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Malay Localization

Malay or ‘Bahasa Malaysia’ is not considered to be a complex language from a localization standpoint. As with Indonesian, Malay also uses the Latin alphabet so is compatible throughout virtually all programs and platforms. Apart from ensuring that vocabulary is appropriate to the writer, subject and target audience, and provided that professional Malay translators with the right level of subject-matter expertise are assigned to projects, Malay localization does not usually throw up much of a challenge.

One aspect that does however require more careful attention is Malay voiceover, due to the large number of accents and dialects in Malaysia. Consideration therefore needs to be given to the choice of voice artist to ensure that they are appropriate to the target audience.


  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Machine Translation engine building
  • Machine Translation post-editing
  • Desktop publishing
  • Voiceover & dubbing
  • Subtitling & closed captions
  • Flash & multimedia localization
  • Linguistic testing
  • Functional testing
  • Interpretation


  • Documentation
  • Technical manuals
  • Marketing materials
  • Brochures & flyers
  • Packaging & labeling
  • Magazines & newsletters
  • Websites
  • Mobile applications
  • Software applications
  • Training & eLearning
  • Voiceover & multimedia
  • Video content

About Malay

The Malaysian language, known as Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu, is a member of the Austronesian language family and a standardized register of Malay. There is often confusion regarding the meaning of the names Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Melayu, and Bahasa Indonesia. In Malaysia, there is no clear distinction between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu (in 1986 the official name was changed to Bahasa Melayu, but in 2007 it was changed back to Bahasa Malaysia to help inculcate a sense of belonging for all citizens irrespective of race); Bahasa Indonesia means the standardized register of Malay which is the national language of Indonesia.

In Indonesia, however, clear distinctions are made among the three: Bahasa Indonesia means the standardized register of Malay which is the national language of Indonesia; Bahasa Malaysia means the standardized register of Malay which is the national language of Malaysia; and Bahasa Melayu means the indigenous language of the Malay ethnic group in Indonesia. Note that the Language and Literature Bureaus of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei collaborate with regard to the standardization of the respective registers of Malay used as their national languages.

The Malaysian language has many loan-words derived from Sanskrit, Tamil/Telugu, Greek, Latin, Portuguese, Dutch, certain Chinese dialects, Arabic (for religious terms), and, most recently, English (for scientific and technological terms).

The Latin script, known as Rumi, was introduced in the 16th century CE and is now the sole official writing system. As last revised in 1972, it uses the 26 letters of the English alphabet: A a through Z z. In addition, there are 3 diphthong digraphs – ai au oi – and 5 consonantal digraphs – gh kh ng ny sy – which are not considered to be separate letters of the alphabet. Nevertheless, the traditional script, Jawi, a variant of Arabic, is still widely used in Malaysia, although it is not an official script as it is in Brunei. The continued popularity of Jawi is evidenced by the large number of software programs that offer automated transliteration between the two writing systems. The Jawi script is written from right to left and comprises 40 letters, most of which have distinct isolated, initial, medial, and final glyphs. For the sake of brevity, only the isolated forms are shown below.

Malay Translation & Localization Challenges

  • With regard to text translation into the Malaysian language, it should be noted that its formal and informal registers use different vocabulary and, to a lesser extent, grammar, and in addition there are numerous regional dialects. The primary localization issue is therefore to ensure that the chosen register and/or dialect is appropriate for the both the subject matter and the target readership.
  • With regard to audio localization, due to the large number of regional dialects, voice talents must be chosen in accordance with the target audience.


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