• Lina Liu

I am a Malay interpreter, Malay is not Malayalam.

I travelled all the way from London to Crawley Surrey today and found out that the police officer has booked me for the wrong language combinations! He has mistaken Malay as Malayalam. The client is in fact a Tamil speaker from Sri Lanka.

I was booked for Malay language, as a Malay interpreter. The British called it "Malaysian" interpreter, because they do not know that "Malaysian" is a nationality, but "Malay" is a language or an ethnicity. I am a Malay interpreter, my task was interpreting from Malay to English, interpreting English to Malay.

Malay is the major language in the Austronesian family spoken in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore.

Malayalam is spoken in the south of India, predominantly in Kerala. There is no similarity whatsoever!

This is not the first time it has happened to me.

Tamil is spoken in Malaysia, but only among the Tamil Indian community, which is around 6.5% of the population in Malaysia. However, most of the middle class Tamil Indians do not go to Tamil schools and they only speak English and they do not speak Tamil at all.

I am a Malaysian Chinese, I speak Malay, Mandarin, Indonesian and some other Chinese dialects but not Tamil!

If anyone in Malaysia heard that I have been booked for a Malayalam job, they would laugh their heads off!

Tamil vs Malayalam


Tamil, a Dravidian language, is spoken predominantly by the people of Tamil Nadu from the Indian subcontinent. It is the official language of Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Pondicherry. This language is also the official language of Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and was declared as a classical language by the government of India in 2004. It is also spoken in Malaysia and Mauritius by a sizable section of people and also by emigrants all over world. It is considered the world’s longest-surviving, classical language.

It has one of the richest forms of literature in the world, existing over a period of 2,000 years. The oldest literature in Tamil has been dated from the 3rd century BCE-300CE.


Malayalam is a language of the Dravidian family. It is very similar to Tamil and is one of the main languages of the same family. This is primarily due to the extensive cultural bonding that has been carried out between the speakers of these languages. Tamil has greatly influenced the early development of Malayalam as it was considered to be the language of administration and scholarship.


  1. Both languages are spoken in southern India and belong to Dravidian family of languages. There are many similarities in both languages as speakers of both languages came from the same origin.

  2. The predominant difference between Tamil and Malayalam is in their syntax and semantics.

  3. The origin of Tamil is the 5th century B.C. while Malayalam’s origin is the 10th century A.D.

  4. Malayalam is more independent and closer to Sanskrit than the Tamil language.

  5. Both languages greatly resemble each other in their scripts.

  6. Both languages have similarities to an extent in sentence formation.

Read more: Difference Between Tamil and Malayalam | Difference Between

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