To Lah, Or Not To Lah, In Malaysia

DSCF2500 (Copy)After leaving Hong Kong, one of the first things that caught me by surprise in Singapore was the accented English. Singaporeans and to a lesser extent Malays, speak English as native speakers with (to my ears at least) Indian accents complete with mannerisms such as the head wobble. The usage of the word “lah” here and there in a fashion that is impossible for the outsider to crack in a short amount of time, supposedly has its roots in Chinese. Given the colonial history of the region, this isn’t a huge surprise, especially with the large number of Indians who have made their homes here for well over a century. I was expecting to English to be swept asideĀ in toto as soon as I crossed in to Malaysia but this did not happen. True, the primary language switched to Bahasa Malaysia but I was certainly surprised by the number of locals whose grasp of English was that of a native speaker or close to it. Continue reading

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