Get to Know about Languages of South East Asia to Discern the Diversity

The diversity of a region can be assessed from various aspects, one of which is language. Just like South East Asia, the language of this sub-continent is quite diverse now that the territory is vast and influenced by other cultures due to colonization and transmigration of certain nations for a purpose. Some of these languages ​​are also widely known as mother tongues and national languages. However, this article will focus on the languages ​​of South East Asia for common use, so that the knowledge gained by readers will be practical.


Thai has been influenced by other languages ​​such as Spanish and German since ancient times when the older languages like Puli and Sanskrit were still spoken. In modern times, the influence comes from other factors such as cross-border interaction. As in other major languages ​​of Southeast Asia, there are differences in speaking depending on the situation and to whom the language is addressed. There are five types of ways to express the language according to its function, namely formal Thai, religious Thai, informal Thai, rhetorical Thai, and royal Thai.

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Many think that this language is easy to learn. This statement is not entirely true since it must be viewed from certain aspects. It is said to be easy if one only learns about neutral pronouns and many loanwords derived from English. In addition, Indonesian is also tense-less. However, some regional languages ​​cannot be found in dictionaries, and language modifications according to current phenomena. Then you will find it even more difficult when learning Indonesian if you look at grammar particles.

Bahasa Melayu

Malay is part of the Austronesian language as well as Indonesian. Therefore, there are quite a lot of similarities between them. You can also find this one as the language option of Singapore, Brunei, and Myanmar. However, the most striking thing that distinguishes the two lies in vocabulary and pronunciation as Malay is influenced by Arabic, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese.


Tagalog began to be used as the national language in 1937. Before the Spanish colonization, the Philippines did not have one. Colonization gave its own history for the development of language in this country, so Tagalog has similarities with Malay and Chinese as well.


This one is Myanmar’s official language. The fun fact is, with around 40 million users, this total beats European minor languages ​​like Swedish. The writing system is called Brahmic script. Moreover, it has no connection to Indo-Tibetan languages like Sanskrit. There is no patrilineal culture in Myanmar, so there are no last names. People in this country prefer rhyming names.


In addition to grammar structures and morphology, intonation is a unique feature of this language. There are six types of intonation, namely the dot tone, high and flat tone, up tone, low tone, question tone, and squiggle tone. For example, the word “bo” will have different meanings according to the intonation spoken, it could mean “walk” to “butter.” It seems that intonation is an essential thing in this language now that the writing system is influenced by Latin characters with adjustments to match the intonation.


This language has similarities in grammar and tone with Thai, Shan, Burmese, Southern China, and Northern Vietnamese. The official form is called Vientiane which is commonly used in the media. There is also social privilege when Lao people use it. Meanwhile, the writing system was derived from Sanskrit, but was eventually influenced by the power of the Angkor Empire. This is what makes this language also a Khmer language.


Khmer has similarities with Thai, as it was influenced by the spread of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Although it has similarities with Lao and Vietnamese as well, this language is in fact not a tonal language and is quite difficult to learn. Many early 7th century inscriptions in Cambodia were found using this language, indicating that its existence was able to withstand the many influences of other cultures that entered.


Alongside Portuguese, Tetum is the authority language of Timor-Leste. Tetum is not a term that refers to the speaker, but it is a name linguists and anthropologists provide for the language of Austronesian-establishes spoken in this region. Similar to Burmese, this language has deviated from patrilineal culture in significant ways. Matrilineal drop wins in Tetum, so a kid belongs to mom’s plunge bunch (uma) since their birth.

Before 1970, Tetum speakers presumably numbered multiple hundred thousand. However, Indonesian occupation gave a significant difference to its number. As a result, Tetum could turn out to be one of the few language speakers in Southeast Asia.

Which languages ​​of South East Asia would you like to learn? All of them have their own uniqueness which comes from the linguistic and historical points of view. Colonization and religion spread also provide similarities between one another. However, they still have their own characteristics developed by local residents.

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