As a Malaysian, I wouldn’t say Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is weird but it gets me confused about what they are trying to say to me at times. It is like being an American in the rural part of England and having no clue as to what people are saying sometimes. I think both Indonesians and Malaysians would understand between 70 - 80 percent of what we are saying to each other. This is when Indonesians use the official language instead of local dialects like Betawi (a Jakartan dialect), which is the everyday colloquial language Indonesians use, and then it would be a different case. As much as we have similarities, we also have our differences in some of the words that we use in our vocabularies, which is comparable to American English and British English. Yes, this could cause misunderstanding.
|Indonesians and Malaysians|
Some of these words turn out hilarious while other words would be embarrassing or insulting when they are used between Indonesians and Malaysians. I think other Quorans have explained them in their answers and I’d agree with them. I have studied Indonesian as an Australian school (not the sam as Malaysian but at least I could still stay in touch with my Malay roots - so I thank that school for including Indonesian as part of its foreign language class). Yes, it is good to recognise differences and similarities. Furthermore, I’d like to advice you to be cautious and please research the local words before visiting each other’s countries. In fact, I suggest we should have a “Indonesian - Malaysian dictionary” so we know what words to use and what words to avoid using.
For example, “butuh” means “need” in Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), but in Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia) it is a slang for “penis”, which is also a vulgar word with thr same connotation as “cock” (as in “cocks***er”) in English. In Malaysia, we use “perlu” but this is also understood by Indonesians, and they can use this while in Malaysia.
Another word that could cause embarassment or insult would be “pantat”. “Pantat” means “buttocks” in Indonesian, but in Malaysian it is a slang for “vagina” (it also means “vagina” in Thai).
Another example is “kecelakaan”. The word “celaka” itself simply means “misfortune” or even a curse word like “damn” (as in “damn you!”) in Malaysian, and I think it means the same in Indonesian. However, when the prefix ‘ke-’ and suffix ‘-an’ is addes to ‘celaka’ (that is, ‘kecelakaan’) in Indonesian, it carries the meaning of accident - as in a car accident. So, you could imagine how hilarious that sounds in Malaysian if you ask for an “insurans kecelakaan” (insurance for the unfortunate) in Malaysia, whereas it means “accident insurance” in Indonesian. In fact, the word “celaka” itself sounds insulting to us Malaysians. In Malaysian, we use “insurans kemalangan”. Malaysians could also be less direct when using words to describe things. For example, “kaki ayam” instead of “kaki telanjang” (in Indonesian) for barefoot. To Malaysians, kaki telanjang would be a nudist.
The third example I could think of is “dadah”. To Indonesians, I think “dadah” means “herbal medicine” if I’m not mistaken (forgive me if I’m wrong), but in Malaysia, it means “illicit drugs”. Hence, if you are in Malaysia, do not ask for “dadah” at a shop or the police would come to arrest you for that.
Speaking of police, Malaysians call their police “polis” while Indonesians call their police “polisi”. “Polis” in Indonesian is policy and in Malaysian “polisi” is policy. You can sense the confusion here if you can’t tell the difference.
“Pejabat” in Malaysian means office, while in Indonesian it means an official. “Kantor” is Indonesian for office. In Malaysian, an official is called “pegawai”.
Other than that, balai bomba (Malaysian) and stasiun pemadam kebakaran (Indonesian) mean fire station. Balai polis (Malaysian) and kantor polisi (Indonesian) mean police station. Hospital (Malaysian) and rumah sakit (Indonesian) mean hospital.
These are the only words I’m going to discuss here as I think it is important for both Indonesians and Malaysians.