Language In-Focus: Malay

Languages19 March 20143.1k

The official language of Malaysia and also spoken in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia, Malay has an important role to play in Asia.

A member of the Austronesian language family, the Language and Literature Bureaus of the four countries collaborate with regards to the standardization of the respective registers of Malay used as their national languages. Malay also uses Latin script as its sole official writing system.

For businesses targeting this area for future expansion, being able to create compelling and engaging literature in people's native language is essential if they want to be successful in the long run. 


Even though English is the third most important influence on Malay after Sanskrit and Arabic, translation can still be tricky. Despite the creation of a Terminology Committee, which was set up to deal with the introduction of foreign words into Malay, one issue that has persisted has been the translation of English affixes into Malay.

According to research carried out by the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, there has always been a perception that sentences are much longer in Malay than English, which in part can be explained by the differences in the construction of sentences. However, its analysis discovered the average length of sentences of newspaper articles is 23.9 words in English, while the same articles in Malay only use 23.3 words. 

Another issue is non-equivalence at word level. For example, if you are dealing with a cultural-specific concept, the words may not be translatable from the source language to the target language. Bearing this in mind, let's have a look at some of the issues associated with localizing into Malay. 


Having a great understanding of subject matter and target readership is key. When it comes to text translations with Malay, the main issue is the existence of both formal and informal registers as each register uses different vocabulary and grammar, while there are also a number of regional dialects. Similarly, when embarking on voiceover localization projects, companies also need to be aware of regional dialects and know their target audience.

How can these problems be avoided?

As with any successful localization, it's important to have a proper processes in place. The first place to start is assigning linguistic resources with the appropriate subject matter expertise. For example, technical manuals will require an in-depth knowledge of the product in order to make sure they have the necessary level of detail. 

Focusing on terminology glossary development, creating multilingual corporate style guides and implementing client review stages are also advised, as these will make any further localizing between two languages a much more straightforward process.

This is why it's important to hire an experienced localization partner with highly versatile group of translators and voice artists, in addition to knowledgeable project and key account managers, as they will be able to sidestep any potential issues before they even become problems.


Are your translation solutions scalable?

As experts in Asian localization and translation services, with more 20 years of experience, EQHO is the ideal choice. To find out more about how localization can benefit your business, or to get started, contact us today.

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