Penan Tribe

Adventure Alternative runs several trips to the Penan tribe in northern Sarawak and promotes it as a responsible tourism destination, while helping to fund their reforestation program. Adventure Alternative supports the Moving Mountains Trust through the fundraising and volunteers it sends to Borneo. Although not all of our itineraries visit the region, it is possible to add on a trip to the Penan communities to any booking.

Borneo Penan Tribe Map

History of the Penan Tribe

The indigenous Penan people from the upper Ulu Baram River have experienced significant changes in their physical and cultural landscapes over the past thirty years. In less than one generation, this once remote area has undergone high levels of logging which has threatened sustainable levels of wildlife and has made it increasingly difficult for the Penan to gather food, materials and valuable medicinal products from their land. Climate change, deforestation and land conversion has also increased vulnerability to forest fires, placing these valuable forests under incredible risk, they remain among the poorest, under-served and under-represented people in Malaysia.

Over the past 15 years, the lack of job opportunities in these villages has led to the migration of men and young people to cities, leaving women, children and the elderly behind without viable incomes, resources, or the training needed to promote economic growth in the area.  

Malay-Penan Dialect Language

Here are some words and phrases translated from English into the Malay language to help you on your trip to visit the Penan in Sarawak. These words and phrases were put together with one of the Penan guides we work with from Long Kerong and a dictionary he had, see here for more information about the dictionary. There are two main groups of Penan; Eastern Penan and Western Penan. Our trips visit the Eastern Penan in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak. There are some variations in the language between the Eastern and Western Penan; these phrases are taken from the Eastern Penan group.

A particularly fascinating aspect of the Penan language is how the language has developed with changes in the Penan culture. This is difficult to get across with words and phrases written down, but something that you can learn while you are out in Borneo!

English Penan
Hello Hello. You can say “Ineu rengah” which literally translates as “how are you”, but everyone knows what hello means and often say this to each other
Goodbye Ngelajam or bye
Good morning Jian ngivum
Good evening Jian maram
My name is… Ngaran ke’…
I am … years old Umun ke’ … taun
I am from …. Akeu jin…
Daily Communication                 
Yes Oo’
No Bek
Thank you Jian kenin. This translates literally as “good heart”. Jian = good; kenin = heart
You’re welcome, as a response to thank you Kua kua
Please To long
Sorry Menyat jian
I do not understand Akeu bek jam ha' ko'
I don’t know Be akeu jam (jam pronounced “jarm”)
To sleep Juk pegen
Help me Nolong
Personal Pronouns  
I Akeu (pronounced akow)
You (singular) Ka au
We – if the person you are talking to is in your group Uleu
We – if the person you are talking to is not in your group Amee
You (plural) Ka ah
They Irah
My Akee
Your Akor
Food & Drink Ka'an & Mesep



I am hungry

Akeu La’au
I am thirsty Akeu juk mesep
Breakfast Kuman dau ngivum - this translates literally as “eat day morning”
Lunch Kuman dau pejek
Dinner Kuman dau tahup
Water Ba
Boiled water Ba matai - This translates literally as “water dead”
I do not eat… Akeu bek kuman…
I do not eat meat Akeu bek kuman sin kan
Rice (cooked) Lubi
Rice (uncooked) Parai
Meat Sin
Food that you eat with rice Ba an
Can I have…? Omok akeu...? (omok = can)
Plate Bigan
Knife Nahat
Spoon/fork Tarok
I am full Beso
How? Kineu?
Where? Kemah?
What? Ineu?
Who? Se’?
Why? Kineu?
When? Hun?
What is this? Ineu itu
How far? Koh keju?
Which way? Mah Jalan?
What is the time? Pukun kuraa itu? (Time = Pukun)
What animal sound is that? Ka’an ineu iteu?
What is that sound? Ha ineu iteu?
Where can I wash? Semah jalan mero?
Hot  Pana
Cold Genin
Beautiful Jian na’an


This Iteu
That Itai
Left Sa kabeng
Right Sa’a na’au
Walk Lakau
Short break/stop Posot
Blister Lekup


I go to Long Kerong Akeu Lakau Long Kerong
Leave Perleka
Return Tuai kepeh
Have Pu un
Buy Melih (pronounced mer lee)
Come Tuay (pronounced too i)
Like/want/prefer Kelo (pronounced ke lor)
Happy Murung
Smile/laugh Mala
Enjoy Ngida
Stop Mao
Much Pina
House Lamin
Longhouse Batang Lamin
Family Panak
Bath/bathe Mero
Toilet Jaban
Live Mokor
Village Lebor
Headman Tua’kapung
Religion Ugama
River Ba’ (all the villages called Ba…. are located on a river; e.g. Ba Lai)
River mouth Long (all the villages called Long… are located on a river, near a river mouth; e.g. Long Kerong, Long Sepigen)
Boat Alut
Animal Ka’an (this is the same word as for "food")
Fishing Ngelesa
Blow pipe Kaliput
Dart Dahad
Poison tree Tajem - this is the name of the poison tree
Flower Bunga
Snake Torok
Logging Kereja batang/kereja kayeu
Tree Kayeu
Rattan Uai
Rain Ta
Hammock Sevitut
Fire Luten
Wood Kayeu
Fish Seluang
Bird Juhid
Days Day = Dau
Monday Dau jah
Tuesday Dau duah
Wednesday Dau teleu
Thursday Dau pat
Friday Dau lemah
Saturday Dau nem
Sunday Dau migu
Day Dau
Night Marem
Morning Ngivun
Midday Dau ja’au (this also means holiday)
Afternoon Dau kuba
Evening Dau tahup
Now Hun itu
Yesterday Malem
Today Dau itu
Tomorrow Sagam
1 Jah
2 Dua
3 Teleu
4 Pat
5 Lema
6 Nem
7 Tuju
8 Ayah
9 Pien
10 Polo
11 Jah polo jah
12 Jah polo dua
13 Jah polo teleu
14 Jah polo pat
15 Jah polo lema
16 Jah polo nem
17 Jah polo tuju
18 Jah polo ayah
19 Jah polo pien
20 Dua polo