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20 Indonesian Quotes to Make an Excellent Impression

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When you start learning Indonesian, being able to read popular books or watch famous speeches might seem a lifetime away. 

All those words you have to learn! All that new grammar to wrap your head around! 

Fortunately, there’s a shortcut. 

By studying interesting Indonesian quotes with English translations and equivalents, you’ll start to see the connections between the two languages. (Not to mention that you’ll also start to sound very well-read!)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Love
  5. Quotes About Family
  6. Quotes About Friendship
  7. Quotes About Food
  8. Quotes About Health
  9. Quotes About Language Learning
  10. Conclusion

1. Quotes About Success

Silhouette of Three People on the Top of a Mountain

Let’s begin with some Indonesian language quotes that touch on success and hint at how to achieve one’s goals.

  • Keberhasilan bukanlah milik orang yang pintar. Keberhasilan adalah kepunyaan mereka yang senantiasa berusaha. / “Success is not possessed by educated people. It belongs to those who try everlastingly.”

The third President of Indonesia, B.J. Habibie, was in office for less than two years. But in this short time, he had such a powerful effect and came to be so well-loved by his people that a number of well-known quotes in Indonesian come from him. Interestingly, Habibie was very well-educated, speaking fluent German and English as well as Indonesian.

  • Berhenti berharap, mulailah bertindak. / “Stop wishing, start doing.”

This quote provides a great example of the suffix -lah, used to encourage people to do something. You don’t see it on berhenti (“stop”), but you do see it attached to mulai (“start”). You can read more about Indonesian suffixes on this dedicated page from Northern Illinois University

  • Kelemahan terbesarmu adalah ketika kamu menyerah dan kehebatan terbesarmu adalah ketika kamu mencoba sekali lagi. / “Your biggest weakness is when you give up and your greatest power is when you try one more time.”

The use here of the two opposites lemah (“weak”) and hebat (“awesome” / “powerful”) is a beautiful example of the way Indonesian can create new words using prefixes and suffixes. By adding the noun affixes ke-an, these words become “weakness” and “power” respectively.


2. Quotes About Life

Are you feeling stuck or unsatisfied in life? Read these two Indonesian quotes about life and see if they don’t make you feel a little better!

  • Masa lalu saya adalah milik saya. Masa lalu kamu adalah milik kamu. Tapi, masa depan adalah milik kita. / “My past belongs to me. Your past belongs to you. But the future belongs to us.”

Here’s Habibie again with another excellent quote about life and love. The word milik (“to belong to”) tends to give learners trouble from time to time, because English speakers expect a preposition like in the English phrase “belongs to.” No preposition needed, folks—just follow milik with whoever owns the thing!

  • Cintai hidup yang Anda jalani. Jalani hidup yang Anda cintai. / “Love the life you live. Live the life you love.”

For a country not particularly inclined toward Rastafarianism, this Bob Marley quote appears on a surprising number of café decorations and T-shirts in Indonesia. Unfortunately, this is an example of alliteration in English that doesn’t carry over particularly well (if at all) into Indonesian. 

3. Quotes About Time

Jakarta History Museum

Time is always fleeting, isn’t it? Here are some Indonesian life quotes concerning time to inspire and motivate you!

  • Jas Merah – shortened from: Jangan sekali-kali melupakan sejarah. / “Never forget history.”

This quote features some wordplay that’s almost impossible to attain in any language but Indonesian. On the surface, jas merah simply means “red jacket.” However, look at the first letters of each word in the full quote, and the last letters of the final word: JAngan Sekali-kali MElupakan sejaRAH. It’s extremely clever, and that kind of singkatan (“shortening”) appears a lot in popular Indonesian culture.

  • Persiapkan hari ini sebaik-baiknya untuk menghadapi hari ésok yang baru. / “Get ready for today to be the best it can in order to expect a new tomorrow.”

Here we can see a great example of reduplication, where the word baik (“good”) is doubled to increase its strength. The additional affixes se-nya add another level of emphasis, so the full meaning expressed in English is “the best possible.” 

4. Quotes About Love

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think these Indonesian love quotes will warm your heart!

  • Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana. / “I want to love you simply.”

This quote by Sapardi Djoko Damono is from his work Aku ingin (“I Want”). It’s a famous poem that every Indonesian knows of, even if they can’t recite any more of it than this line. Indonesian doesn’t have a unique grammatical form for adverbs, so here, “simply” is translated more poetically as dengan sederhana (“with simplicity”).

  • Walaupun raga terpisah oleh karena kematian, namun cinta sejati tetap di relung hati. / “Even though our bodies are separated by death, our love is eternal in our deepest heart.”

Habibie one more time—that man could speak! The grammatical structure here is walaupun…namun (“even though…”). In Indonesian, like in Chinese and other Asian languages, the “even though” structure requires a “but” to set up the next clause. This isn’t required in English, but lots of English learners make this mistake by adding “but” in English anyway.  


5. Quotes About Family

A Mother Holding Her Baby for a Nap

Family is a major cornerstone of any society. The following quotes in the Indonesian language touch on the significance of family in everyday life.

  • Jangan pernah melupakan orang-orang yang sudah membantu saat kita sedang mengalami masalah yang besar. Mereka itu ialah keluarga. / “Never forget the people who have helped when we were solving big problems. Those are our family.”

By adding pernah (“ever”) to jangan (“don’t”), we get the set phrase jangan pernah (“never”). From this, we can deduce the correct English tenses even though the only markers of tense in Indonesian are: 1) the particle sudah, showing completion, and 2) the adverb saat (“when” / “while”). As you can see, time is quite flexible when speaking Indonesian!

  • Berterimakasihlah pada segala yang memberi kehidupan. / “Be grateful to those who gave (you) life.”

Indonesian isn’t really known for its long words, but berterimakasihlah has got to be up there as one of the longer words in regular usage. As you’ve probably noticed, the root is terima kasih (“thank you”), which is literally “bring thanks,” but smashed together as one semantic unit. The ber- prefix implies possession, and as we’ve discussed, the –lah suffix is a suggestion. Thus: Have thanks!


6. Quotes About Friendship

Two Women Walking in the Snow

Friends are one of life’s greatest joys and necessities. Read these Indonesian friendship quotes and see if you can relate!

  • Persahabatan adalah hadiah terbesar dalam hidup, dan saya telah mendapatkannya. / “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”

Indonesian doesn’t make the distinction between “big” and “great” as English does—they’re both besar. Adding the prefix ter- makes it the most extreme, the “biggest,” gift. One more thing to learn from this sentence is telah, a word roughly equivalent to sudah in that it also marks a completed action.

  • Teman baikku adalah seseorang yang menghasilkan yang terbaik dalam diri saya. / “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

Here we have a different way of showing possession in Indonesian. Teman baikku (“my best friend”) has the –ku ending, meaning “belonging to me.” However, we could also say teman baik saya, which has exactly the same meaning. The subtle difference in feeling between the two is something practically impossible to explain—but the more Indonesian you study, the better you’ll be able to tell the difference!


7. Quotes About Food 

Who doesn’t enjoy sitting down for a nice meal now and then? Read these Indonesian food quotes to gain perspective on the role food plays in Indonesian culture. 

  • Tertawa itu paling riang di tempat makanan tersedia. / “Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is.”
  • Makanan untuk tubuh tidak cukup. Harus ada makanan untuk jiwa. / “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”

If you take out the articles in the English example sentence, you pretty much have a word-for-word translation of the original Indonesian. This shows how easy the sentence structure can be, even if you have to learn a ton of new words.

8. Quotes About Health

A Stethoscope Hanging Around a Doctor’s Neck

One should always prioritize their health, because only in good health can one achieve other important goals. Here are some Indonesian quotes that touch on this topic.

  • Peliharalah kesehatan Anda, karena ia yang akan mewadahi umur panjang Anda. / “Take care of your health, because it will accompany you through your whole life.”

The relative pronoun yang (“which”) here is actually a little superfluous. More literally, this translation could mean: “It is the one which will accompany.” 

  • Waktu dan kesehatan adalah dua aset berharga yang tidak dikenali dan hargai sampai keduanya hilang. / “Time and health are two valuable assets that are ignored until they’re both gone.”

The word hilang (“disappear”) is one of those words you don’t realize your native language is missing until you learn it in another one. Although it can be translated to English and be understood, it has the more specific sense of vanishing completely and leaving people confused in its absence.

  • Karena nila setitik, rusak susu sebelanga. / “With a drop of indigo dye, a pot of milk is ruined.”

Nobody wants to drink milk with a hint of blue! Nila is the Indonesian word for “natural indigo dye,” which was commonly used to dye fabric blue. Therefore, “indigo” is a more evocative metaphor than the English equivalent, “One rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel.”

9. Quotes About Language Learning

A Man Studying on the Bus

To close, let’s look at a couple of Indonesian quotes that talk about learning. What better way to motivate you in your language studies? 

  • Lakukan yang terbaik di semua kesempatan yang kamu miliki. / “Do your best at every opportunity that you have.”

Here we see milik used again, not as a possessive marker but as a verb. You can tell this by the –i suffix, which can turn certain roots into active verbs

  • Orang bijak belajar ketika mereka bisa. Orang bodoh belajar ketika mereka terpaksa. / “Clever people study when they can. Stupid people study when they’re made to.”

Before, we saw the prefix ter– used as a superlative (“the most” / “the best”), but here it’s actually showing the passive. Indonesian distinguishes between two types of passive voice: one where the object expected or wanted the action to happen, and one where it didn’t. This example shows the second type. 


10. Conclusion

At this point, you’ve been exposed to a great deal of Indonesian culture, packed into twenty quotes. Would you like to delve even deeper?

The best step for you is to sign up with IndonesianPod101.com, where you can access a wealth of resources in audio, video, and podcast formats. Each lesson is produced by experts and designed to help you learn Indonesian as fast and as easily as possible. Take the first step and sign up with IndonesianPod101 to see how easy it can really be!

In the meantime, let us know in the comments which of these Indonesian quotes is your favorite, and why!

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