3 Main Differences Between Indonesian and Malaysian Language

Have you ever confused between Bahasa Indonesian and Malaysia (Malay)?

If you have, it is very normal, because both derived from same root ancestry (similar to Dutch and German case), which is Malay (Melayu) family language even though they moved on different path. To help you understand differences between Indonesian and Malaysian Language, this article will try to explain as much as it can with several examples. Moreover, although both language is like siblings, I recommend not to get mistaken with one and another because of political interests.

Bahasa Indonesia is a part of Malay family language as well as Austronesia family language, Melayu-Riau to be exact. Therefore, you may found some commons between language like Indonesian, Malaysian, Javanese, Tagalog, and so on. Especially in Sumatra, you may found similar dialects and accents of Indonesian with Malaysian. It happened because most of them still has culturally-strong bond with Malay culture, Malay heritage or its culture.

Furthermore, he prime difference between Bahasa Indonesia and Malaysia was caused by their own history of colonialism. While Indonesian had long history with Dutch, the Malaysian had more special relation with the British. Therefore, many loanwords in Bahasa Indonesia were derived from Dutch, even though recent new words mostly derived form English or ‘English adjusted’.

Moreover, because Indonesian consists more diverse ethnic, they also absorb many words from local, such as Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese, even Hokkianese and so on, as well as Sanskrit from Hindu and Buddhist era and Arabic form Islam era.

Please check Indonesian Words Derived from Dutch and Portuguese Words in Indonesian Language. Here’s the differences between Indonesian and Malaysian language:

1. Same Meaning, Similar Spelling

Here are several examples of words that has similar spelling. Therefore, both Indonesian and Malaysian could understand each other even though both words are not same. Take a look!

English Bahasa Indonesia Malay
Different Beda Beza
Broken Rusak Rosak
Which is Yaitu Iaitu
Apple Apel Epal
Bus Bus Bas
Taxi Taksi Teksi
Television Televisi Televisyen
Because Karena kerana
University Universitas Universiti
Business Bisnis Bisnes

You could see that most of Malay words derived from English pronunciation. On the other hands, most Indonesian words are following the Dutch alphabet pronunciation (especially before revised to English spelling), such as in Indonesian ‘es’ (derived form Dutch ‘ijs’) compared to Malay ‘ais’ (derived for English ‘ice’). Both refer to ‘ice’.

You could also check Indonesian Alphabets and Indonesian Pronunciation of Basic Words

2. Same Words, Different Meaning

Here are several words that both languages have. It is very interesting part when you learn about differences between Bahasa Indonesia and Malaysia because some have very completely different meaning, such as pusing (turn in Malay, headache in Indonesia, while it equivalent with the word ‘turn’ in Bahasa Indonesia).

In addition, a few of them is appropriate in one language, but not too much in the other. Please give more attention.

Words Bahasa Indonesia Malay  
Kereta Train Car (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘car’ is mobil)
Cocok Perfect match, fit Having sex (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘having sex’ is bercinta)
Shop Toko Kedai Kedai in Bahasa Indonesia refer to shops, like coffee shop (kedai kopi)
Cakap Small chat (not serious) Speak/talk (serious) equivalent translation of Malay ‘cakap’ is bicara
Banci Drag/man-woman census (In Bahasa Indonesia, cencus is sensus)
Bercinta Having sex Expressing love Just do not get mistaken
Bisa Poison (snake), could Could
Boleh Got permission, could Can equivalent translation of Malay ‘can’ is dapat
Budak Slave Kids, youth equivalent translation of Malay ‘kids/youth’ is anak-anak/pemuda
Butuh Need Penis Just be careful
Gampang Easy Bastard In Bahasa Indonesia, bastard is anak haram
Pelan Slow(ly) Plan (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘plan’ is rencana)
Pejabat Person in important position Office (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘office’ is kantor)
Percuma Useless Free (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘free’ is gratis)
Pengajian Learning Quran Education (In Bahasa Indonesia, ‘education’ is pendidikan)
Tandas Accentuate Toilet

That’s the differences between Indonesian and Malaysian language. Check also Indonesian Bad Words and Indonesian Abusive Words and Meaning

3. Different Words, Same Meaning

Here are the list of both language words that you may not found or had been abandoned in the the other language. Take a look! 

Words Bahasa Indonesia Malay
Teacher Guru Cikgu
Towel Handuk Tuala
How Bagaimana Macam mana
Hospital Rumah sakit Hospital
Zoo Kebun Binatang Zoo
Clerk Juru tulis Kerani
Chair Kursi Kerusi
Chairman Ketua Pengerusi
Head Office Kantor pusat Ibu pejabat

That is all things you should know about differences between Indonesian and Malaysian language. Hopefully, it is become more clear to distinguish both language. You could also check each of both television program to know more about the difference and compare them, such as ‘Si Unyil’ (Indonesian) and ‘Upin and Ipin’ (Malaysian).

To enhance your Indonesian vocabulary, you may also check these following articles