This blog provides you with an introduction to easy lessons on Indonesian language basics in the hopes it will be of use when you come for a visit to this amazing country. Visitors to the country always leave with a feeling of complete satisfaction for the time spent enjoying the wonders and beauty of the country, the culture and the most friendly people on the planet.
Introduction to Indonesian Language Basics
There are more than 700 languages and dialects in Indonesia, and this was a major problem for communication and cooperation between island kingdoms in the past. The Indonesian language, is a variation of the Malay language, and was declared the official national language of Indonesia in 1928. This language is used in all government and business circles, and in all education institutes from kindergarten to university.
English and Chinese are also popular in the Indonesian education system, but English is more popular as it is used more frequently on radio, TV and pop culture. Many Indonesian dream of vacationing or studying in other countries of the world, many of which use English as a first or second language. English is very common in resort areas of the country like Bali, Lombok, Uluwatu, Riau Islands or large cities like Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Jakarta or Medan.
The Indonesian language is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn as it is pronounced as it is written. Like many languages there have been new words introduced over time by various influences. Indonesia has received traders since the 3rd century from China, and the Middle East. The Dutch and the Portuguese were colonial powers in Indonesia for more that 300 years, and there have been many influences from English-speaking countries in the last century.
All of these nations and more have helped to introduce new words/terminology into the Indonesian language. Many of the words relating to mechanical parts in 2 wheel and 4-wheel vehicles and other machinery come from the Dutch language, and much of the terminology for computer technology comes from the English language.
The chart below a comparison of words between the Dutch and English languages with those in the Indonesian language. An extensive list of words derived from other languages can be found on Wikipedia. This knowledge of similar words will make it much easier to understand, remember and speak Indonesian. People love when you try to speak their language; it opens many doors and puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Indonesian uses the same alphabet as the English language but the pronunciation of the letters is different; therefore the proper enunciation of an Indonesian word be different. Examples are shown below. The large letters in the pronounced word indicate emphasis on one or more syllables.
- The Indonesian word for ‘computer’ is ‘komputer’ and is pronounced ‘kom-POO-ter’;
- The Indonesian word for ‘pilot’ is the same ‘pilot’, but it is pronounced ‘PEE-lot’
- White – putih is pronounced ‘POO-ti’
- You must also roll the letter ‘r’, as in the french language; example: the word for ‘noisy’ is ‘ribut’ and must be pronounced ‘RRRI-buut’; and also the word for ‘blue’ is ‘biru’ and is pronounced ‘BEE-roo’
- The ‘a’ is pronounced as ‘ah’; example: the word for ‘morning’ is ‘pagi’ but pronounced ‘PAA-gi’;
- The ‘c’ is pronounced as ‘ch’; example; the word for ‘story’ is ce-ri-ta but pronounced ‘ch-RI-ta’
- The ‘h’ is pronounced as ‘ha’; example: the word for ‘gift’ is ‘hadiah ‘ but pronounced ‘HA-di-ah’;
- In words with the suffix ‘meng’, the ‘g’ sound stays with the ‘men’; example: the word ‘understand’ is ‘mengerti’ pronounced ‘meng-ER-ti’ not ‘men-GERT-ti’;
Useful Phrases and Sentences
Listed below are commonly used phrases and sentence that will help you get from one place to another, help you in shopping or eating out in a restaurant.
If there are specific phrases or questions that you need translations for, please include them in your comment below and I will be happy to help you out.
Introductions / Perkenalan
Hi, nama siapa? – Hi, what is your name?
Nama saya Ted – My name is Ted
Senang ketemu! – Nice/happy to meet you!
Permisi, boleh saya tanya? – Excuse me, may I ask a question?
Tinggal dimana? – Where do you live?
Kamu berasal dari mana? – Where are you from?
Apakah kamu sudah menikah? Are you married?
Boleh aku minta nomor HPmu? May I have you cell phone number?
Other Phrases / Ucapan
Apa kabar? – How are you?
Kabar baik, terima kasih! – Good / Fine, thank you
Terima kasih! – thank you!
Sama-sama! – You’re welcome!
Yes – ya, No – tidak
Permisi! – Excuse me!
Hati-hati! – Take care / Be careful!
Saya tidak mengerti – I don’t understand
Bule – general term used for foreigners, most especially Caucasians – this is not meant as an insult
Tolong! – Help! – can be shouted in an emergency if you are being robbed or harassed, but tolong can also be used in another context – Tolong bantu perbaiki HP ini! – Please help fix my cell phone!
If you are being robbed you can also shout ‘PENCURI’, which means ‘thief’, and people will respond to help, especially in Bali you as they are very protective of their tourism industry.
Travel / Perjalanan
Bagaimana saya bisa ke (location)? – How can I get to (location)?
Apakah ini jalan benar ke (location)? – Is this the right way to (location)?
Belok kiri – Turn left
Belok kanan – Turn right
Sudah dekat – Already close
Masih jauh – Still far
Tolong stop disini! – Please stop here!
Tolong antar saya ke (name of location). – Please take me to (name of location).
Saya mau beli tiket ke (name of location) – I want to buy a ticket to (name of location)?
Jam berapa bis akan jalan? – At what time does the bus leave?
Restaurant / Rumah Makan
Saya mau pesan nasi goreng. – I would like to order fried rice.
Saya mau minum es teh. – I would like to drink iced tea.
Jangan terlalu pedas. Don’t make it too spicy.
Saya tidak suka makanan pedas. – I do not like spicy food.
Saya tidak bisa makan makanan pedas. – I cannot eat spicy food.
Ikan goreng ini sangat enak. – This fired fish is very delicious.
Shopping / Belanjar
Note: Prices in the market place or small shops can usually be negotiated, but prices in large department stores or supermarkets cannot be negotiated.
Tunjukkan padaku yang itu. – Show me that one.
Ini – This one, Itu – That one
Berapa harganya pak / ibu? – How much is this sir / madam?
Terlalu mahal. – Too expensive.
Apakah bisa harga lebih murah? Can the price be lower / cheaper?
Apakah boleh lebih murah? – Can the price be lower?
Colors / Warna
Numbers / Angka-angka
It is very important that you understand the currency of the country you are in, as you can be easily tricked into paying more if you are not familiar with the color and images on the various paper currencies. Understanding the number system in Indonesian is also very important. Carefully count and make sure that you are paying exacting what has been agreed upon with the seller. Do not pay quickly, and make sure you check to make sure that you are getting the right change back.
Memorize the numbers and various prices before you get into the country. You can usually change some of your foreign currency into Indonesian rupiah when you arrive at the airport, as you will need money to pay for the taxi from the airport to your hotel. Not all taxis accept credit cards. To be on the safe side convert the equivalent of US$100 when you are at the airport. The hotel can advise you on where you can change more money after that.
Listed below are tables showing you the basic number system, the translation of some prices and a comparison with the US Dollar. Please familiarize yourself completely with the translation of the number system before you reach Indonesia. Credit cards are accepted in resort locations, department stores, supermarkets, and some small shops but cash will be needed in the market places and street corner businesses.
There are a number of resources available to help you study and understand the Indonesian language. These resources include Wikipedia, Google Translate, and there are hundreds of websites that provide excellent instruction on grammar and vocabulary. Take time to study before arrive in Indonesia, it will help you tremendously and Indonesians are very appreciative if you try to speak their language as it shows your genuine interest in their culture and country. You should have a memorized vocabulary of between 300 to 500 words before you arrive. You will be amazed and proud of yourself when you realize people understand you in a new language. Have fun with it, make it your favorite hobby and practice it everyday before and when you are on vacation in Indonesia.
Additional information on Indonesia can be found in these blogs: Beautiful Places to See in Indonesia; Facts about Indonesian History, Culture and Religion; and Facts about Indonesian Geography and Natural Disasters.
Please leave a comment if this blog was of use or interesting, and please provide suggestions for improvement should you have any. Thank you!