Tale of deceit: What’s so strange about two ‘Chinamen’ conversing in Bahasa Malaysia?

UNLIKE their Indonesian peers who have no qualms conversing in Bahasa Indonesia with one another, most Malaysian Chinese are seemingly reluctant or uncomfortable to speak Bahasa Malaysia with each other for reasons best known to them.

The only exception is perhaps if they happen to be Straits-born Chinese or that they hail from the Malay majority East Coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

To test the waters, social media influencer Apek Cina a.k.a. Tai Zee How had recently ‘conducted a social experiment’ whereby he and a Kelantanese friend decided to chat in the Malay language between themselves at a coffee shop.

Below is what transpired between the legal practitioner who has a large Malay following in the social media sphere and his friend as penned in a recent Facebook post:

We overheard an uncle at the next table speaking in the Cantonese dialect to his wife.

He (referring to my friend and I) said that we are from Indonesia and that we have forgotten our mother tongue.

His wife asked him not to speak too loudly till we could hear him.

He replied in Cantonese: “No, they’re Indonesians and can only speak Indonesian and Hokkien. They don’t understand Cantonese.”

Of course, my friend and I overheard what he said.

With mutual understanding, we switched to CANTONESE while ensuring that we are loud enough for the next table to hear us.

“There are people living in Malaysia but are unable to differentiate between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia yet dare to condemn others for not speaking their mother tongue.”

My Kelantan friend continued in Cantonese: “He who doesn’t understand Bahasa Malaysia should be ashamed.”

After that we laughed and ignored them. The couple was silent for a long time. After a few minutes, the gentleman touched my shoulder.

He said in Cantonese: “Sorry brother, I said the wrong thing earlier. I shouldn’t have insulted you for speaking in Bahasa Malaysia.

My Kelantanese friend answered in Bahasa Malaysia: “No worries. Since we are in Malaysia, no matter what race one is, we can speak the national language with pride! This isn’t Hong Kong.”

He answered in Cantonese: “I’m old already. It’s hard to learn that even my Mandarin is not good. But my children and grandchildren are faring better than me.”

I replied: “Try to speak Bahasa Malaysia with your grandchildren. If you don’t try, how do you know you can’t improve?”

We shook hands, only then did we know that he had paid for our coffee.

Fortunately, the younger generation from my race are more fluent in the national language. – June 11, 2024

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE