“Baba-Nyonya speaks Baba Malay.
Baba Malay is how the baba-nyonya communicates with each other. It is a creole of Malay with mix of Hokkien words which is now close to extinction.
This language came about when the Chinese settlers tried to converse with the locals. But because they picked up the language through listening and speaking to local vendors they were not able to pronounce Malay words properly. The structure was jumbled up, mostly based on structure of their own language, Hokkien. They also added Hokkien words while communicating as they had limited Malay vocabulary to express themselves. Consequently, Baba Malay naturally evolved into a creole unique only to the Baba-Nyonya community.
The most commonly used Malay words are:
- tuala (towel), roti (bread), tolong (help), sampah (rubbish), jamban (toilet), geram (angry), suka (like), sayang (love),
A common sentence sounds like below:
“Gua mo pi beli loti, lu nak tak?
This translates as ‘I am going to buy some bread, would you like some?’. “Gua” and “lu”are both Hokkien words, meaning “I” and “you”. Whereas “loti” is actually “roti”, a Malay word for bread but because they picked up the language through listening, they use it as long as it is comprehensible.