Malaysia is a multilingual country. Bahasa Malaysia
is the national language, although English, Chinese dialects and Indian languages are
widely spoken. The Chinese dialects include Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and
Hainanese, and the Indian languages include Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Punjabi and
Telegu. Many people speak English as a second or third language.
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Some Malaysians use "la" to end a sentence the way some
Canadians use "eh."
In speaking to parents, teachers and strangers, Malaysians are very
polite and soft-spoken. Courtesy is a very important social value. Muslim Malaysians greet
each other with the traditional salaam: the right hand is extended to shake the hand
of the other person, then brought back to touch the heart with the words "Salaam alaykum."
Hindus greet with a Namaste or Vanakam. Both palms are brought together as in
prayer at mid-chest level. The Chinese usually shake hands with each other.
Malays always use their right hand to greet each other and to eat, never
the left hand. Using the left hand is taboo in Malaysia in many situations. It is also considered
polite and respectful to take off one's shoes when entering a Malaysian house. People always
remove their shoes when they enter a mosque.