A basic course in the Malaysian and Indonesian languages in 64 lessons  ©pgoh13
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Lesson 12  Warna (Colours)

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A second reading (by Michelle Nor Ismat, a native speaker)

    Kereta saya biru (= My car is blue)
    Apa warna kereta anda?
    (= What is the colour of your car?*)

Note: Just as the days of the week usually start with hari and the months of the year with bulan, the names of colours are usually preceded by the word warna meaning "colour" eg warna biru for "blue" and warna kuning for "yellow".


For orange, you can use the same word warna oren (though you can also say warna jingga).

1. (warna) merah

2. (warna) biru

3. (warna) hijau

4. (warna) kuning

5. (warna) hitam

6. (warna) oren
or (warna) jingga

7. (warna) ungu

*The above question only serves to put the study of colours in a meaningful context. If, like me, you don't possess a car, there's nothing to be ashamed about! In that case just answer Saya tidak ada kereta or if you want to add a touch of regret, or perhaps just to impress the listener with your Malay then say Ah, malangnya saya tidak mempunyai kereta (Ah, unfortunately I don't have a car). Note the four syllables in mempunyai (pronounced mem-pu-nya-ee) which simply means to own or possess.

Another exercise: Can you name the four colours in the rectangle below.

For those who want to know more:
To say that a colour is dark all you have to do is to put the adjective tua (literally "old") after it. Example:
dark red = merah tua
dark blue = biru tua
dark yellow = kuning tua
dark green = hijau tua

Similarly to say that a colour is light all you have to do is to put the adjective muda (literally "young") after it. Thus:
light green = hijau muda
light blue = biru muda
light yellow = kuning muda
light red = merah muda

By the way the Malay word for "pink" is also merah muda or merah jambu, "jambu" ("guava" or "rose apple" in English) being the name of a Malaysian fruit that is pink in colour (on the outside at least). As the rose colour is close to pink it is also called merah jambu in Malay.

At times you might want to say that something has the tinge, hue or shade of a certain colour (eg. reddish, yellowish, greenish, bluish, etc). It's quite simple to do this in Malay. Just repeat the colour word and add the prefix ke and the suffix an to it. Thus:
reddish = kemerah-merahan
yellowish = kekuning-kuningan
greenish = kehijau-hijauan
bluish = kebiru-biruan

Just as coklat takes its name from the colour of chocolate, the same is true for oren, which takes its name from the colour of orange. There is another word for this colour though and that is jingga.
Apart from coklat there is another word for "brown" in Malay and that is the word perang (pronounced as pay-rang). If you are heavily suntanned you would be described as perang though if the word is used for hair it would mean "fair-haired" or blond rather than brown. But as chocolate itself is brown in colour I have used the word coklat but if you prefer the word perang make sure you pronounce it as pay-rang (if you know French it will help your pronunciation to see it spelt as pérang). Unfortunately in Malay you don't have the é to help you with the pronunciation and the same word perang, if it is pronounced pərang (pə has the schwa vowel sound ə as in "per cent") means "war" . So watch out, if you are not going to start a war, pronounce the word for "brown" as pay-rang and not pərang. But why take the risk when you can use coklat for the brown colour?
As for gray, which is the background colour of all the pages in this website, the Malay word for it is kelabu.

Di sini Zidane mendapat kad kuning.
(= Here Zidane gets a yellow card.)

Di sini Zidane mendapat kad merah.
(= Here Zidane gets a red card.)

Orang putih means a person of the white race (see Lesson 4). It's not really pejorative or insulting, I can assure you. The Indonesians make it even clearer by saying orang kulit putih meaning a person with white skin (kulit meaning "skin"). There is another word often used in Malaysian conversation for a Caucasian and that is mat salih (again it has no pejorative connotation). On a more formal level the term orang Barat (meaning "Westerners") is used. While on the subject, the word for a "foreigner" (i.e. anyone who is not a Malaysian) is orang asing (asing meaning "foreign").
With more and more Africans, especially from Nigeria, making their presence felt in Malaysia (a recent phenomenon), a popular and simplistic term to refer to them is Pak Hitam (or Awang Hitam), hitam being the Malay word for black, as you have learnt above. (See: "Malaysia’s Welcome Wears Thin" by Tash Aw in International New York Times) You will be advised though to use the politically correct word, which is orang Africa, whether you are in Malaysia or Indonesia.

More Exercises: Can you name the colours in the following flags?
The Malay word for "flag" is bendera (pronounced as burn-day-ra). If it helps for the pronunciation think of this sentence: The day they burned the flag. The names of the countries have already been dealt with in Lesson 4, remember?

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Perancis?
(What colours are found in the French flag?)

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Jerman?
(What colours are found in the German flag?)

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Rusia?
(What colours are found in the Russian flag?)

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Itali?
(What colours are found in the Italian flag?)

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Belanda?
(What colours are found in the Dutch flag?)

Warna apa yang terdapat dalam bendera negara Lithuania?
(What colours are found in the Lithuanian flag?)

Except for the orange colour, all the other colours are spelt exactly the same in Indonesia as in Malaysia.
Brown colour is warna coklat both in Malaysia and Indonesia but is sometimes spelt cokelat in Indonesia.

orange (colour) oranye or jingga oren or jingga
orange (fruit) buah jeruk buah oren
Caucasian orang kulit putih orang putih
What is the colour of your car? Apa warna mobil anda? Apa warna kereta anda?
My car is blue. Mobil saya biru. Kereta saya biru.
card kartu kad
Zidane received a red card. Zidane mendapat kartu merah. Zidane mendapat kad merah.
Italy Italia Itali

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