Spanish and Malay: Distant Yet Familiar

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One has tenses and moods for almost every emotion. The other has no tenses, but can also be emotive and beguiling in its own way. One has genders for animate and inanimate objects. The other has neither. One is a Romance language, the other Austronesian. Spanish and Malay. Two of the three languages we translate (the other being English), these seemingly distant languages actually have a long history in our corner of the world. Spanish opens a window to Southeast Asia’s past, while Malay is a gateway to the present.


What has a command of Spanish and Malay accorded us? Well for one, we translated (Spanish to Malay) a book about Ferdinand Magellan’s 16th-century voyage from Spain to Southeast Asia. We also know that knowing Spanish (and Jawi, a classical form of Malay script we also understand) offers many opportunities to understand the colonial and pre-colonial history of the Philippines. 


The voyages to the Spice Islands by successive Spanish governments are also stories we have understood in their original form and translated for SVARA, a Malay literary magazine. Colonialism casts a long shadow on the world still, but when it comes to language and understanding narratives, the combination of Spanish and Malay has led us to many discoveries. To know ourselves, our history and humanity. ¡Adelante! Maju terus!