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The vowel e in Malay can also pose a problem to foreigners as it can take on two sounds and there is no indication (unlike in French) to tell you which of the two sounds is the right one.
The first sound is like the e in the English word "they" (or if you know French, e with the acute accent and written é). This is called the "e taling" in Malay.
The other sound of e is what is known as the "e pepet" in Malay. This e has the schwa vowel sound and is represented by the phonetic symbol ə but if you are not familiar with phonetics just remember that it is the e sound in the second syllable of the word "alter". I have already warned you in Lesson 12 that if you are not going to start a war, you have to pronounce the word for "brown" as "pay-rang" and not as "pərang", remember?
In the following pairs of words the e in the first word is pronounced as in "they" while the e in the second word as in the second syllable in "alternate".
Click to listen to the pronunciation of the words below.
A second reading (by Michelle Nor Ismat, a native speaker)
In any conversation you are likely to say "of course" when you are in total agreement with your interlocutor. The Malay word for this is memang or memang begitu. You can also say sudah tentu. But if you prefer to use the word memang make sure you pronounce it "may-mang" or you will not be understood!
On the other hand the same first syllable in the word menang (= to win) is pronounced like the first syllable in the word "murder" so mə-nang.
The h in Malay is always aspirated as in the English word "holiday". French-speaking learners should take note of this as they are not used to aspirating the "h" in French.
The following diphthongs in Malay (ai and au) are pronounced as in "hi" and "how" in English respectively or as in the first syllables of the Spanish words "baile" and "causa" :
One more point. Although "ai" is normally a diphthong (as in ramai and pantai mentioned above) there are TWO distinct vowel sounds (a and i) in the following words:
mulai (= starting from) is pronounced mu-la-i (3 syllables)
mengenai (= about, regarding) is pronounced me-nge-na-i (4 syllables)
mempunyai (= to possess) is pronounced mem-pu-nya-i (4 syllables)
disukai (= liked by) is pronounced di-su-ka-i (4 syllables)
Also take note of the pronunciation of these two common words:
|(= water) previously spelt as "ayer" and pronounced as a-yer (2 syllables).|
|(= cakes and puddings) previously spelt as "kueh" and pronounced as ku-eh (2 syllables).|
The u vowel sound is similar to the Spanish u (eg. luna) or the vowel sound in the English word "full" as you have already heard in previous lessons. It is completely different from the u in french (eg tu). French-speaking learners please take note.
There are 6 vowel sounds in Malay (the e vowel counting for two). The following table from the official Malay language agency (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka) shows the vowel sounds at the initial, middle and final positions of a word:
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