The officially recognized languages of Brunei are English and Malay, both of which are widely spoken in the region. The Malay language was made the official dialect in 1959 when the Constitution of Brunei was signed. The local Malay dialect is known as Brunei Malay, and around 84% of this language is compatible with Standard Malay. English has been widespread in the country since 1985 when bilingual education was implemented, most children in the country since this time have had sustained exposure to English. English is also widely used within the business as well as the diplomatic and political sectors of society.
Approximately 62% of the population of Brunei speaks Malay which accounts for about 270,000 people. Most citizens of the country will also have a rudimentary knowledge of English at the very least. The Brunei Malay language is growing within the nation at the expense of older, indigenous languages such as Dusun and Tutong. Over 290 million people around the world speak Malay, and it is also the official language of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
There are a few basic local phrases that will be useful on a journey to Brunei. Thank-you is pronounced Ter-e-ma-ca-see (written as Terima Kasih) which is a great phrase to learn. Another helpful expression in Brunei is selamat pagi (se-la-mit pay-jye), which means “good morning”, adding petang (pe-tan) or malam (ma-lamb) instead of pagi at the end of this sentence will state good afternoon or good evening.The dominant religion with Brunei is Sunni Islam so many people in the country will also know basic Arabic sayings related to greetings and religion such as "As-Salaam-Alaikum," the Arabic greeting which means "peace be unto you”. As mentioned earlier, most, if not all, people who live in Brunei have been exposed to English for over 30 years and will be able to help out in this language if need be.
Minority languages in the country include Arabic, Chinese, Indian, and Nepali. As Sunni Islam is the primary state religion, many who practice the faith will know aspects of reading, writing, and speaking Arabic. The native and indigenous languages within the country signify the five recognized ethnic minority groups in Brunei. Their languages are known as Tutong, Belait, Dusun, Bisaya, and Lun Bawang ("Murut"). There are also many expatriates living in Brunei which contributes to the use of Dutch, Filipino, Indonesian, and Sudanese.
This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018
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