Jordan MacVay, a Canadian (or as he puts it “Caper, Bluenoser, Canuck, former Haligonian”) living in Malaysia, discusses many things in his blog MACVAYSIA, some of them language-related; he has, for instance, an excellent post about the “invasion” of English words in Malay, sensibly pooh-poohing the doom-cryers and pointing out the usefulness of loanwords:
First of all, the ‘purists’ who decry the use of English words have to realize that stripping words of foreign origin out of Malay would leave it with hardly any words at all. One prominent historian has pointed out that only three Malay words are exclusively Malay: kayu (wood), batu (stone) and babi (pig). Another historian has added padi (rice field) and two or three other words to that list. So where the heck did all the other Malay words come from? Most Malay words came from other languages including (but not limited to) Sanskrit, Arabic, Javanese, Portuguese and, you guessed it, English. For many centuries Malays have had a flair for adopting foreign words and adapting them to suit their language needs. A closer look at the English words in the above list shows that while some of them are in their original English form (bank, hospital, hotel), this is only because their spelling suits Malay conventions of spelling and pronunciation. Other words are altered to reflect these conventions, and these alterations make the words uniquely Malay despite their English origins. This is the case of the word bajet, which has prompted some purists to question why the government didn’t use the Malay term, anggaran belanja (at least I think that’s the official term, I’ll have to check a dictionary). The government has explained that the old term does not adequately express the exact meaning of a budget being tabled by the a government, so the English word has been adopted, albeit in a modified form. So who’s to say bajet is not a Malay word? It serves a purpose, and now there it is.
I suspect the “three Malay words” thing is a rhetorical exaggeration, but the point is a good one. And for a fascinating example of just how useful borrowings can be, check out his followup post on English pronouns (yes, pronouns) in Malay!