The official languages of Cocos Islands are Cocos Malay, a creole-Malay dialect, and English.


Cocos Malay derives from the languages used during 19th-century trading and has had influences from the Betawi and Javanese dialects. The language is also used in Christmas Island and in some parts of Malaysia and Australia. English has been prevalent in the area since British settlement in the early 19th century.

The last time the population of Cocos Islands was measured was in 2014 and was found to be just 596 people. Of this small population, the majority speak Cocos Malay and English. 80% of the population are also Sunni Muslim which means they are able to understand some religious Standard Arabic phrases.

Although many citizens will have great knowledge of English, tourists are encouraged to learn at least a few phrases before travelling to Cocos Islands. Hi is pronounced "hai", good morning is said as "se-la-mat pa-gi", and good afternoon is said as "se-la-mat si-ang". Goodbye is said as "se-la-mat ting-gal" or "ja-lan" and goodnight is said as "se-la-mat ti-dur". After experiencing the great hospitality on offer, "te-ri-ma ka-sih", means thank-you. Cocos-Malay and Malay are similar but Malay is now being taught as a subject in schools to align the two languages more closely. Malay has a prestigious status in Cocos Islands. As mentioned earlier, 80% of the population are Sunni Muslim, therefore will understand Standard Arabic phrases associated with religious practices and culture. Many residents are bilingual, speaking Cocos Malay and English.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018