To do well in any subject you must be able to think correctly! Thinking skills are something you can learn and develop. Ask yourself questions as you read your textbooks and notes. Talk to other students whom you notice have good thinking skills. You can also sharpen your thinking skills by taking IQ tests available in books or the Internet, or playing games that require thinking such as word games.

International Students Appreciate The Malay Language

Last update: 29/06/2011
By Melati Mohd Ariff

This seven part series dwells on critical issues relating to the fate of the Malay language. Part 5 talks about how foreign students in Malaysia are keen to learn the Malay language.

PUTRAJAYA, June 29 (Bernama) -- Ali Haidar is an Iraqi, and introduces himself in Malay, saying," Selamat Pagi. Nama saya Ali Haidar. Saya dari Baghdad, Iraq. Saya ada dua adik perempuan, dua adik lelaki."

(Good morning. My name is Ali Haidar. I'm from Baghdad, Iraq. I have two younger sisters and two younger brothers).

Ali, 21, is among the many international students who have learnt Malay. Ali learnt the language from scratch, after arriving in Malaysia in 2009 to pursue a degree in Information Technology (IT) at Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten).

Remarkably, the former Al Kwarzme High School student from Baghdad knew no English either, and had to take lessons in it as well, for a semester.

At Uniten, Malay is a compulsory subject. Ali took Malay lessons for one semester and earned an A grade.


"I can understand and speak. It is not difficult, because I like to learn the language.

"It is easy for an Arab to learn Malay as there are 1,000 Arab terms in the Malay language," said Ali, when interviewed by the writer.

"When I spoke using the word 'aku' in class, the teacher corrected me," he said with a grin.

Ali, a self-sponsored student, says he has also made many Malay friends.

"During holidays, I follow my Malaysian friends back to their hometowns. I have been to Terengganu, Melaka, Kelantan, Johor Baharu, Kuala Perlis, Langkawi and Penang. The food I really like in Kelantan is the 'budu'.

"International students with Malaysian friends find it easier to learn the language. If you have lots of Malay friends, then you can easily pick up the language," Ali said to Bernama at the Uniten campus in Putrajaya, recently.

Ali said there were many advantages of speaking Malay. "If you speak in Malay at the wholesale or night market, you are going to get lower prices," he said with a laugh.


Digotetso Matema, who is also known as 'Dee', is 21, and hails from Mathabhane, Botswana. He faced difficulties in the early stages of learning Malay.

"Initially, it was an uphill task. However, after I became the executive council member of the Student Representative Council for International Affairs, I had the opportunity to polish my Malay," he said.

Dee, a Botswana government scholar, speaks of his seniors who continue to speak in Malay, or at least count in the language, even after returning to their countries upon completing study here.

Omar al-Kaf, from Hadhramaut, Oman, has had similar experiences.

"It is not difficult to learn the Malay language, but it needs lots of practice which I initially did not do.

"When I arrived, I was the only international student in the class; the rest were Malays.

"I could initially understand and utter a few words," said Omar, who is also a self-sponsored student at Uniten, pursuing a degree in IT.


Initially, international students are taught to introduce themselves in Malay, with greetings such as Selamat Pagi (Good Morning), Selamat Malam (Good Night), Selamat Tinggal and Selamat Jalan (Good Bye).

Although they have completed their Malay lessons, Omar and other international students are keen to learn further.

Omar continues his quest to learn the language by befriending Malay students, and even accompanying Ali to Kelantan.

He also enjoys taking a break in Penang. "My father has a friend in Penang. My hometown now is in Penang," he joked.

Dee carries a Malay dictionary with him wherever he goes. He finds it useful when he is in cafeterias and restaurants, or when using taxi services.

He has also downloaded software to carry out English-to-Malay translations, on his cellular phone.

Dee, who is pursuing a degree in electrical and electronics engineering, has earmarked Mondays as a 'Malay Language Day', even if all he does is shout out greetings such as "Selamat Pagi" or "Jumpa Lagi" (Meet Again) to whoever he comes across.


Idriss Moussa Ali and Abdoulaye Abakar, both from Chad, wanted to learn Malay.

"It is easy to learn, we had an A in the test," said Idriss, who is fluent in Arabic.

To his surprise, this self-sponsored civil-engineering undergraduate found many of his Malay friends preferred to converse with him in English.

Idriss continues to converse with friends, or at shops and restaurants, in the limited Malay he knows.

He also takes the opportunity to accompany his friends to their homes, to learn more of the language.

Idriss, who has two more years remaining in his course, has already been to Melaka, Batu Pahat, Johor Baharu and Ipoh.


Meanwhile, Abdoulaye, who can speak French, Arab and Urdu, can understand Malay if it is spoken slowly.

"I like to learn Malay and speak the language. But studying the language for one semester is not enough," said Abdoulaye, also a self-sponsored student.

Abdoulaye, who arrived in Malaysia in 2009, initially enrolled with International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He later switched to Uniten, since IIUM does not offer courses in civil engineering.

He, too, plans to accompany his Malaysian friends back to their hometowns, to learn the language further.

He is aware that it is difficult to move about, eat or shop without knowing the local language.

During his visit to Langkawi last semester break, Abdoulaye also observed that it is easier to approach locals when speaking in Malay.

"If we meet again next year.. I will be more fluent in Malay," said Abdoulaye to the writer.


For Ali, Dee, Omar, Idriss and Abdoulaye, learning Malay goes beyond fulfilling the requirement by Uniten.

They understand the need to know the language to survive as foreign students.

Dee also said to the writer that the younger generation of Malaysia should learn to appreciate their mother-tongue.

For this young man from the Babirwa ethnic group, one's mother-tongue plays a fundamental role in the advancement of a civilisation.