Two months ago I started taking Malay classes in Singapore. It took me the two months before that to actually arrange the classes – it seemed I was the only person in the country who wanted to learn Malay. First, I had signed up for university extension classes, but they never started because of low enrollment. Then, I found private classes, but they continually got postponed; every 2 weeks I was told to check back later. I was literally shocked when they finally told me they had decided to go ahead and start the class with 3 people – me, a Singaporean, and a Frenchman. It sort of sounds like the beginning of a joke.
And sometimes class seems like a joke. We don’t have textbooks; we have worksheets, and my instructor goes off-topic a bit. Apparently at some point he worked as a nurse in a hospital, and two weeks ago he decided to teach us the four things he always had to ask patients:
Sudah makan? Have you eaten?
Sudah minum? Have you drunk?
Sudah berak? or Sudah buang air besar? Have you passed a bowel movement?
Sudah kencing? or Sudah buang air kecil? Have you urinated?
For the last two questions, the second option is more polite. He told us the first options are crude and ethically he shouldn’t teach us, but those were what was actually said in the hospital. I’ll leave the literal translations to your imagination. The literal translations for the second options are, “have you thrown water big” and “have you thrown water small,” which I find kind of amusing. Even more amusing, however, was that my instructor said if we used the second options, people would know we had “taken formal Malay classes.” Right. When, exactly, would I ever need to say this in Malay?
I suppose a scenario could arise in which I start volunteering at a hospital in Malaysia. Say for instance, I marry a Malaysian prince and get bored of being fanned with palm fronds, or whatever it is that Malaysian princesses do. Now to be clear, marrying a Malaysian prince is not something that had ever crossed my mind. In fact, I don’t think I realized there were princes in Malaysia until yesterday, when my Malay instructor suggested I marry one. I’m not quite sure how this is supposed to happen, but at least if I meet a Malaysian prince, I have some useful vocabulary we just learned.
Anda apa temanita? Do you have a girlfriend? (For those looking to marry a Malaysian Princess, the opposite is, “anda apa teman lelaki?”)
That’s about all I can say until we get married. (Unless I want to ask him if he’s had a bowel movement, which would be an interesting way to court someone.) But after marriage, if we encounter some outside trouble, I can say, “Batu mertua saya Sultan Johor.” (My father-in-law is the Sultan/King of Johor.) That will clearly resolve any issue and we’ll live happily ever after.
But before my teacher sets me up with a prince and I have to convert to Islam, move to Malaysia, and actually get married, I decided to do some research. I mean, how many Malaysian princes are there? How old are they? I don’t want to have to marry someone old enough to be my father nor do I want to marry someone much younger. So I googled, “malaysian princes.” Here is what came up, in order:
Teen model says Malay prince abused her (1 Jun 2009 … A teenage US-Indonesian model has returned to her family in Indonesia with tales of abuse, rape and torture at the hands of a Malaysian prince…)
‘Deranged’ Malay prince stabs mother to death – Times Online (25 Jul 2006 … A Malaysian prince has stabbed his mother to death with a hunting knife and seriously wounded his father before dying of a suspected drugs …)
BBC News – Asia Pacific Malay prince sues Indonesian wife (21 Jul 2009 … A Malaysian prince accuses his teenage Indonesian bride of defaming him, after she runs away alleging ill-treatment.)
BBC News – Asia Pacific – Malaysian princess confirmed dead (13 Oct 2002 … Police in Malaysia confirm that Princess Leza, second wife of the heir to the throne of Perak, is dead, after being abducted last week.)
Handguns of Kelantan prince and bodyguards to be checked in ballistic tests (6 May 2010 … Police will conduct ballistic testing on handguns seized on Tuesday night in Kota Baru from a Kelantan prince and his bodyguards. The Malay Mail had reported yesterday the seizure of the firearms was linked to the investigations into the attempted murder of Ramli Mohamed, a Kelantan palace guard, last Friday.)
Malay Prince wins suit against teen wife -Deccan Chronicle(11 Mar 2010 … The estranged wife and mother-in-law of a Malaysian prince were ordered Thursday to pay 1.8 million dollars after alleging he had raped and abused his teenage bride…)
After seeing these, two thoughts came to mind, “the Malaysian royal family really needs to hire PR people,” and “I think I’ll pass on marrying a Malay prince.” All’s not lost, though – I hear there are some princes in Thailand…