Aiyo! Texting with Malaysians, Translated

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In every culture, language is a living thing. Over time, it changes, it grows, phrases slip in or out of fashion, the meaning of words shifts, nouns transform into verbs… language is anything but static. And in the domain of text messaging and Internet shorthand, that evolution is dramatically accelerated. Every couple of years, you can count on a number of stories appearing in Western media to help baffled parents make sense of their teen’s texts and tweets. And because the shorthand vocabulary changes so fast, it’s never the same story twice.

So when an English-speaking transplant in Malaysia starts texting with the locals, it usually goes pretty well – after all, Malaysians speak English pretty widely and much of the shorthand lingo is quite similar: ‘LOL’ and ‘TTYL’ mean the same here as they do there – but there can be some confusion, too. Just as Malaysians have given a home-grown spin to both written and conversational English, they’ve given text shortcuts a bit of local flair, too. So with that in mind, we present a very tongue-in-cheek translation guide to help you make sense of your next conversation on WhatsApp!

MalaysianEnglish translation
AiyoExclamation expressing distress, like "Aw man / oh dear".
Haih / HaizSigh
Hye / HaiHi
OiExclamation. Similar to "Hey!" (chiefly Australian)
Okelah / OklahOK (lah)
TmlTomorrow (from the slang word Tomolo)
Using '2' as an exponent, e.g., I really2 like thate.g., I really, really like that
Walao eh / Walau eh / Walau weiExclamation. Like "Oh my God!"
XNo / Not / Don't
Yalor / YaloYes (lah)

Hopefully you’ll be able to decode Malaysian-ised text messages now! For more insights on the local language, check out our English to BM Phrasebook series.

Readers, if you have more local text slang to add, please leave a comment!

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