Saturday, April 09, 2011

LIM: Huh? What?

I went to the 7-11 next to Kusar pub the other night, and I wasn't really concentrating on the matter at hand.  Yes, blame the vodka.

Anyway, my mind registered that the sales girl was wearing a tudong (headscarf worn by Muslim women) so without thinking I spoke in my horrible Bahasa (Malay for "language").

Me: Satu paket Pall Mall hijau, sila (a packet of green Pall Mall,please) 
Her: Eh?
Me: Pall Mall hijau.
Her: Ah?
Me: Bisa bebahasa Melayu? (do you speak Malay?) Satu paket Pall Mall hijau, sila!

Big mistake!

I learned my bahasa in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia are very similar as they both come from a dialect spoken in east Sumatra.  But there are some nasty differences.

For example, in Bahasa Indonesia you have:
bisa   - "can"
boleh - "may"
harus - "must" as in the sense of a religious obligation
mesti - "must"

In Bahasa Malaysia you just use boleh.   I should have said, "Boleh bebahasa Melayu?"

Affronted by my question, my tudong girl whips back in very nice English, "You should not learn from your maid!"  She assumes that I am one of the millions of people in Malaysia who have a cheap 24/7 maid from our neighbour.

"I learned my Bahasa in Jakarta," I say loftily.  "And I forgot that Malay is much simpler than Indonesian.  No bisa, harus and mesti here.  Just Malaysia boleh!"

Malaysians tend to consider themselves far superior to their neighbours and for a second there is total silence.  Thing is, I know this girl, and she has a good sense of humour.

Slowly she deciphers my shocking accent, and recognises that the implied insult to the national language is balanced by acknowledgement of the popular national catchphrase, Malaysia boleh!
 Caught out, she falls over laughing and calls her friend over to tell her what I said.

It's fun to have a giggle but there's one problem: from now on she's going to speak nothing but Malay to me, and I bet she'll correct my accent too!

14 comments:

Julie said...

And I have a hard enough time with English! Cute story. :)

Brian said...

Guess you have to be careful what you say, you could be in big trouble! Purrs to Au and Target!

Katnip Lounge said...

You are SO busted!

Cat said...

Though I cannot give a similar example, I do know the trials and tribulations of trying to speak a language is very different from your native one...but you do have to admit, it makes for some interesting stories!! Life would be too boring without daily language challenges!! I admire your ability to speak and understand it...Czech seems like a piece of cake next to that!! A sense of humour is always the best way!! So glad to see that Au is doing good and eating like a pig in fur! Sorry that you had to give up Boris, but what a wonderful story that he found his family!!! How amazing!! Purrs and pets to you all (accordingly!) Cat, Lautrec, Tiny and Ellwood

mizzyN said...

bisa - poisonous hehe

Old Kitty said...

Me and Charlie are in AWE at your linguistic talents!! WOW!!! Yay for you!!! And glad this exchange all ended in laughter!!!

Take care
x

=^..^= said...

MOL! Gotta be careful with wat you say! ;)

~Slash & Bronzy

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Oops. One laugh and more to come? :)

Whisppy said...

You DO know that bisa means poisonous in Malay, right? :)
Have a great weekend!

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Auw! Aunty E, my Mama's teaching me Bahasa. Bet everyone will laugh at my Aussie-accented BM. Yikes! purrr...meow!

havetailwillwag said...

LOL!! But really, what's wrong with learning from your maid? I don't see why she was insulted or whatever.. I learned bahasa in indonesia too and my accent is funny too :)

meowmeowmans said...

LOL. That's a funny story! :)

We hope you, Au and Target are all doing well!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Should have stuck with English! I haven't met a kid in 7-Eleven, McDs or Tesco who doesn't understand "large", "small", "green", "red" etc. "Bisa" means poison in Malay!

Li said...

yes bisa also means poisonous in malay!haha