Life in Malaysia, Published on Medium

A dive into the sound effects of Manglish

Manglish — a mix of the Malaysian and English language

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Aiyoyo! What happened to you? Long time no see lah! Want to go yumcha to catch up?

Translation: Oh goodness! What happened to you? I haven’t seen you in a long time? Should we go for a drink to catch up?

Yes, that was English, or more commonly known as Manglish — the illegitimate child of the Malaysian and English language. If you’re ever planning a trip to Malaysia (after Covid, of course), you might want to pick up some of these to conversate with locals a little better.

Trust me, we love it when you try to use our sound effects or slangs because it shows you’re interested in our culture. We’ll even give you a few more tips and tricks on how to use and understand them.


When I started working on this piece, I came to the realization that there are so many slangs, terms, and sound effects that make Manglish special. It’s a little too complex to unveil them all in one article.

So we’ll just stick to the sound effects today, which I personally think are more fun. I’m a default expert in this purely because I was born and raised in Malaysia. I do not know the origins of it, neither will I be able to comprehensively explain the correct usage of it.

But I’ll do the best I can. Just remember, there are always exceptions to the rule.


Lah

Pronounced la

This is more of a suffix used to emphasize a sentence. Usage of this sound effect depends on the sentence and intonation of the ‘lah’. This is the most used sound effect.

Ok lah! — Similar to ‘FINE!’. To be used when you’ve been married for 30 years and your wife bugs you to take the trash out.

Ok lah… — Similar to ‘oh, alright…’. To be used when your new girlfriend asks you to take her to the movies.

I don’t know lah! — To be used when you’ve given up on life.


Aiyo / Aiyoyo

Pronounced I-yo / I-yo-yo

I would describe this as an exclamation to a sentence. It’s usually used to express distress, frustration or regret. Not to be confused with it’s cousin — Aiya.

Aiyo…— Similar to ‘crap…’. To be used when your boss hands you a stack of documents to file when it’s already 6pm.

Aiyo! — Similar to ‘the hell!’. To be used by your mum when she finds your wet towel on the floor.


COMBO USAGE

Aiyo! Whatever lah! — To be used when your girlfriend can’t decide what to have for dinner.


Aiya

Pronounced I-ya

Also an exclamation to a sentence, usually used to express surprise or exasperation.

Aiya…— Similar to ‘oh shit…’. To be used when you accidentally sent a text message to the wrong girlfriend.

Aiya!— Similar to ‘urgh!’. To be used when you’ve tripped on something.


Ah

Pronounced ah

This is another suffix that can sometimes replace a pause in a sentence.

You know ah… — Similar to ‘did you know…’. To be used as an opener of a gossip you know is juicy.

I tell you ah! — To be used by your mum as a final warning for that wet towel on the floor.


Fuyoh

Pronounced foo-yo

An exclamation to be used when wow just isn’t wow enough. Most of the time similar to ‘holyyy shit!’. Not ‘holy shit’.

Fuyoh! Did you see that? — To be used when you watch a Jackie Chan movie.


Eh / Wei

Pronounced eh / way

I honestly have no idea how to intellectually describe this. It’s just how we address or call anyone, really. Similar to ‘hey’ or ‘bruh’.


Nah

Pronounced nuh

Not to be confused with the American or British ‘nah’ of rejecting something. This is a sound effect used when you’re handing someone something or when you’ve managed to prove someone wrong.

Nah! — Similar to ‘here you go!”. It could sound happy or angry.

Nah! See! I told you so! — This is pretty self explanatory.


Hor

Pronounced… like how you would expect to pronounce it.

A sound effect used to agree or seek agreement when you’re not sure/suspicious of it.

Oh, yea hor… — Similar to ‘oh yea, that’s right…’. To be used when you’ve been proven wrong

Correct hor? — Similar to ‘I’m right, right?’. To be used in the office.

COMBO USAGE

A: Nah! See! I told you so!

B: Oh, yea hor…

Translation: —

A: I f***in’ told you so!

B: Oh yea… that’s right.


There are so many more sound effects used in Manglish but I think we’ll take a break from our lesson today. As you can imagine, I was sounding these off as I was writing, so I may not have done them justice.

Let me know in the comments if you found these useful! We might work venture into slangs next time.