Despite the fact that the majority of the population (62% as of 2014) speaks English, Bahasa Malaysia (BM) has been the only official language in Malaysia since 1968.

Translation into Bahasa Malaysia is becoming increasingly demanded; organizations and institutions that aim to reach large audiences in the country – as well as stakeholders in key government bodies and NGO officials – must keep their communication in Bahasa Malaysia to ensure maximum reach and efficient communication.

We have recently seen a surge in demand for localizing and translating content into Bahasa Malaysia, and have helped a number of well-known organizations, such as UNDP, UN, UNHCR, and brands like Amway, Astro and others to produce their content in BM. We have translated over one million words of content found in protocols, handbooks, technical guides, training materials, websites, app content, and various other formats into BM.

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bahasa languages
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Keep in mind that Bahasa Malaysia is the only eligible language in criminal and civil courts in Malaysia (with the exception of Sabah and Sarawak). All court related documents (protocols, evidence, witness statements etc.) can only be submitted in BM.

Sometimes, “Bahasa” is used to refer to Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia interchangeably. This, however, is not exactly correct. Even though both languages stem from the same family, their distinctions are significant. The information below refers to both Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia (collectively referred to as “Bahasa”).



Quick facts:

Bahasa belongs to the Austronesian family, a Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of languages.

Total number of speakers (native and as a second language): up to 250,000,000 (estimated)

Countries spoken: Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Christmas Island, and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Officially spoken in: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

Recognized as minority language in: East Timor, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Thailand, and Philippines.

Influences and borrowings: Bahasa languages have been heavily influenced by Arabic, Sanskrit, Tamil, Persian, Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, and English. The highest number of borrowed words come from the mentioned languages.

Alphabet: Latin is the official alphabet used in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Jawi – Arabic alphabet is co-officially used in a few states in Malaysia, but not nation-wide, while it is co-official nation-wide in Brunei.

Standards: there are two standards: The Indonesian standard used in Indonesia, and the Malaysian standard used in Malaysia and Singapore.

Other variants: 10 known variants in Malaysia, while standard Bahasa Malaysia is standardized across the country. Brunei Bahasa is a variant of Bahasa Malaysia spoken in Brunei Darussalam. Indonesia has a number of known variants of its own as well.

Honorifics and registers:  As monarchies, Malaysia and Brunei have special language registers when referring to members of Royal families. These are honorifics as well as certain verbs and nouns which are not used by and in relation to commoners. If your target audience is the Royal family, you’d need to adjust the language accordingly.  

The following Royal registers of Bahasa Malaysia exist:

Royal Malay language

Royal Brunei language

Other uses: Indonesian is used at UN peacekeeping missions

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/ 

Maven International, a translation agency in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has been successfully providing translation services into Bahasa languages (Malay and Indonesian) since 2013.  We have translated content for some clients into the Brunei variant of Bahasa Malaysia as well as into Royal Brunei and Royal Malay registers and transliterated content using Jawi alphabet.