Indonesian Phrases: Every Traveller Needs to Know

Indonesian Phrases

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In Indonesia, diverse religions, languages, and cultures coexist amidst stunning beaches, jungles, and rice fields. Clear communication is crucial for a smooth holiday experience, particularly when seeking information such as the restroom location or the cost of a desired purchase. Learning a few common phrases in Indonesian can be helpful in difficult situations and impress the locals.

Learning Bahasa Indonesia in a new town can be very rewarding. Speaking the language can help you connect with the locals and open up new opportunities to get to know people. It’s a rich language that will benefit you in many ways. Traveling may not resume anytime soon, but you can start preparing early for your next trip to Indonesia by learning these basic Indonesian phrases.

Tracing the roots of basic Indonesian phrases

If your family enjoys learning while traveling, one way to better understand local culture is by learning the official language of the country you’re visiting. This is also true for Indonesian.

The language officially known as Bahasa Indonesia was developed during the 1920s as part of the Indonesian nationalist movement. During that time, many Indonesians were prohibited from learning Dutch under Dutch colonial rule. This policy aimed to prevent Indonesians from perceiving themselves as equals to the Dutch.

A unifying language amidst a diverse group of ethnic groups

The Indonesian people adopted a form of Malay commonly used for commerce and trade in the region to facilitate communication among different ethnic groups. The spread of nationalism throughout the archipelago led to the development of a Malay language that eventually became the basis for the Indonesian language.

Cultural Influences on Basic Indonesian Phrases and Words

Although Bahasa Indonesia primarily derives from Malay, it also incorporates vocabulary from the various cultures that have left their mark on the archipelago throughout history. In addition, a multitude of ethnic groups in Indonesia has added to the lexicon of the national language itself.

The words candi, gadis, and juara come from the Javanese, Minangkabau, and Sundanese languages and are examples of basic Indonesian vocabulary.

Moreover, the Indonesian language has been influenced by other cultures. For example, traders from India, China, and Arabia introduced words such as kota (which means city in Tamil), mie (which means noodles in Hokkien), and kabar (which means news in Arabic).

The Portuguese contributed words such as keju, meja, and sepatu to Indonesian, meaning cheese, table, and shoes. The Dutch also brought words like buku, gang, and Kamar, which translate to book, alley, and room. Recently, Indonesian has also adopted English words such essential phrases such as bisnis, meaning business, and elektronik, meaning electronic.

Essential Indonesian Phrases

Terima kasih” (“Thank you”)

Remember to use the phrase “Terima kasih,” which means “Thank you” in Bahasa Indonesian. It’s a helpful phrase to know when interacting with locals, dining at restaurants, or using public transportation in the city. In informal settings, you can use the abbreviated form “makasih.”

Apa kabar? (“How are you?”)

Asking locals how they’re doing is a great way to make a good impression and impress locals. In Indonesia, you can do this by saying, “Apa kabar?”. This shows that you care about what’s happening in their lives.

Siapa nama kamu? (“Ask for someone’s name”)

“What is your name?” can be asked in Indonesian as “Siapa namamu?” This phrase is useful when you meet someone new and want to remember their name. You can also use it to break the ice or start a conversation with a stranger.

Saya mau beli ticket ke [location]” (“I want to buy a ticket to [location]”)

If you need help using the ticket vending machines at MRT stations, you can always purchase a ticket at the cashier’s booth. Say, “Saya mau beli ticket ke [location],” which means, “I want to buy a ticket to [location].” This is useful when buying a single-journey ticket.

Bagaimana cara mengatakan … dalam bahasa Indonesia? (“How do you say … in Indonesian?”)

You’ll find yourself in situations where you might not know the Indonesian word for something. To get help, you can use the phrase “Bagaimana cara mengatakan … dalam bahasa Indonesia?” This will allow you to ask someone else how to say a specific phrase or word in Indonesian.

Anda bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia? (“Do you speak Indonesian? “)

Even though Indonesia is a multilingual country, and you may find people who can speak English, it’s still nice to show respect for the local language. A great way to do this is by asking, “Anda bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia?” (“Do you speak Indonesian?”). You will be surprised by how many people are willing to switch to their native language if you make an effort.

Nama Saya (“My name is”)

To tell someone your name, respond with “My name is…” followed by your name.

Selamat tinggal” (“Goodbye”)

When it’s time to say goodbye to the new friends you made during your trip, you can impress them with your Indonesian skills one last time by saying “Selamat tinggal,” which means “goodbye.”

Selamat pagi, selamat siang, selamat malam” (“Good morning, good afternoon, good evening”)

Although “Selamat” originally means “congratulations” in Indonesian, it is frequently used in greetings as a way to convey “good.” This is because having a good day is worthy of congratulations.

Bagaimana cara mengatakan (“How do you say?”)

If you don’t know how to say a particular word, phrase, or term in Indonesian, you can ask someone else by saying, “Bagaimana cara mengatakan ____?” (“How do you say ____?”). This is a great way to learn more about the language and expand your vocabulary.

Saya Lapar (“I am hungry)

When dining out in Indonesia, you can use the phrase “Saya Lapar” (“I am hungry”) to let your waiter or waitress know that you’d like to order Indonesian food. You may also hear this phrase being said by locals!

Selamat sore (“Good late afternoon”)

Although the words “Selamat sore” have the exact translation, they have different meanings depending on the context. Specifically, “Selamat sore” is only appropriate to greet someone in the late afternoon, around 5 pm.

Sampai jumpa (“See you”)

Knowing the Indonesian phrases “Hello” and “Until we meet again” is helpful. You can use them every time you meet someone new. If you don’t plan to see the person again, you can bid farewell by saying “Bye” as you depart.

Bisa bicara bahasa inggris (“Do you speak English”)

This phrase can be helpful if you need to learn how to say something in speaking Indonesian or if you’re looking for someone who understands English.

Berapa harganya?” (“How much is this?”)

Local markets offer a range of treasures, from fresh produce to locally crafted souvenirs. If you find something you’re interested in, ask “Berapa harganya?” (which means “How much is this?”) to find out its price.

Saya tidak mengerti (“I don’t understand”)

If you don’t understand something in Indonesian, it’s okay to say “Saya tidak mengerti,” which translates to “I don’t understand.” These useful Indonesian phrases will show the locals that you are trying to learn their language and respect their culture.

Permisi (“Excuse me”)

Learning to say “I’m sorry” or “excuse me” in Indonesian is useful. The word “sorry” can express apologies for different situations, such as accidentally bumping into someone or spilling something. “Excuse me” can be used to get someone’s attention or try to make your way past someone.

Tips on pronouncing basic Indonesian phrases

Here are some tips regarding pronunciation for beginners learning essential Indonesian words: in the Indonesian language, the vowel “a” is pronounced like the “a” in “father” instead of the one in “man.” The vowel “e” is pronounced like the one in “bed,” and the vowel “i” is pronounced like the “e” in “me.” The pronunciation of the letter “o” is a combination of the sounds heard at the end of “saw” and “toe.” Meanwhile, “u” is pronounced like the “oo” sound in words such as “loot” and “boot.”

In Indonesian, there are two sounds to remember: the ai sound can be pronounced like the end of “pie” or “day,” and the au sound is similar to “how.” Remember these sounds while practicing the pronunciation of Indonesian phrases.

Most consonants are pronounced the same way as in English, except for the letter “r,” which is rolled like in Spanish. The letter “c” always has a complex “k” sound. Additionally, words that end in “k,” such as “tidak,” “bapak,” or “masak,” use a glottal stop.

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