250M Malay Speakers
More than 250 million Malay speakers are scattered throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and parts of Thailand.
What is interesting about Malay is the fact that it is a single language for many countries. There are over 280 million Malay speakers scattered in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, some parts of the Philippines and the south of Thailand. And that is what makes Malay (also called ‘Bahasa Melayu’) a challenging language for translation and localization.
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The complexity of Malay translation
1. The written language > Translation Service
- Literal translation: A literal word-for-word translation does not work for Malay. Repeating a word often shows the plural form of the same word, which replaces the lack of plural in the Malay language. For example, burung means bird, so burung-burung means birds.
- Culture-specifics: There is a certain cultural aspect that can be clearly understood in the language but sometimes it may not have an equivalent in English. For example, it’s quite simple and common to address people with ‘you’ in English. In the Malay language, however, before addressing a person the speaker (a translator, too) needs to analyze factors like a formality, number, dialect, and gender.
2. The spoken language > Media Service
- Differences in vocabulary: A person well-versed in Bahasa Melayu could strike a conversation with someone who speaks Bahasa Indonesian. The trouble that they would encounter will mostly be in the vocabulary used. Therefore, when working on Malay translation the professional translators always need to be aware of these dialect differences and adapt to the required vocabulary based on the client’s information on the target group and tone of voice.