Manglish spoken at all levels in our community

MANGLISH is a form of English spoken in Malaysia although to me, it is more like mangled English than anything else. 

Let me start with how English is taught in nurseries and schools. It is common to hear children and even adults saying wan, too, tree, for, figh, sick, seben, egg, nigh, tan, eleben and so on.  

Be that as it may, my granddaughter could pronounce English words perfectly and with no accent, thanks to the many children’s programmes in English she watched on television. She started speaking rather late, as she refused to repeat after us when we tried coaxing her to speak.  

Whenever my wife babysits her, only children’s programmes would be switched on, a sacrifice adults should make. When she decided to start speaking, she could speak in full sentences and pronounce the words clearly. Without we adults realising, she has self-taught herself English.  

For example, when she says the word “looked”, the last two letters “ed” could be heard distinctly. She was mature beyond her years as she was not only told but explained, apart from receiving encouragements and praises throughout the day, and getting attention all the time.  

She never had to cry for anything. After returning from the nursery, she would play teacher using a whiteboard at home with me and my wife playing students, and she would be stern whenever I was not serious enough. She had the most incredible and happy childhood anyone could have.   

She is now 14 and studying in Sydney. Many years ago, I drove her mother to Angkasapuri for an audition as news reader for Radio Television Malaysia (RTM). Although she studied in Chinese schools, she managed to carve a highly successful career in several multinational corporations.  

Interestingly, many of those who have studied in Chinese schools would pronounce ‘s’ even when the letter is absent in the word, and not just in nouns.  

On the other hand, those from national schools tend to omit the letter ‘s’ because in Malay, nouns are repeated twice for plural.  

Foreigners wishing to rent cars to drive in Malaysia could be bewildered by models with tiny engine sizes offered by some local car rental companies. The smallest ones could be 1.0cc, 1.3cc and 1.5cc and if so, such minuscule engines would be impossible or unfeasible to make.  

 (Photo credit: AFP)


It is another example of many people looking but just could not see, unable to spot the difference between 1.0cc (one cubic centimetre) with 1.0 litre (1,000cc). These errors are not only found in their e-brochures, but also in the terms and conditions of their rental agreements.  

Internationally, many people like to pronounce ‘0’ (zero) like the letter ‘O’, which has grave consequences when used interchangeably, especially when typing commercial transactions. For example, US$9,850 could be transferred but not US$9,85O.  

It is also common to hear Industry 4.0 pronounced as ‘four-point-oh’ instead of ‘four-point-zero’. Furthermore, any figure after the decimal point should be pronounced individually and not in combination with others.   

For example, 3.141592 should not be read as ‘three point fourteen fifteen ninety-two’, unlike figures before the decimal point such as 2022 that can be read as ‘twenty twenty-two’. Also, the amount remains the same regardless of whether there is a decimal point after the last figure.  

Malaysians have a strange way of reading out the amount of money written in figures. For example, RM12,300,000 is read as ‘Ringgit Malaysia twelve million three hundred thousand’. I would read it as twelve million three hundred thousand ringgit, without stating Malaysia.  

This is because only Malaysia calls its currency ringgit, unlike the dollar which is used in more than 20 countries such as the United States, Australia and Singapore. Although the abbreviation is RM, it would be sufficient to read it as ringgit – adding “Malaysia” is superfluous.  

And many of our newsreaders often misunderstood words like severed and row. This was evident when “severed”, meaning “cut off”, was pronounced like the past tense of severe. And when “row” does not refer to lines but noisy argument, it should be pronounced as “rau”.  

But most glaring of them all would be “film”, which is usually pronounced like the Malay word “filem”.  

Some could keep the ‘i’ silent but would add an ‘e’ and pronounce it as “flem”. To keep this piece short, I have chosen to omit what many people have already written about Manglish. – Oct 21, 2022 


 YS Chan is a master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant. 

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia. 


Main photo credit: iStockPhoto

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