A basic course in the Malaysian and Indonesian languages in 64 lessons  ©pgoh13
This course is copyrighted and is not to be reproduced under any circumstances.

Lesson 11 - Greetings

GREETINGS (according to the time of the day):
Click to listen  
A second reading (by Michelle Nor Ismat, a native speaker)

Selamat pagi (=Good morning)
Selamat tengah hari (=Good afternoon - from noon to 2p.m. or so)
Selamat petang (=Good afternoon/Good evening)
Selamat malam (=Goodnight)
(Note that while in English you can also say "Goodnight" before going to bed, in Malay it is more correct to say Selamat tidur rather than Selamat malam in such a situation.

Other greetings:
Selamat datang (=Welcome) eg.
Selamat datang ke rumah saya.(=Welcome to my house)
Apa khabar? (=How are you? or How do you do?)
Khabar baik, terima kasih.(=I'm fine, thank you.)
Selamat jalan.(Goodbye, you say this to the person leaving.)
Selamat tinggal.(Goodbye, you say this to your host who is staying behind.)

MNEMONICS: I've received the following email from Michael C Hunt, a teacher of language and linguistics, and am reproducing it (with his permission) as it could be of interest to other learners:
There are many interesting ways of learning. If it is of interest, Europeans for some reason learn very quickly when they can adopt a picture connected to the sound of the phrases one is learning (and learning phrases is presented really well by Michel Franc, a man who only teaches phrases!) For me I am remembering what you have written as the following. I say this purely for your interest!
Selamat datang......(offer someone some salami soup when you meet them...as salami and tang in Chinese is soup)
Khabar baik.....(a cab or a bike )
Terima kasih.....(offer someone a terrine of kashik, a Polish lentil)
These are clearly things I like....soup, Chinese language, Polish soup and bikes.

There are two different ways of saying "Goodbye" in Malay depending on whether you're leaving or staying behind. These are Selamat tinggal and Selamat jalan .   I will explain them in detail below.

1st form: Selamat tinggal
The one who is leaving will say to the one staying behind (the host) Selamat tinggal . So normally it is the guest who says this when taking leave of his host. This of course has to take place at the host's house and not at a restaurant if the host is also leaving at the same time as his guest since tinggal here means to stay (back)!
        Note: The word tinggal by itself is used as follows:
        Saya tinggal di PJ. = I live in PJ (or Petaling Jaya if you like).
        Saya tinggalkan payung saya di rumahnya. (I left my umbrella at his house.)

2nd form: Selamat jalan
The host i.e. the one who is remaining in the house will say this to his departing guest to wish him a safe journey back. Though jalan means "to walk" this term is still used even if the guest is returning home by car.

If the above two forms of saying Goodbye are a bit confusing to you then just stick to Jumpa lagi or in its full form Sampai berjumpa lagi. It simply means "See you soon" or "So long!"
        Note: The word jumpa alone means "to meet" as in this sentence:
        Saya akan jumpa dia esok. (= I shall be meeting him/her tomorrow).
Warning: When you say Jumpa lagi in the sense of "So long" make sure you do not raise the tone at the end or it could be taken for a question ("Shall we meet again?") in which case you are likely to be asked in turn, Ya, bila? (Yes, when?)

Note: The following rules are not at all rigid. They are only meant to be used as a guide and I know that some people interpret them differently. So please don't hold me responsible for your quarrels!
From sunrise (about 5 or 6 a.m.) to 12 noon, you say Selamat pagi.
Between 12 noon and 2 p.m. or so, you say Selamat tengah hari.
From 2 p.m. until sunset (about 8 or 9 p.m.) , you say Selamat petang.
From sunset to midnight, you can say Selamat petang or Selamat malam (the latter is usually said upon leaving an evening function).
But after midnight and until sunrise you can either say (considering that it is already a.m.) Selamat pagi or, if you are taking leave of your colleagues after a night shift Selamat malam.
A word that does not go by the clock hour is siang which means daytime i.e. when you don't need to turn on the lights. So if you are baffled by Selamat pagi, Selamat tengah hari and Selamat petang you can just say Selamat siang which is not so precise and which is more used by Indonesians but which serves the purpose.
If all this sounds too complicating to you a passe-partout (or all-purpose) greeting which can be used at all times of the day and night is Apa khabar? It's equivalent to "How are you?" in English or "Qué tal?" in Spanish. The standard answer is Khabar baik, terima kasih. (=I'm fine, thank you.)
Incidentally if someone says Terima kasih (=Thank you) to you the standard reply is Sama-sama (=You're welcome). An Indonesian though would reply Kembali instead of Sama-sama but that's another story.
Another common word of greeting is Salam and if you ask someone to send your greetings or regards to a mutual friend you can say Tolong sampaikan salam saya kepadanya. (Please send him my regards).
A very useful expression to learn is Maafkan saya when you wish to apologise for something. Instead of this you could also say Minta maaf or Harap maaf (= Excuse me). The usual reply to this would be Tidak apa-apa or just Tak apa (=It doesn't matter) or Tak apalah (see Lesson 20). Note that the suffix lah is always added to soften the tone or to make something less formal. ("Yeslah it's true" I can hear your Malaysian friends saying!)
But note that Maafkan saya is also used when you are trying to squeeze your way between two people who are talking or passing by a row of people. Politeness is very important in the Malay culture and you don't just barge your way through people without saying a polite word.
Note also that greetings in Malay are normally followed by the name of the person to whom we greet. Thus if we are greeting Mr. Ahmad, we don't just say Selamat pagi but Selamat pagi, Encik Ahmad or Selamat pagi, Cik Ahmad.. Note that while in the written form "Cik" is equivalent to "Miss", in its spoken form "Encik" for Mr. is very often contracted to "Cik".
If we are greeting someone whose name we do not know (as when asking a stranger for information) we can use "encik" (mister) or "puan" (madam). Thus: Selamat pagi, encik or Selamat pagi, puan (for a married or elderly woman).
When addressing someone whom we know to be a teacher we can use cikgu eg. Apa khabar, cikgu?
By the way the Malay word for "teacher" is guru.
Example: Dia guru anak saya. (He/She is my son/daughter's teacher).
When addressing a titled person we can just use his title without his name. Thus Apa khabar, Datuk? or Selamat pagi, Tan Sri.
"Datuk" (sometimes spelt Dato or Dato'), which literally means grandfather, is a title conferred to "prominent" Malaysians (ah, I'm treading on dangerous ground here by using the word "prominent" since there have been cases of such titles being bought!) by the King or Sultans on their birthdays. The wife of a "Datuk" should be addressed as "Datin" but if it is a woman who has the title of "Datuk" in her own right (which is quite rare) her husband is not affected by her title.
Higher up on the title hierarchy is "Tan Sri" and even higher still is "Tun". The wife of a "Tan Sri", by the way, should be addressed as "Puan Sri" and the wife of a "Tun" as "Toh Puan".
Incidentally "Tun" is limited to 60 living holders at the moment (at the initial stage it was limited to only 5). If you like to read more on this subject click here.
When you know that besides the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King), each of the thirteen States also confers such titles every year you will not be surprised by their proliferation.


First Wishing:
You might want to send your regards or best wishes to someone (John, for example) through a friend. In such a case you will tell your friend Tolong kirim salam saya kepada John. (New vocabulary: kirim means to send, as a letter while salam means "salutation".
As you have seen earlier on all wishes and greetings start with the word Selamat (followed by another word).
Other examples are:
Merry Christmas = Selamat Hari Krismas
Wish You a Happy New Year = Selamat Tahun Baru
Wish you success = Selamat berjaya
Or if you prefer you can also say Selamat maju jaya (the word maju meaning "progress").
There is also Selamat sejahtera (May peace be with you) and Selamat hari jadi (Happy Birthday)
Then there is Selamat berbahagia which you say when wishing someone long life and happiness and Selamat belayar to a person about to sail on a ship.
Incidentally if you want to put the above wishes in a full sentence you can by starting with Saya mengucapkan... meaning "I wish you (success, etc)"
Thus the sentence "I wish you and your family a Happy New Year" would be translated in Malay as:
Saya mengucapkan Selamat Tahun Baru kepada anda dan keluarga anda.
But mengucapkan does not mean "to wish" but rather "to express" in the following sentence:
Bila dia mendengar kematian kawannya dia pun mengucapkan takziah kepada keluarganya. (=When he heard about his friend's death he expressed his condolence to the family.)
This little word pun is used here to show an action that follows, or is the result of, an earlier action. In this case the first action is that of hearing his friend's death and this resulted in the second action, the sending of his condolence to the family.
Apart from Christmas and the international New Year on January 1, there are the following occasions when you might have to express your greetings to your Malaysian friends:
  • End of the fasting month by wishing the Muslims Selamat Hari Raya
  • The Chinese New Year by wishing your Malaysian Chinese friends Selamat Tahun Baru Cina (unless you'd like to wish them in Chinese in which case you'd say "Xin Nian Kuai Le" or "Gong Xi Fa Cai")
  • The Hindu festival Diwali, also called the "festival of lights," by wishing your Malaysian Indian friends Selamat Hari Deepavali (Diwali is spelt Deepavali in Malaysia)
Talking about the Chinese New Year here is an interesting article on the tradition of giving "lucky money" (ya1 sui4 qian2) or red packets ("ang pow" in Hokkien or duit raya in Bahasa Malaysia) given by married people to friends' children - and even to 60-year-old adults if they're still unmarried! If your child happens to receive an "ang pow" tell him not to open it in front of the giver to see how much is inside. If he is impatient, do like what some children do - go out of the room to open it! In fact this age-old custom has been "adopted" by the Malays and Indians too so if you are staying in Malaysia for some time you might want to know more about it. Go here for an interesting background reading on the subject by KTemoc, a popular Malaysian blogger.

Next Hoping:
When you tell someone that you hope he will get a job, for example, you start with Semoga (can be replaced by Moga-moga or Mudah-mudahan). All three terms mean "It is hoped that..." or "I hope that..."
Thus Semoga anda dapat pekerjaan yang diminta (dipohon) itu means "I hope you will obtain the job you applied for" and
Mudah-mudahan saya dapat tolong anda means "Hopefully I'll be able to help you".
Note the two different meanings of the verb dapat in the above two sentences:
1. meaning "to get" or "to obtain" eg.
Dia dapat banyak hadiah untuk hari jadinya. (= He obtained many gifts for his birthday).
2. meaning "can" or "be able to" eg.
Dia tidak dapat membuat kerja itu. (= He is not able to do the job).
There is another way of saying the same thing (in fact this is closer to the English way) since the Malay verb for "to hope" is harap or berharap to give its formal form with the prefix. So if you want to tell someone that you hope he gets the job for which he applied you can also say:
Saya harap anda akan dapat pekerjaan yang diminta itu ("I hope you will obtain the job you applied for".)
Other examples on how to use Semoga:
I hope that you will get well soon (or if you prefer "I wish you a speedy recovery") = Semoga lekas sembuh or Semoga cepat sembuh or simply Harap cepat sembuh (Both lekas and cepat mean "quick, fast").
I hope you will pass your exam = Semoga lulus dalam peperiksaan (ujian) anda.
I hope you will be happy in your new life = Semoga anda berbahagia dalam kehidupan baru.
If you want to split hairs you can always say that Semoga berjaya means "I hope you will succeed" while Selamat berjaya means "I wish you success". But to all intents and purposes it comes to the same thing so in this particular case you might just as well use the first word that comes to your mind.
In the case of wishing someone good health though you have to use Semoga or Moga-moga or Mudah-mudahan but not Selamat.
Thus you would say Semoga sihat selalu meaning "I hope you will always be in good health".
Want some more? Well, sihat walafiat is of Arabic origin and means good health but is quite often used by the local Malays. Thus if you have a Malay friend you could write:
Semoga anda dan keluarga anda dalam keadaan sihat walafiat (= May this find you and your family in a state of good health).
And in case you are the religious type you might wish to say "I pray that.." In Malay it is Saya berdoa or Saya berdoa kepada Tuhan (I pray to God).
Saya berdoa semoga ibu anda sembuh dengan cepat. (I pray that your mother will have a quick recovery)

In the Indonesian language the two principal forms of salutation not used in Malaysia are Selamat siang and Selamat sore. The word siang means "daytime" (specifically late morning or early afternoon) while sore means "late in the afternoon". The word sore (pronounced so-ray) is never used by Malaysians (but might be eventually, who knows?)
As in Malaysia Selamat pagi and Selamat malam are equally used in Indonesia while instead of Selamat tengah hari the Indonesians would say Selamat siang. The following is a guide to the time of day when the above four types of greetings are used in Indonesia:
From about 4.00 a.m. to 10 a.m. Selamat pagi
From about 10.00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Selamat siang
From about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Selamat sore
From about 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Selamat malam
This is just a rough guide for foreigners. Hey, don't take it to the letter please (or should I rather say "Don't take it to the very minute please"?)

How are you? Apa kabar? Apa khabar?
I'm fine. Baik-baik saja. Khabar baik.
See you later. Sampai jumpa or Sampai nanti. Jumpa lagi.
Excuse me (as when you have to pass between two people). Permisi. Maafkan saya.
grandfather kakek datuk
Merry Christmas Selamat Hari Natal Selamat Hari Krismas
Happy birthday! Selamat ulang tahun! Selamat hari jadi!

                          Table of Lessons