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Speaking the Language

Kuala Lumpur - Speaking the Language

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The official and national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu. English is widely understood and spoken, as it is a compulsory subject taught in schools. While English is considered the working language in offices and businesses, Chinese dialects (primarily Cantonese and Mandarin) and Tamil are also widely understood and spoken in KL.

The use of acronyms is widespread, in newspapers, in government offices and over the internet. Even the city itself is internationally known by its acronym, KL! Some common acronyms expatriates may come across include KLCC - Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, KLCE KL Commodity Exchange and KLOFFE KL Options and Financial Futures Exchange. It is useful for expatriates to familiarize themselves with some widely used acronyms, especially those used by government agencies. Expatriates interested to learn more can refer to a helpful glossary of acronyms used in the ninth Malaysia Plan that is downloadable here.

When it comes to addressing Malaysians, it is common to address a Malay and/or Indian person by their given (or first) names, preceded by Mr., Miss, Mrs, Madam, or Ms. To address the Chinese Malaysians, use their family (or surnames), preceded by Mr., Miss, Mrs, Madam, or Ms. The non-royal titles "Datuk", "Tan Sri" and "Tun" are conferred to prominent Malaysians in recognition for their contributions to Malaysia. The wife of a "Datuk" is addressed as "Datin"; the wife of a "Tan Sri" is addressed as "Puan Sri", and the wife of a "Tun" is addressed as "Toh Puan".

English newspapers are available at newsstands and for home and office subscriptions. For business readers, try The Business Times (Tel: 03 2282 2628; email bt@nstp.com.my) or The Edge (Tel: 03 7660 3838; email eeditor@bizedge.com). There are online versions available respectively at www.btimes.com.my and www.theedgedaily.com. For daily tabloids, there are The Star, the Sun and the New Straits Times. The Malay Mail has an afternoon daily in English.

For English books, Books Kinokuniya and the MPH chain usually stock a good range of English books, paperbacks and magazines. Books Kinokuniya is located in KL City Center (KLCC), Suria, second floor. Tel: 2164-8133. MPH outlets can be found in many large shopping malls. The large outlet in Bangsar Village (Lot 2F-1, 2nd Floor, Bangsar Village II, No. 2 Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru, Tel: 2282 7293) has a library. MPH store addresses can be found at their website at www.mph.com.my. Silverfish Books is an independent bookshop, self-described as a "book boutique". They offer a unique selection of books not found in larger book chains, with a focus on literature, philosophy, religion and Malaysiana (all things Malaysian). Their range of books are available online at www.silverfishbooks.com. The bookstore can be found at Lot 67-1, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru. Tel: 2284 4837.

The National Library is located at 232, Jalan Tun Razak. Tel: + 60 3 2687 1700; website www.pnm.gov.my. The Kuala Lumpur City Library ("Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur") is located at 1, Jalan Raja, close to the National History Museum and opposite the Merdeka Square. There are six branches located around KL, in Gombak Setia, Bandar Tun Razak, Jelatek, Sri Pantai and Setiawangsa. Call +603 2612 1500 or visit their website at www.klcity.dbkl.gov.my for more information on their opening hours and exact locations.

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