It’s that time again – time for your resident high quality translation expert to compress a bunch of research, reading, and interest in a culture into a single list of interesting facts!
While this sort of fact-memorisation is not the best way to learn about a country or culture, I find that it works well as an appetite stimulant. People love trivia, and learning some surprising things about a country or a culture often piques interest and inspires people to do their own research and investigations.
This week I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Malaysia and talking to friends who have been there, and I’ve compiled quite a surprising list of facts about Malaysia I guarantee you don’t know!
Malaysia the Nation
Malaysia officially became an independent nation on February 20, 1956. Prior to that it was a British colony, and the British officially recognised Malaysia’s independence in 1957. Malaysia’s government is in fact modelled on the British form of government, and Malaysia has thrived since stepping away from their colonial rulers, becoming today a powerhouse economy in the area. The flag adopted by Malaysia in 1963 was designed by Mohamed Hamzah, an architect who entered a national contest to design the new flag!
Malaysia is a country of many different cultures and tribes, and this is reflected in the languages spoken there. Although Malaysian is the most common language and the official language, many, many other languages are spoken in the country. China has had a lot of influence on Malaysia through trade, and many Chinese dialects are spoken on an everyday basis in Malaysia, including Cantonese, Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien and Mandarin. Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi are also commonly spoken in Malaysia, and many indigenous languages such as the Iban, Bidayuh and Kadazan languages are spoken by significant numbers of people in Malaysia – but you can always get by with just Malaysian.
Malaysia is one of the most unspoiled countries in the world. The Belum rainforest, for example, is home to more Malayan Tigers than any place else in the world.
One bit of language business I’ve always found fascinating is the fact that the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, means muddy estuary in Malaysian! Again, language tells a story – in this case of a small unimportant settlement at a muddy spot that has grown to be capital of a thriving nation.
Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia, is a sight to behold and very popular as a tourist destination.
Finally, as a tribute to the diversity of Malaysia, I will leave you with this simple fact: Malaysia is one of the only countries in Asia that is composed of three major ethnic groups: Chinese, Indian, and Malay. That is perhaps the one thing you need to always remember about Malaysia: It is one of the most diverse places – ethnically, culturally, and ecologically – on the planet!
Image courtesy theguardian.com