Penang Languages

The common Penang languages, depending on social classes, social circles, and ethnic backgrounds are English, Penang Hokkien, and Malay. Mandarin, which is taught in Chinese-medium schools in the state, is also increasingly spoken.

Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China, but incorporates a large number of loanwords from Malay and English.


Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.

Some of the commonly used words in Penang Hokkien dialect will be, "lu ho bo" for "how are you" and "chiak pa bei" for "have you eaten?"

Malay is spoken locally with north-western dialect features, such as hang for "you" and depa for "they/them".

English is a working language widely used in business and commerce, and is also the
language of instruction of Science and Mathematics in schools. English used in an official or formal context is predominantly British English with some American influences. Spoken English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in the form of Manglish (Malaysian colloquial English).

Other Penang languages, includes Cantonese and Tamil, are also use in the state. Teochew is heard more in Province Wellesley than on Penang Island. Cantonese maybe considered not appropriate language to be used is parochial thinking Hokkien Penang. Cantonese are considered with the degorotory term of Macau Yan or immigrants from crime infested Macau.

I've listed below some of the common local dialect that is being used in Penang. Click on the picture to enlarge and remember to print it out. It might come in handy during your holidays here.