as you know well, America is a migrate nation. The mixed of many races. Thus, they lost what they should be despite the colony of Britain.

      Perhaps, you would like to argue from the point of world Englishes


      As English is dying out and they are trying to uphold the language and allow the mutilating process and term it as a varieties. Why should we learn so many varieties instead of ONE which should be the correct one.

      Now, the trend that depart the English and new form of English is called Globlish. Would you see that it is going to be fun for picking all the non standard language format in that just as you mentioned cokney etc. The Welsh have their languages and they would be accepted to use their form of English in O level English language test, this I am very certain.

      As for Esperanto, you need to read up more besides the Ecology language that i supplied earlier, perhaps, the books by Dr Robert Philipson should give you an idea what is imperialism. The book is called English only EU.


      Unfortunately non of the library in Malaysia has that book.

  24. Sinjoro,
    Just watched the video. I think his chinese is pretty good. And yes i do understand Chinese, went to Chinese primary school. hehe. I think i get what you are trying to say… the accent makes him harder to understand… Well for one… When i went to the competititon i mentioned, the Chinese from China had a hard time understanding my Malaysian Chinese accent. hahah.
    But doesn't necessarily mean i should speak like a Beijing person when speaking to fellow Malaysians, but i don't obejct to changing slightly when its a matter of clarity. Thanks!

    • Kar Jin

      It is the wrong concept of thinking the standard Chinese as Beijing Chinese language. Beijing Chinese language is not a standard Chinese language but a dialect of Beijing.



      The foreigner is working with the CRI, Chinese Radio International, of course, he would have to be subjected to the test but his accent is not possible to change and the tone is mispronouced.

      Do you feel comfortable when a Chinese speak to you in your dialect which sounds like a mat salleh ?

      Why mutilate a language when one should speak it with correct tones and accent ?

      Native language is not easy to learn, it is the true fact. Since you experienced even two Chinese speakers would have communication problems, you should know better how to avoid the next embarassment.

      Like this part of your article:

      “Your country, like mine, spent years under colonial rule. Why should you subject yourself to ‘their accent, and their way’ again? You represent Malaysia, be Malaysian; there is nothing to ashamed about.”

      If you can tell your friend, if he does not like to be subjected to their accent and their way, learn Esperanto. Protect his native tongue and other languages in Africa which are dying almost every day.

      Esperanto does not call for accent, in fact, like to preserve the accent of the tribal but only demand for the accurate pronunciation of the word.

      Besides, Esperanto will be more equal compared to speaking to one person in his mother tongue.


      English is not an easy language, it is the toughest language among the European languages


      Choices are yours, to keep the Manglish and be ridiculed by the native speaker of English or looking into the future for equal right and learn Esperanto

  25. Sinjoro Eng

    Just like to invite the writer to watch this short film to feel the pronunciation of the foreigner and the Chinese, I wish the writer knows Chinese and what is the feeling to the ear. Is the foreigner able to send the message totally to the listener ?


  26. rasydan

    good post. one of the best in loyarburok.com.

    to me it's basically like, speaking malay with a "chinese" or "indian" accent when speaking with them. I wonder why i do this. I think i should speak the rojak malay language with "malay" accent even when i speak with other races. But…most of the time, i didn't. Maybe it's because we're malaysia that we tend to give away to others.

  27. Haha thanks all for the comments! Agreed with all with you its something we all shouldn't pass judgment on. The above is just my personal experiences, just trying to tell people of my own take and story; not saying that everybody is that way. =) Thanks again! Your criticism is most welcome!

  28. Syafiq

    I remember someone once told me a good speaker knows when and how to code switch depending on the person/s they are speaking to. This person also told me some other things such as lexicon and enunciation that I couldn't quite remember huhu. I have never thought it mattered whether Malaysians roll their r's or drop them when speaking English since most of us do roll our r's when we speak Malay anyway :)

    I think people are too insecure with their accents, Malaysian or some other so called accent (to me it is still Malaysian just a little different). I guess in Malaysia there is this weird relationship people have with language especially with English.

    • Syafiq

      We want to be known as a nation that is competent in the language, but not to the point that we lose our identity.
      -English is the medium used in trade and business. It is also the medium we use when we assume the person we are talking to do not speak or are not fluent enough to express in whatever language our first preference is (Malay for me). When we do speak English to a Malaysian and they do not satisfy our expectation of what 'Malaysian English' should sound like we tend to pass judgment. Often we say they are being less of a Malaysian or just another snobbish arrogant rich international mak salleh celup. We do this even though we don't even know them all that well to even say such things. I’m studying in Melbourne and a few of my Malaysian friends here who would hardly speak Malay but I have never heard them make any remarks when they are speaking to people who have the typical ‘Malaysian accent'. They just enjoy your company.

    • Syafiq

      We want Malaysians to be fluent in English but we don't even actually know how to define fluency in the language.
      – There is not a body, organisation, or ministry that determines what the standard is when it comes to spoken English (pronunciation). Malaysia does not (correct me if I'm mistaken) produced any educational publication (except for our English text book) that is used as a main reference when it comes to 'Malaysian English' (I'm thinking dictionary here). We usually refer to British dictionaries such as Oxford (recommended by my SMK secondary school) or Macmillan (recommended by UiTM for their staff members and students). Macmillan also has an online version which includes a pronunciation aid to help people with their pronunciation. So if people start to pronounce a word like how the dictionary pronounce it, does that mean they are being fake or just trying to improve their pronunciation? Regardless of whether we use correct grammar or not because truthfully we learn words in isolation sometimes….right?

    • syafiq

      We say people who put on an ‘accent’ are insecure about their 'Malaysian accent' and people who do not speak the way we expect them to are ‘fake’. However it seems that we ourselves are somewhat insecure with our accent when trying to argue what a 'Malaysian accent' is. Sometimes discussing about it is good, especially when we come to accept the different accents people have but other times hmmmmm……….Anyway there is differences, differences is good.

      I enjoy reading your article. This is not directed towards you though, just my general thoughts on the issue. Apology for the rant and if my grammar is dot dot dot hahaha

  29. Louise Tan

    Love all the comments, and thought I'd add my twopence. I have a case both for speaking Manglish and proper English. English is my first language, and I've been told that my English is 'accentless' or even 'British' even though I never went to international schools (I went to a chinese primary and secondary school). But I have absolutely no problem increasing the frequency of saying 'lah' or other Malaysian slang in my speech – not just because I want to be understood, but because I'd like the other part to feel that they can relate to me. It's not put on, and it feels completely natural too, simply because I am a born and bred Malaysian. And I'm extremely proud of being Malaysian too, so it's not true that cultivating an accent is a departure from identity.

    On the other hand I completely support speaking good clear English the way the English or the Americans do (well… not so sure about the Americans) simply because it is the way English should be spoken and pronounced. I get slightly irked when foreigners say 'uh-raang-uh-taen' instead of 'orangutan'. I've always made an effort to pronounce words from other languages – French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese etc. – with the right intonations, pronunciations… In other words, I try to make their native speakers proud. Again, it is all about relating.

    To me Malaysian English doesn't have a strong association with a culture, identity etc. or anything that I can be proud of. I am quite happy to include Malaysian quirks like saying 'lah' in my daily speech, EVEN when I am speaking to British or American people, because it doesn't involve seriously compromising my grammar. But being 'proud' of Malaysian English, the way it is currently spoken, just shows unwillingness to improve ourselves.

  30. shafina

    a bit of a 'tragic' article because i think you are mostly generalising here in my opinion.

    the way i see it, most malaysians adapt really well to different kinds of situations including the way they speak. i speak malay differently when i am with family or at my hometown compared to when i am in KL and speak to most of my friends here (or they wouldn't understand me otherwise). am i then "two-faced, or rather, two-tongued"? i have heard my sister speak english in a different accent with her (mostly chinese) colleagues than when she speaks to others. she adopts the indonesian when she is in indonesia. and so on.

    don't be too quick to judge ;)

  31. Thank you all for your comments! Mr. Sia, completely agree with you that the notion requires more consideration. I understand that there are still roots nonetheless, but I guess I just wanted to bring them up for all to see, just food for thought. Thank you!

    Adam, I completely understand when you say you have to change your accent slightly. i'm not blaming anyone, note that i explicitly stated that i'm not pointing a finger towards those who are abroad for precisely the reasons you stated. I think instead of saying 'high class', I should have phrased it more like think speaking in an English accent makes them sound "more professional or more capable in the language" Thank you!

  32. Adam

    I completely agree with the writer. I'm was very pro-'Malaysian accent' because it's one of the things that gives us Malaysians a post-colonial identity to be proud of.

    But the circumstances changed when I started studying in the United States. The first few weeks I had a hard time starting up a conversation with fellow American students. Most of the problems was that I had to keep repeating myself because they weren't used to the Malaysian accent. What else could I do but to 'adopt' the American accent for the sake of clarity, although in the end I never sounded American at all. So there I was, faking an accent that made me sound like I had a broom stuck up my ass everytime I spoke to Americans and reverting back to the 'lah's when I was with Malaysians. Maybe it's just the location. The city where I'm studying at is infested with white trash hillbillies and rednecks who think Malaysia is located next to Guatemala (a slight exaggeration but you get the point). Maybe larger cities like New York or San Francisco are more diverse and more accepting towards international cultures.

    Whatever it is, faking an accent is not all about sounding high class. There are still ignorant people out there who think that you can't speak English for nuts just because you don't sound like them. And it's annoying that you have to deal with these people everyday.

    P.s I used to be a debater too :D

  33. This one deserved to be shared lah…. =)

  34. Thanks for your comments! Well, my article is sort of directed to people who can speak perfect English yet still choose to fake an accent, just because somehow even though their grammar and pronunciation is perfect, sounding Malaysian somehow means their English is not as good. I'm not saying we should have bad grammar and pronounce words wrong, just that we shouldn't fake an accent to "sound better", because we just end up being cetak rompak. Thanks again!

  35. AngryMalayWoman

    You have a very good point there. Not to be deliberately contrary, but do you suppose that your pride of our Malaysian accent is helped by the fact you are already very articulate in English? In that it does not matter what your accent is as long as you can put forward an argument clearly and very effectively? Not many of us here are national level debaters and public speakers. And that perhaps to be taken seriously in a conversation with non-Malaysian native English speakers, a "high class" accent may compensate for person's lack of fluency. Just thinking aloud here.

    • Amina

      AMW-love your username! (I’m an Angry Malay Woman, too!) But on the topic of accents. I think the objective from an EIL (English as an International Language) context is to speak English in a “mutually comprehensible” manner. This means making certain adjustments in your vocabulary, structure and pronunciation so that others can understand you. Whether it is a Malaysian person dropping his/her ‘lah’ or ‘meh’or a Scottish person toning down his/her pronunciation, or an urban African American speaking ‘proper’ as opposed to ‘street’.
      I think we can do this without compromising our identities, don’t you?