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English Words Used in Indonesian

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It’s easy to recognize English loanwords in Indonesian, and they pop up at all levels of language use. If you were to open up Wikipedia, a Jakarta newspaper, or even a YouTube comment section in Indonesian right now, chances are a couple of words would jump out at you. 

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some key characteristics of English words in Indonesian, and before long, you’ll be using them perfectly yourself!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Indonesian English
  2. Examples of English Used in Indonesian
  3. Loanwords vs. Indonesian English
  4. What an Indonesian Accent Sounds Like in English
  5. English Words Derived from Indonesian
  6. Conclusion

Introduction to Indonesian English

A View of Skyscrapers in Jakarta, Indonesia

The thing about Indonesian is that it’s a newer language. If you speak Indonesian totally natively (because your parents spoke it at home), you’re actually in the minority. You’re probably young if so, and your grandparents definitely didn’t speak this language.

Indonesian was created as a standardized version of the Malay language, and since the cultural and economic centers of Indonesia are on the island of Java, there’s a great deal of Javanese vocabulary in Indonesian.

Lots of words in Malay actually come from Arabic, and Indonesian has absorbed these words and others. Plus, thanks to a large Chinese population in Southeast Asia and certain Indonesian cities, Chinese words have also influenced the Indonesian language.

All that to say that Indonesian is definitely not shy about adopting words from other languages—and English is no exception.

Besides the influence from Indonesia’s close proximity to Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore (countries with English as an official language), Indonesians also see English as a worldly language valuable for travel in and out of Southeast Asia.

Plus, internet access in Indonesia is and has been fast and cheap. People spend their time watching Indonesian vloggers on YouTube, and when they’re all out of those, they switch to English-speaking ones instead.

This applies to pop music, too. Music of all genres exists in Indonesian as well, but walk into any mall or upscale store, and the likelihood that you’ll hear Indonesian beats instead of American pop is virtually nothing.

Therefore, English is just considered “cool” in Indonesia. It’s seen as the ticket to economic success as well as a marker of one’s own status and intelligence.

Examples of English Used in Indonesian

the Indonesian city of Makassar at night

Sometimes a language will borrow words just because of how trendy it is to do so, and then the words end up taking on lives of their own. This is relatively rare in Indonesian, but there are still a couple of decent examples.

The word senior in Indonesian (sometimes respelled sinyor according to Indonesian custom) doesn’t refer to an old person or a student in their last year of high school. Instead, it has a very specific meaning that’s closer to a “superior” in school or work environments.

  • Dia dulu seniorku waktu di S1. / “She was my senior in the undergraduate program.”

Quite recently, another fashionable word has entered the scene: guys. This one never gets respelled. Although this word is shifting to gender-neutral in some English dialects, it usually still means “a group of men or boys.” But turn on any vlogging channel on YouTube and what’s the first thing you hear? “Hey guys!”

That’s why in today’s Indonesian, the word guys (or the phrase hey guys) is used without exception even in Indonesian-language vlogs. In the same vein, this word is also used to address groups of people regardless of gender.

By the way, as you study Indonesian, you might get used to the idea that you can guess at a loanword’s meaning. But that’s not always the case, because in some instances, the word might not be a loan at all!

If you need a card for your phone to get data and call service, you would purchase a “SIM card,” right? In Indonesian, however, a SIM is a surat izin mengajarkan, or license to drive a motor vehicle. Be careful what you ask for at the phone store, because what you really need is a kartu ponsel or “mobile phone card.”

The “word” uh-uh always means “no” in English, but in Indonesian it’s actually an affirmative (spelled as he-he). You might think this is something you can easily commit to memory, but when you ask an immigration officer about your visa paperwork and he replies “uh-uh,” you might have a bit of a panic attack before he slides it over to you and you remember what it actually means.

Loanwords vs. Indonesian English

An Apartment Room with Furniture

In contrast to those words mentioned above, which have been borrowed into Indonesian with a bit of semantic change, there are dozens—or perhaps even hundreds—of words which have preserved their English meanings entirely.

These appear very frequently in the realms of abstract concepts, computers, and business. For this reason, you might remain unaware of just how rich this vocabulary is if you spend your time watching Indonesian talk shows and movies or reading comic books.

A few English loanwords in Indonesian include: 

  • regulasi / “regulation” 
  • prediksi / “prediction” 
  • protokol / “protocol” 
  • manajemen / “management” 
  • kapitalisme / “capitalism” 

And even that is not an entirely accurate representation of the way English words are commonly used in Indonesian, because many people use them to talk about everyday matters as well.

There are native Indonesian equivalents for apartemen (“apartment”), stiker (“sticker”), cek (“check”), furnitur (“furniture”), and hundreds of similar words. But out of convenience and habit, even newspapers use these as regular parts of the Indonesian language. In fact, every example in this section was taken from a news article.

You’ll notice that these words are often respelled according to the Indonesian spelling rules and to reflect an Indonesian pronunciation of the English syllables.

Perhaps you’ve already picked up one of the main rules: spell anything ending in -sion or -tion with a si and you’re a good portion of the way through to coming up with a new Indonesian word!

There are even a couple of loan verbs that have been totally assimilated into the Indonesian conjugation and inflection system.

One such example is the verb “sort,” which has entered Indonesian and been totally absorbed as menyortir, disortir, and so on.

Tolong menyortir kertas sesuai ukuran. / “Please sort the paper according to size.”

What an Indonesian Accent Sounds Like in English

A Man with Luggage at the Airport

Although many Indonesians speak excellent English, there are still some Indonesian-isms that creep through.

Naturally, the sound system of English is quite different from that of Indonesian, and this causes the majority of the problems. Indonesians often have trouble saying th sounds, preferring to just say t or sometimes s.

Indonesian doesn’t have any voiced sounds (like V, B, D, G) at the end of its words, so English loanwords in Indonesian that end in a V sound (like “love”) tend to sound as if they ended in F when spoken by an Indonesian.

And although Indonesian grammar is similar to English grammar in many aspects of sentence structure, there are a couple of things that elude even advanced learners.

One of those things is the use of the word “ever” instead of “before” in the sense of “I’ve never…” You see, in English and in Indonesian, these sentences are made very similarly, but in English we make the distinction between these two words.

  • Aku belum pernah ke Jepang. / “I’ve never been to Japan.”

Here, we’re using belum pernah to mean “never before,” but look at what happens when we change it around:

  • Aku sudah pernah ke Jepang. / “I have been to Japan before.”

When speaking English, many Indonesians will mistakenly say “I have ever been to Japan,” because of the interference from their own language. If you see this kind of subtle error in a piece of writing, there’s a decent chance an Indonesian wrote it!

English Words Derived from Indonesian

An Orangutan Sitting on Top of a High Pole

Although Malay and Indonesian are widely spoken languages in their own corner of the world, they haven’t historically been popular enough to leave major traces on other languages. Nevertheless, it is possible to find Indonesian words in English if you look hard enough.

The most famous is probably durian, the spiny and pungent fruit found for sale all over Southeast Asia. The word comes from the root duri (“spine”) plus the suffix –an, but what’s interesting is that this was borrowed by English a couple of hundred years ago. The same word has shifted to duren in modern-day Indonesian, obscuring the root.

Next up is the word orangutan, a species of primate found in the Malay and Indonesian archipelago. It’s unknown whether the original Englishmen who learned this word realized that it’s a simple compound of orang (“person”) and hutan (“forest”). Most young kids who learn this word have no idea it’s not English in the first place!

The last couple of basic Indonesian words in English are used to describe specific things that you can’t find elsewhere: sate/satay (a small barbecue skewer) and rattan (a type of material used to make furniture and baskets).

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to pick up English words used in Indonesian, but it can be a little bit tricky knowing how to use some of them correctly. Smartphone, for instance, is a valid loanword but never underwent any respelling to “smartfon.” 

That’s why you need a solid knowledge base as you study the Indonesian language, something that can be brought to you quickly and easily by IndonesianPod101. As you progress through the lessons from beginner to advanced, you’ll slowly pick up the correct usage and definitions of loanwords in Indonesian, from English to Arabic, Dutch, Chinese, and beyond. Start today and see what heights your Indonesian can reach!

Before you go, how many of these English words in Indonesian surprised you? Did we forget to include any that you know? We look forward to hearing from you.

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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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Is the Indonesian Language Easy to Learn?

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Many aspiring learners wonder whether the Indonesian language is easy to learn, and if so, why more people don’t speak it.

You see, Indonesian is not a very commonly learned language for most of the world. 

Sure, there are people in Southeast Asia that pick some of it up, it’s a growing subject in Chinese and Japanese universities, and it’s long been one of the most popular foreign languages for Australians—but you hardly see it on lists of languages people want to learn. 

That’s a shame, really, because learning the language opens you up to so many wonderful things. Visiting the country when you can speak the language is much, much more freeing than being limited to an interpreter or dealing with whoever can speak some English.

You might be interested in opening those doors, but maybe you’ve been put off by long words and a spooky reputation for being a difficult Asian language. Could there be truth in that?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Is Indonesian Hard or Not?
  2. Difficulties in Learning Indonesian
  3. Indonesian is Pretty Easy
  4. Your First Indonesian Steps
  5. Advice to a New Learner
  6. The Advantages of IndonesianPod101
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Indonesian Hard or Not?

An Indonesian Speech Bubble

Indonesian, by and large, is not that hard of a language. From the perspective of someone who’s already learned it, that might not be too reassuring, but it’s the truth.

There are quite a few differences between European languages and East Asian languages. But the thing is, none of these differences are the type of thing that requires you to memorize long charts or pore over difficult grammar explanations.

For example, Indonesian has a number of suffixes and prefixes that can change a root word’s part of speech. That’s one place where learners might get confused, because sometimes, those can be pretty subtle. It takes a lot of immersion to develop the knack for knowing which one to use.

But on the other hand, there are so many shortcuts that you can take. Indonesian is the second language of millions of people across the country, spoken with great fluency but without extremely rigid rules for conversation.

Locals are also extremely welcoming to foreigners who can converse in Indonesian—even if they’re comfortable in English, they’ll happily speak Indonesian instead to let people practice! 

2. Difficulties in Learning Indonesian

Gulai Chicken

There are a couple of factors that can make Indonesian hard to learn for some people. 

Indonesian is a bit of an artificial standard, as mentioned above, so people add a lot of slang and regionalisms to it when speaking among themselves. That’s why you might find YouTube videos super-easy to understand, but the more informal speech of day-to-day conversation nearly opaque to your ear.

That kind of diglossia can be disheartening, because you’ll feel that you still have so far to go even if you can understand books and the news.

The best way to deal with this is to read more informal Indonesian, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter comments. Internet comments have a bad rap for being mindless drivel, but unfortunately, it’s exactly that kind of language register that you have to learn to understand—because it’s the way people really speak! 

On the other side of things, the prefix and suffix system definitely has its sticky points. One of the hardest concepts for people to grasp is the me-kan prefix/suffix, which is often used to signify that something was done “for somebody.”

  • Saya membaca koran Kompas.
    “I read the Kompas newspaper.”
  • Saya membacakan ayah berita hari ini.
    “I read today’s news to my dad.”

The root is baca (“read”) in both sentences. But while membaca is an act of reading for oneself, using the circumfix me-kan causes the word to mean that the act of reading is done for someone else.

Not too bad, right? Unfortunately, that’s just one example for a circumfix with a ton of different meanings! You’re probably going to have to learn a ton of examples individually.

The last thing that trips up learners is the idea that it’s okay to be vague. A lot of people never get past the idea that they want to express exactly as much information in Indonesian as they’re used to expressing in their native language. 

3. Indonesian is Pretty Easy

An Old Woman Buying a Book

You might have picked up on this already, but that last section isn’t that big of a deal. Overall, Indonesian is easy to learn as a foreigner. 

For one thing, you can just learn these complicated prefix or suffix words as individual concepts that usually map to their own separate words in English. In the example above, there’s nothing wrong with learning membaca as “to read” and membacakan as “to read for.”

Another advantage that Indonesian-learners have is that the pronunciation is quite easy in general. While you do have to know how to roll your R and use pure vowels (for more help, check our pronunciation guide), spoken Indonesian words correspond exactly to their written counterparts.

Even when people speak informally using the more casual variants of Indonesian, they reflect that in their casual writing. In English, we all write “have to” even though we say “hafta,” but in Indonesian texting and online comments, there’s no worrying about proper writing conventions.

Lastly, learners of Indonesian have a huge advantage when it comes to the verbs. Each “tense” corresponds to a single particle that’s inserted before the verb—no conjugation required. 

For past events, use sudah; for present progressive, use sedang; and for future, use akan.

  • Saya sudah membeli buku.
    “I bought a book.”
  • Saya sedang membeli buku.
    “I am buying a book.”
  • Saya akan membeli buku.
    “I will buy a book.”

4. Your First Indonesian Steps

A Little Girl Taking Her First Steps

The very first thing you should do when learning Indonesian, or any new language, is to focus on the sounds.

Make sure that you can accurately make and understand each individual sound of the language now, because later on when you’re trying to understand flowing native speech, you’ll wish you had prepared beforehand.

It would be perfect if you could find a video series with clearly spoken Indonesian and Indonesian subtitles for you to understand how the letters you see on the screen reflect the sounds you’re hearing. Even though the Indonesian alphabet is simple, this is a skill that takes time to develop.

After that, your biggest hurdle is going to be the vocabulary. Although Indonesian has some loanwords from European languages (particularly when it comes to the sciences or pop culture), the vast majority of the words come from Arabic, Sanskrit, and local Austronesian languages.

Therefore, you’ll need to come up with a good flashcard or wordlist system in order to build a strong vocabulary base from the start. 


5. Advice to a New Learner

A Traditional Indonesian Ceremony

One of the biggest mistakes a new Indonesian learner can make is trying to speak too quickly. By that, we don’t mean the speed that the words are coming out of your mouth; we mean how soon you start speaking after you’ve started learning the language.

Just like pronunciation, you should build a good base in understanding Indonesian before you try to hold a conversation. That way, you won’t be distressed by not understanding what you hear.

Also, don’t worry if it takes you much longer to understand TV or movies than it does to read your textbook or listen to a course made for learners.

As mentioned before, rapid-fire spoken Indonesian uses a lot of local slang terms. Even the words for “you” and “I” are different in informal language! Generally, the words are Anda and saya respectively, but in informal Indonesian, they’re kamu and aku—and in Jakartan slang, they become lu and gue!

Essentially, even though you’ll find Indonesian easier to pick up than some other languages, don’t expect to be able to use and understand it instantly. Keep your expectations reasonable, and you won’t be discouraged. 


6. The Advantages of IndonesianPod101

Remember a bit ago when we recommended videos with Indonesian subtitles?

It turns out that you can get exactly that for free on our IndonesianPod101 YouTube channel.

Once you’ve watched a couple of those, why not check out our main website at IndonesianPod101.com?

Although there are good textbooks and online resources available if you know where to look, Indonesian isn’t commonly learned enough to have a ton of different language courses.

What IndonesianPod101 can bring you is a structured course starting from the very basics, guiding you all the way through an upper-intermediate or advanced level. At that point, you’ll be able to smoothly transition into reading and watching real Indonesian content made for native speakers! 

7. Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the only big obstacle to learning Indonesian, or any other language, is time.

Indonesian requires a little more time for you to remember the wide array of vocabulary, but practically no time at all to learn the grammar.

In fact, the United States government rates Indonesian a 3/5 in terms of difficulty for English-speakers. That means it’ll take a little more time than learning French or German, but significantly less time than learning Arabic or Korean.

As long as you have a good and consistent study schedule, you’ll be able to hold your own in simple Indonesian conversations in less than six months. After you learn the basic sentence patterns, all you need is a good dictionary to build your vocabulary and gain the ability to understand more and more real Indonesian.

The best time to start is today. Grab a textbook—or better yet, sign up with IndonesianPod101—and you’ll be amazed at the kind of progress you can make with Indonesian.

If you’ve already started learning Indonesian, which aspects of the language are most difficult for you? And which are the easiest? Let us, and aspiring Indonesian-learners, know in the comments!

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Watch Out for These Common Mistakes in Indonesian

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There’s a certain face that people make when they can’t understand what you’re saying.

For many people, it’s a screwed-up grimace of concentration. For Indonesians, it’s more of a quiet smile and a slow drift of attention.

Indonesians are polite folks, to be sure. They’re not going to tell you very much about your mistakes in Indonesian when you’re speaking with them.

That’s up to you.

If you want to hold up your end of the Indonesian conversation, you’ve got to make sure you’re speaking Indonesian that’s beyond just “comprehensible.” It must be pleasant to listen to, and with as few mistakes as possible.

But what types of mistakes tend to be the worst for Indonesian-learners, and how can you get around them?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Tricky Pronunciation
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?
  4. The Shape of Words
  5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. Tricky Pronunciation

View of Skyscrapers in Jakarta

Indonesian, by and large, is an easy language to pronounce. You could show a phrasebook to someone who’d never even heard of Jakarta, and they could make themselves understood in a couple of minutes, tops.

But there are definitely a couple of things that totally give away foreigners speaking Indonesian.

Chief among these is probably the vowels. Indonesian has six “pure” vowels: 

  • /a/ as in “talk” 
  • /e/ sort of like in “day”
  • /i/ as in “see” 
  • /o/ kind of like “go”
  • /u/ as in “you”
  • /ǝ/, the unstressed vowel in “duh” 

It also has the short “i” and “o” sounds in “bit” and “lock,” but those only appear right at the end of words before a consonant.

The common mistake in Indonesian comes when English-speakers in particular start morphing those vowel sounds into diphthongs. They’re pure vowels, and Indonesian doesn’t actually have a lot of diphthongs!

Another mistake that tends to be made more by Europeans and Mandarin Chinese speakers has to do with the “p,” “t,” and “k” sounds at the end of words. You’re not supposed to fully pronounce them.

In fact, to make these sounds, one should cut off the airflow very briefly but never release—which, coincidentally, happens a lot in English, but not in most European languages. Mandarin speakers have the opposite problem, where they find it unnatural to end words with those sounds at all!

2. Confusing Words

Little Girl Trying to Decide Between Red and Green Apple

Indonesian vocabulary can be super-easy to pick up (browse through a list of nonfiction Indonesian titles and count all the English loan words), but there are times when it can be devilishly tricky.

This isn’t helped by the fact that there are a bunch of words that sound really close to one another, but are actually false friends! For example:

  • kelapa – “coconut”
    kepala – a person’s head
  • semangat – an exclamation like “Go!” or “Hooray!”
    semangka – “watermelon”
  • mangkuk – “bowl”
    mangga – “mango”
  • handuk – “towel”
    hantu – “ghost”

If you happen to know some Spanish, you might be tripped up by the fact that dia is an extremely common word in Indonesian. However, it means “he/she/it,” not “day”! That’s hari, but since they both have similar vowels, it may take some effort to get these two words separated in your mind.

Of course, not all of these words are going to pose problems for everybody. Order susu kelapa (“coconut milk”) enough times, and you won’t even think about how close the word is to kepala.

The best way to remember confusing words is to focus on just one at a time. Studying them close to one another is a great way to strengthen the links between them in your mind and make it harder and harder to untangle the two words!

3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?

Man Taking a Nap in the Grass

Well, yes, more or less.

You can’t make any mistakes in Indonesian relating to word genders or adjective endings. However, people do tend to get confused at times with the word order.

After all, in a language without conjugation or declension, the word order is what ends up really carrying the meaning of each sentence. In Indonesian, you can often translate sentences word-for-word into English, which makes other, more variant sentence patterns more challenging to remember.

A typical sticking point for new learners is forming questions the right way. Let’s say you want to express “Whose car is this?” The only problem is that Indonesian doesn’t have a word for “whose”!

  • Mobil siapa ini?
    “Whose car is this?”

As you can see, we just put the word siapa (“who”) after the noun, and this word order is the key that communicates possession. 

Although Indonesian doesn’t have tenses in the form of verbs changing their appearance, there are particles that signify completed, in-progress, and future actions. These include sudah, sedang, and akan. These have got to go right in front of the verb—no exceptions.

  • Mika sedang mencuci mobil.
    “Mika is washing the car (right now).”

If you know Vietnamese, then this is easy. But if you know Mandarin, you’ll have to switch things around, since the “completed action” particle comes after the verb in Mandarin. 

4. The Shape of Words

A Couple Riding Their Bikes Down a Hill

One fascinating thing about Indonesian grammar is the ability to make subtle variations on verbs by adding prefixes, suffixes, and circumfixes.

If you’re new to the language, you might not have fully registered the rules for the most common prefix, meN-. Now, that capital letter isn’t really written that way. What’s going on?

The letter is here to stand for any nasal sound, such as “m,” “n,” “ny,” or “ng.” To know which one to use, look at the first sound of the root and where it’s pronounced in the mouth, then choose the ending closest to that.

So the root word baca can never be mengbaca because ng is pronounced all the way in the back of the mouth, and b is pronounced with the lips. Instead, it’s membaca!

Another pretty noticeable feature of Indonesian words is reduplication, where you simply repeat the word to mark the plural. And this leads to more common mistakes in Indonesian.

Something a lot of learners will do is reduplicate words every time they want to express the plural form, even though, in real Indonesian, the context is used more often than reduplication.

Remember: The reduplication is only really used for emphasis or when it’s not clear (but important to your sentence) that the thing you’re talking about is plural.

5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude

A Beach in Bali During Summer

Up until this point, we haven’t touched on much that’s really specific to the Indonesian language. As much as we’d rather not, it’s easy to make word order and pronunciation mistakes in any language!

One thing that’s rather interesting about Indonesian is that there are a lot of different pronouns used for different situations. Other languages spoken in Southeast Asia kind of have this as well, but it’s not something European language-speakers tend to be familiar with.

For instance, if you’re a middle-aged man, most people are going to address you as pak or Bapak instead of using the second person pronoun kamu (“you”). Middle-aged women get bu or Ibu.

Younger people often get mas or mbak, though these are actually Javanese and not used quite as much in Sumatra, Bali, or other parts of the country.

The mistake here would be assuming that you can use the same pronouns with the same people all over Indonesia. In Yogyakarta, for instance, the informal pronouns are aku and kamu for first and second person, respectively.

In Jakarta, though, people tend to use gue and lu for the same meaning, whereas aku and kamu are reserved for lovers!

To stay on the safe side, you should stick with neutral and polite pronouns, even if others address you in a more familiar way (that is, saya and Anda for first and second person, respectively). This is something that confuses native speakers too when they move to other cities, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Imagine you’re enjoying a tasty bowl of mi goreng at a tiny restaurant, and the owner asks you a question you don’t quite understand.

Do you say: Maaf, sekali lagi? (“Sorry, one more time?”)

Or do you nervously bolt down the rest of your noodles and leave, embarrassed and silent?

That’s the mistake too many language-learners make around the world—getting too wrapped up in their own mistakes.

And yes, lots of Indonesians can speak English very well. Some of them may become frustrated and switch to English on you at times. But there are tons more who either aren’t that comfortable with English or would love the opportunity to chat with you, no matter how many Rs you forget to roll.

7. Conclusion

There’s no way for you to be a perfect Indonesian-speaker without first being an imperfect one.

However, if you push yourself to speak a lot before you feel very comfortable, you do risk ingraining some of your mistakes and making them harder to fix later on. 

And as you reach a more advanced level and try to express more complicated ideas, you might find that smaller mistakes tend to build up on themselves and make it progressively harder to get your message across.

That’s why it’s important to always listen to and read Indonesian as much as possible. This way, you can always have good examples of real Indonesian for your subconscious to internalize. That’s what you get right here with IndonesianPod101!

What Indonesian mistakes do you make the most often? If you’ve managed to overcome a mistake, do you have any advice for your fellow Indonesian-learners? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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Your Playbook of Perfect Indonesian Questions and Answers

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Would you describe yourself as a curious person?

If you’re learning Indonesian, we imagine that you probably do! 

You can make that curiosity work for your Indonesian skills, too! When you talk to people, they’ll be interested in who you are and what’s driven you to learn their language. And the bread and butter of that is questions.

Statistically, questions make up a big part of conversation in any language. By preparing yourself with the most common Indonesian questions and answers, you’ll become familiar and comfortable with these conversational keystones and come off as a skilled conversationalist.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Your Name
  2. Your Origin Story
  3. Language Matters
  4. Traveling Around
  5. A Personal Question
  6. A Taste of Indonesia
  7. Work-day Life
  8. What’s up?
  9. The Price is Right
  10. Conclusion

1. Your Name

First Encounter

In Indonesian, you’re going to be confused at first with the pronouns. There are a lot of different ways that people can address you, so in this article, we’ll stick to the tried-and-true saya/kamu mix.

But let’s break that rule right away, because if someone’s asking your name, they’re going to be polite with you. Don’t worry: only the pronoun changes in this Indonesian question.

  • Siapa nama Anda?
    “What’s your name?”

The word nama is a cognate of the English word “name,” but it actually comes from Sanskrit instead of a more modern European language as you might assume. 

To answer the question, switch the words around and say:

  • Nama saya Denis.
    “My name is Denis.”

2. Your Origin Story

People you tend to meet and chat with in Indonesia are even more likely to ask this question than the last. It can be so quick and to the point that you might miss it if you don’t pay attention!

As you can see, it’s not that necessary to include the pronouns. At a restaurant or cafe, you might hear Dari mana, kak? where kak is the basic form of address for young people who are older than you.

To answer, you’ll be using the dari, or “from,” preposition again.

  • Saya dari Melbourne.
    “I’m from Melbourne.”

Something you’ll pick up pretty quickly when it comes to the pragmatics, or conversation rules, of Indonesian is the way people repeat back new information. So in this short scenario above, person A would ask, person B would respond, then person A would repeat dari Melbourne back in a knowing tone of voice.

They’re not correcting your pronunciation—they’re just holding up their end of the conversation!

3. Language Matters

Introducing Yourself

The Indonesian questions here are those you’re very likely to hear while in the country, and they’re about the language itself.

  • Apakah kamu bisa berbahasa Indonesia?
    “Do you speak Indonesian?”

You certainly do! Also, as Indonesia’s influence in Southeast Asia grows, more and more people are picking up the language all around the region. You shouldn’t shy away from trying out this phrase in other countries!

The answer is probably not tidak, or “no,” for obvious reasons. Instead, if you’re not comfortable speaking Indonesian just yet, you can say:

  • Maaf, tidak begitu lancar.
    “Sorry, not very fluently.”

If you manage to answer like that, you’ll get a great reaction, something like Sudah bagus! meaning “It’s already great!” And perhaps this follow-up:

  • Sudah berapa lama belajar bahasa Indonesia?
    “How long have you been studying Indonesian?”

To answer, we’ll use the word sudah again to note that it’s already been a certain amount of time, then simply add the relevant unit and amount of time.

  • Sudah enam bulan.
    “Six months already.”

4. Traveling Around

If you happen to meet an Indonesian abroad and speak Indonesian with them, you’ll invariably get this question:

That translation is pretty broad, because what’s literally happening here is: “Already to Indonesia?” To answer, you don’t even have to change the word order.

  • Iya, sudah ke Jakarta (dua kali).
    “Yeah, I’ve already been to Jakarta (twice).”

Don’t get thrown off by this separate but similar question: Sudah lama di Indonesia? or “Have you been living in Indonesia for a long time?” In that case, you could reply with the same time-related words as before. 

5. A Personal Question

In Indonesian culture, questions can get pretty personal. It’s common for people to get married in their twenties, so someone aged twenty to thirty-five or so is liable to get some variation of these questions:

  • Sudah menikah belum?
    “Are you married yet?”
  • Sudah beristri?
    “Do you have a wife?”
  • Sudah bersuami?
    “Do you have a husband?”

Culturally, you don’t answer “no” to this question. In Indonesian, it’s much better to say belum, meaning “not yet.” And if the answer is yes, it’s still a one-word deal: Sudah! (You’ve got to say it enthusiastically, especially if your spouse is there with you.)

6. A Taste of Indonesia

Mutton Gulai Curry Indonesian Dish

You can find just about any type of food you want in Indonesian cities, particularly if your tastes skew East Asian. Home-grown Indonesian food can’t be beat, however, and you’re sure to have people asking about your opinions.

  • Apakah kamu suka makanan Indonesia?
    “Do you like Indonesian food?”

The apakah bit is kind of optional. Since the question is being asked to you, it doesn’t need that explicit marker.

In your answer, the best way to keep the conversation going is to name a specific type of Indonesian food that keeps you coming back.

  • Iya, suka! Makanan kesukaanku adalah nasi goreng.
    “Yes, I love it! My favorite food is nasi goreng.”

Let’s briefly examine the word kesukaanku, which means “my favorite.” It’s made up of four individual parts.

First, the root is suka, meaning “to like,” which we just saw in the question. Adding the prefix ke– and the suffix -an turns it into a noun: “favorite.” 

Finally, the suffix -ku is a possessive meaning “mine.” So you could have:

  • mi kesukaanku – “my favorite noodles”
  • ayam goreng kesukaanku – “my favorite fried chicken”
  • minuman kesukaanku – “my favorite drink”

7. Work-day Life

A Nurse and Doctor Looking at Papers on a Clipboard

Many people in Indonesia will assume that you’re traveling there, like most foreigners. However, sometimes something in your body language will indicate to them that you’ve been there a while. They may ask:

  • Kamu bekerja apa?
    “What do you do?”
  • Apa pekerjaanmu?
    “What’s your work?”

These questions are interchangeable, but they illustrate two ways to use the root word kerja, or “work,” in a sentence. 

First, there’s pekerjaan, with the pe-an circumfix making it a concrete noun: “employment.” Then there’s bekerja, a verb meaning “to have a job.” 

To answer, you could either replace the -mu, or “your,” possessive suffix with the -ku, or “my,” one we saw earlier: 

  • Pekerjaanku doktor.
    “I am a doctor.”

Or you could avoid dealing with extra suffixes and simply say: 

  • Saya bekerja sebagai doktor.
    “I work as a doctor.”

The word sebagai is optional here, but you’ll find it used more often than not.

8. What’s up?

Not every conversation happens with the same opening and closing lines. However, in Indonesian, you could be forgiven for thinking they do!

This phrase is a standard friendly greeting for Indonesians all over the place. You can kind of think of it as mapping to an idiomatic English equivalent.

  • Apa kabar?
    “What’s up?”

Literally, though, you’re saying “What news?” Now this is unusual, because the answer is always baik, meaning “good.”

In some textbooks, you’ll probably see the phrase bagaimana kabarmu as a more formal equivalent, but nobody really talks like that.

In a formal situation with one person speaking to a group of people, they’ll often say this standard greeting:

  • Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
    “May peace be upon us all.”

You can also say:

  • Assalamualaikum.
    “Peace upon us.”

This one does have a set response: 

  • Waalaikum salam.
    “And upon you.”

As this is a loanword (or loan phrase) from Classical Arabic, it shows up written and pronounced in slightly different ways from person to person. If you, as a foreigner, manage to pull it off in the correct context, people will immediately perk up and pay attention.

9. The Price is Right

An Indonesian Rupiah

Rounding off here, this is one of the questions you’ll probably end up using the most day-to-day in Indonesia.

  • Berapa harganya?
    “How much is it?”

The root word harga means “price,” and the -nya makes it refer to a specific price. Namely, the price of the thing you’re pointing at in the restaurant or in the shop.

Mostly, people will just reply with the number:

  • Tiga puluh ribu.
    “Thirty thousand.”

As you can see, it’s not necessary here—or in many other phrases—to reply with a complete sentence! The context takes care of filling in any grammatical gaps.

10. Conclusion

To be honest, as long as you master the questions about your name, where you’re from, and how much things cost, you’ll be miles ahead of other learners. And all of that can be picked up in a couple of hours!

The next step is adding detail.

Where are you going in Indonesia? How much does two of these things cost?

You can come up with follow-up questions in English and then look for them in Indonesian while listening to and reading Indonesian content.

Speaking of which, IndonesianPod101.com is the logical next step to take when you’re expanding your conversation horizons. With our guided lessons, flashcards, and reading material, you’ll never be lost for words.

Have a look right now at some of the podcast dialogues, and see for yourself what kind of questions can be asked and answered!

Before you go, why not practice some of these Indonesian questions and answers straight away? Try answering one or more of the questions from this article in Indonesian, and leave your answers in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you!

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The UKBI: Ace That Indonesian Language Proficiency Test!

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Indonesians, by and large, are nice people.

They treat foreigners very well, to be sure. Indonesia isn’t one of the hottest Asian travel destinations for nothing!

But there is one area where they could treat foreigners a little nicer: the Indonesian language itself.

They’re glad if you can speak it and will treat you well because of that, absolutely.

They just don’t think you can get good. They’ll tend to always simplify their speech and never tell you about the many mistakes you’re making. To avoid this misfortune, you’ll need to prove yourself with an Indonesian language proficiency test.

Even then, it’s no guarantee that Indonesians will take your skills that seriously. After all, there are thousands of foreigners in Bali and Jakarta who never learn more than how to order off a menu and introduce themselves in a heavy accent, if that.

If you want to live in Indonesia or find a job related to the Indonesian language, you’re going to need a certificate from a language exam that proves, without a doubt, that you know your way around the Indonesian language at a masterful level.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Study Strategies in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. The One Test Indonesian Will Throw at You
  2. The Listening Section
  3. The Grammar Section
  4. The Reading Section
  5. The Writing Section
  6. The Speaking Section
  7. UKBI Preparation: Your Overall Study Strategy
  8. Conclusion

1. The One Test Indonesian Will Throw at You

A Volcano Spewing Lava

In contrast to English, where there are zillions of big and small proficiency tests clamoring for the top spot, Indonesia has just one.

It’s called the UKBI or Uji Kemahiran Berbahasa Indonesia. In English, that’s “Indonesian Language Proficiency Test”—but you knew that already, right?

It has five different sections, which we’ll go over in detail soon, and you’re awarded a score out of 900 at the end.

Your point value then translates into one of seven different levels, or predikat. They are:

  • Istimewa (“Exceptional”)
  • Sangat Unggul (“Very Good”)
  • Unggul (“Good”)
  • Madya (“Intermediate”)
  • Semenjana (“Average”)
  • Marginal (“Poor”)
  • Terbatas (“Limited”)

The information about this test is generally published only in Indonesian. Our translation of the Madya  description is as follows:

Predikat ini menunjukkan bahwa peserta uji memiliki kemahiran yang memadai dalam berkomunikasi dengan menggunakan bahasa Indonesia.

This level demonstrates that the test participant has good communication skills in Indonesian.

Dengan kemahiran ini yang bersangkutan mampu berkomunikasi untuk keperluan sintas dan kemasyarakatan dengan baik, tetapi masih mengalami kendala dalam hal keprofesian yang kompleks.

When it comes to complex professional communication, there are still notable problems, especially in the realm of academic purposes.

According to data published in 2014, more than half of people attempting the test scored Madya, or from 482-577 points. That shows that you’re not dealing with an easy exam here!

In fact, let’s take a more-detailed look at each of the five sections and what you can expect to encounter. 

2. The Listening Section

People Listening in a Classroom

For this part of the Indonesian language exam, you’ll start out with 30 minutes of listening, during which you’ll answer 40 questions. These are broken up into eight short monologues and dialogues with five multiple-choice questions each.

That’s a good number, because you’ll be able to quickly glance over the various questions and get a feel for what you’ll need to listen for in each section. 

Some of it can get quite tricky, too. One question on the practice test asks about a car’s license plate, and the choices include: “B1337AC” / “B1371AC” / “B3317CA.” 

The topics for the monologues are generally about aspects of Indonesian culture and geography, as well as some explanations of scientific processes. It would definitely be a good idea to read the science sections of Kompas (an Indonesian media website) and BBC Indonesian News to stay on track. 


3. The Grammar Section

Language Skills

Indonesian grammar is an interesting beast. On the one hand, it’s really easy to make simple sentences, and even to get your point across with more-complex phrases.

On the other, there are a ton of little nuances in Indonesian grammar that don’t exist at all in English.

And surprise surprise, that’s what you’ll be tested on.

Across 25 questions, you’ll have twenty minutes to take a look at sentence pairs and detect which sentence in each pair has an error. You should definitely practice Indonesian word order so you can detect any sentences that have mixed-up syntax.

Even more so, though, you should brush up on the prefixes and suffixes. Sometimes, the answers will stand out, such as an intransitive verb with a ber- prefix instead of a me- prefix.

However, the differences between -kan and no ending, or me-i and just me-, are significantly more subtle and require a lot of detailed analysis as you read. 

From this point on, make it a habit to actually look at the verb forms as you read Indonesian, and think about what they could be doing in the sentence.


4. The Reading Section

Man Studying Books in a Library

A major aspect of one’s Indonesian language proficiency is how well they can understand what they read.

The reading section is kind of like the listening one, as you’ll have eight texts with five questions each. Again, you’ll be tested on nonfiction passages of around 400-500 words each, dealing with scientific or technical topics like the history of electromagnetism or how a digital camera works. You’ll have 45 minutes to complete this.

This is where native English speakers have a distinct advantage, because a lot of the formal vocabulary here is directly cognate to English. 

By reading Indonesian-language reviews of cars and electronics, you’ll quickly become used to reading about technical topics in Indonesian. A general scientific knowledge in your own language wouldn’t hurt either, because if you don’t have a general idea of what gamma rays or fructose are, you’ll likely be lost even if you do recognize the vocabulary.


5. The Writing Section

In the writing portion, your task is relatively simple, but involves some pretty targeted Indonesian skills. You’re given a diagram and asked to summarize it in 200 words in under 30 minutes.

However, you won’t be dealing with any first-year, Anak itu sedang makan cokelat (“The child is eating chocolate”) kind of language. It’s the type of diagram you’d see in a biology or physics textbook, depicting the life cycle of a flower or how a volcano erupts.

Fortunately, Indonesian bookstores usually have excellent selections of nonfiction oriented toward children and teenagers. You can even find translated versions of the excellent DK Eyewitness books at some libraries, meaning hours of fun and education for you as a learner.

The more you read this kind of material, the easier it’s going to be to write about it on the spot. 


6. The Speaking Section

A Woman Giving a Presentation and Speech

This is where things get turned up to eleven real fast.

Where other exams have you roleplay, take part in a debate, or do several tasks appropriate for multiple levels, the UKBI requires you to read a brief academic article, look at a chart or graph, and then prepare a presentation for a general audience. For five straight minutes.

This is where your ability to flow seamlessly from one topic to the next in Indonesian will be seriously tested. 

The topic in the test preparation guide is a graph showing the number of doctors per 100,000 people in each country in ASEAN. It’s simple enough, so how are you going to talk for five whole minutes? 

Expound on the different levels of education and economic development in each country, and speculate on the possible reasons why more or fewer people tend to go into medicine.

Truly outstanding answers will make predictions for the future, basing them on a deep knowledge of current ASEAN events and political developments.


7. UKBI Preparation: Your Overall Study Strategy

A Row of Colorful Books with Headphones Around Them

The interesting paradox about this exam is that there are very few resources to study for it, and at the same time, a huge number of people to study with.

As long as you’re in Indonesia, that is.

You see, Bahasa Indonesia isn’t the native tongue of all Indonesians. Perhaps in a few generations, the proportion will rise, but in most places, children grow up speaking a local language like Javanese or Minangkabau.

Now, these languages are all related to Indonesian, and with enough Indonesian in schools and through movies, books, and everything else, most Indonesians are functionally bilingual at an extremely high level. 

However, if you want to be an Indonesian teacher to foreigners or to Indonesian children, you have to take an Indonesian proficiency exam. The same is true if you want to be a civil servant. That means that thousands of Indonesians take the test each year as well!

If you happen to be living in Indonesia right now, you could try contacting your local schools and asking if anybody there has experience taking the UKBI. 

Even outside of Indonesia, you might be able to get the WhatsApp contact info for the Darmasiswa (foreign student scholarship) program directors and ask for assistance directly.

Indonesian society is often based on knowing people and maintaining personal connections. People used to quickly finding information online about whatever they need might quickly become frustrated as they try to navigate a world where phone calls and text messages are much more common.

For that reason, there’s just one textbook about the UKBI exam available online, written by Atikah Solihah; it’s simply called Latihan Soal UKBI. Buy that book for a couple of dollars, study it well, and you’ll be at a great advantage when it comes time for the test.

8. Conclusion

We hope that after reading this article, you’re more confident in your ability to ace your Indonesian language exam. Did we answer your questions, or do you still need clarification on something? We look forward to hearing from you! 

And by the way, the very website you’re on isn’t a bad resource either! The advanced dialogue that IndonesianPod101 lessons deal with are on more advanced and formal topics in exactly the style that you’ll encounter on the exam.

The more you listen to and read real Indonesian, the better you’ll do on that Indonesian exam—especially when it’s all in one place with transcripts for every podcast episode!

Check out IndonesianPod101.com lessons today, and get ready to attack the UKBI exam with flying colors!

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Jumpstart Your Learning with Ten Basic Indonesian Sentences

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You may be surprised at how fast you can start speaking Indonesian.

Once you get a good stock of vocabulary, all you need to memorize is a handful of customizable Indonesian sentences. Then, you can easily make people think you’re good at the language.

In Indonesian, there are some fascinating grammatical aspects concerning verbs, but for communication purposes, you can leave them out entirely—plenty of Indonesians do this, too! 

So picking up Indonesian through patterns is pretty easy. In this article, we’ll outline ten different sentence patterns ready for your plug-and-play use. By the time you get to the end, you’ll probably start noticing these patterns (and more) all over the place in your studies!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Simple Noun Equivalencies
  2. Using Adjectives in Indonesian Sentences
  3. Expressing Your Desires
  4. What Do You Need?
  5. Quick Review: Questions
  6. Simple Requests
  7. Asking Where Things Are
  8. Using “Because” in Indonesian
  9. Describing Things That Happened
  10. If This, Then That
  11. Conclusion

1. Simple Noun Equivalencies

An Expensive Watch Surrounded by Jewelry

The Indonesian word for connecting two nouns is adalah. It means something like “is,” but you’ll note in the next section that it’s used only for nouns, not adjectives. Let’s see this Indonesian sentence structure in action:

  • Hary adalah rektor.
    “Hary is the rector.”
  • Dia seorang supir.
    “She is a driver.”
  • Jam ini adalah hadiah dari istriku.
    “This watch is a present from my wife.”
  • Restoran ini adalah restoran Tiongkok.
    “This restaurant is a Chinese restaurant.”
  • Motor merah adalah motor sang presiden.
    “The red motorcycle is the president’s motorcycle.”

2. Using Adjectives in Indonesian Sentences

Maroon Motorcycle against White Background

In Indonesian sentences, adjectives always follow nouns. And for a simple noun-is-adjective kind of sentence, you only need two words!

  • Langit biru.
    “The sky is blue.”
  • Suara anjing itu besar.
    “The dog’s voice (bark) is loud.”
  • Motor merah itu bukan motor teman sekelasku.
    “The red motorcycle isn’t the motorcycle of my classmate.”
  • Mereka suka menonton film-film Korea.
    “They like watching Korean movies.”
  • Susu yang dijual di pasar malam tidak begitu segar.
    “The milk sold at the night market isn’t that fresh.”

3. Expressing Your Desires

A Tiger Laying on a Large Rock

There are a number of different verbs for “want” in Indonesian. The first and most common is mau, pronounced ma-oo with a clear distinction between the vowels.

  • Saya mau es teh.
    “I want iced tea.”
  • Anak itu mau pergi.
    “The child wants to leave.”

The next word, used just as commonly, is ingin (literally “to wish”). In informal Indonesian spoken on Java, it’s pronounced more like engin, but the meaning is the same. It’s usually followed by verbs.

  • Kelas itu membosankan dan para mahasiswa ingin pergi ke pantai.
    “The class is boring and the student wants to go to the beach.”
  • Ibu ingin menjual buah-buahan.
    “Mother wants to sell fruits.”

Lastly, the verb hendak is the most common way to say “to want” in the related Malay language, but in Indonesian, it’s something formal you’d only hear in speeches or read in books.

  • Harimau hendak makan orang di desa.
    “The tiger wants to eat the people in the village.”

4. What Do You Need? 

Sentence Patterns

Every learner should know basic Indonesian sentences for expressing needs. In English, we typically use the words “must” and “need” for this, and we can do the same thing in Indonesian. Harus is the Indonesian word for “must” and perlu is “need.”

Here are a few examples of how to use them in Indonesian phrases:

  • Kamu harus pergi sekarang.
    “You must go now.”
  • Aku perlu motor baru.
    “I need a new motorcycle.”
  • Aku harus membeli motor baru.
    “I must buy a new motorcycle.”
  • Kamu harus mengingat apa yang saya bilang ini.
    “You must remember what I’m saying.”

5. Quick Review: Questions

Two Glasses of Iced Tea with Lemon Wedges

So far, these sentences have been really simple and easy! Let’s practice the necessary verbs again, this time by adding the question word apakah, or the question suffix -kah.

  • Perlukah Anda motor baru?
    “Do you need a new motorcycle?”
  • Apakah kamu mau es teh?
    “Do you want iced tea?”
  • Apakah langit biru?
    “Is the sky blue?”

The word apa (“what”) is indispensable in both questions and answers in Indonesian. We already saw apa yang saya sedang bilang (“what I am saying to you”) in a statement format, so here’s the question version.

  • Film apa ini?
    “What film is this?”
  • Apa itu “bebek?”
    “What is a ‘duck’?”

6. Simple Requests

Sentence Components

There are two very commonly used words in Indonesian for asking people to do things for you, and of course, several more words besides. Tolong has a general sense that you really need that thing done, while mohon is simply a polite request word.

  • Mohon duduk dulu.
    “Please sit first.”
  • Tolong bawakan aku kamus Arab.
    “Please bring me the Arabic dictionary.”
  • Mohon untuk tidak makan babi di restoran ini.
    “Please don’t eat pork in this restaurant.”

You can use minta in much the same way as you use mohon, with the added ability to use it to order food.

  • Minta segelas jus stroberi.
    “One glass of strawberry juice, please.”
  • Minta cepat, ya.
    “Please hurry it up.”

That last sentence is of great use as is whenever you’re at a restaurant and particularly hungry! 

7. Asking Where Things Are

A Wallet Left on the Ground Somewhere

Indonesian uses a “locative particle,” di, instead of the typical set of prepositions we know from other languages. You can think of di as being similar to “at,” and then whatever word follows di can indicate the location more precisely.

  • Aku di kamar.
    “I’m in the room.”
  • Dompet di dalam tas.
    “The wallet is in the bag.”
  • Jangan duduk di atas meja.
    “Don’t sit on top of the table.”

By using another question word, mana (“which”), you can start asking questions.

  • Di mana dompetku?
    “Where is my wallet?”
  • Kamu berada di kamar mana?
    “Which room are you in now?”

8. Using “Because” in Indonesian

Now let’s go a little bit more advanced and use the conjunction karena, meaning “because.” Don’t worry, though; it works in Indonesian language sentences just like you’d expect it to in English! 

We had some very basic noun and adjective sentences right at the beginning of the article, so let’s replicate that pattern and see how we can connect cause and effect.

  • Dia sakit karena air kotor.
    “He is sick because the water is dirty.”
  • Orang-orang takut karena harimau lapar.
    “The people are scared because the tiger is hungry.”

Naturally, you can add verbs after karena. The only difference from English is a bonus for learners: You don’t need to repeat the subject or a pronoun. The subject is remembered from the first half of the sentence.

  • Filmnya keren karena ceritanya bagus.
    “The film was cool because it had a good story.”
  • Aku perlu motor baru karena motor saya rusak.
    “I need a new motorcycle because my motorcycle is broken.”
  • Fifi dihukum karena menyetir terlalu cepat.
    “Fifi was punished because she drove too fast.”

9. Describing Things That Happened

A Woman Eating Breakfast and Drinking Tea at a Table

Past tense in Indonesian is often taken care of through context alone. If you’re already having a conversation about something that happened, there’s usually no grammatical marking in the sentence to refer to the past tense again and again.

The particle sudah means “already,” and it’s your best bet when you want to explicitly introduce the past tense.

  • Dia sudah sarapan.
    “He (already) ate breakfast.”
  • Apakah presentasi sudah selesai?
    “Has the presentation already finished?”
  • Aku sudah membaca buku baru itu.
    “I have read that new book.”

When you ask a question about things that might have already happened, you should try to end it with the word belum (“not yet”). It’s totally fine if you say something like the presentation example above, but using belum can often sound a little more idiomatic.

  • Kamu sudah makan belum?
    “Have you already eaten yet?”
  • Dia sudah lulus belum?
    “Has she already graduated yet?”

10. If This, Then That

Like “because,” you might worry that conditional statements in Indonesian are above your level. Fear not, because it really does work in quite a familiar way! Things that might take a couple of semesters to figure out in European languages are open to you right now before the end of this article. 

The word for “if” is kalau. Here’s how it’s used in an Indonesian sentence:

  • Kalau tidak tidur, ngantuk.
    “If [you] don’t sleep, [you will be] sleepy.”
  • Aku tidak akan ikut kalau ada PR.
    “I’m not going to come if I have homework.”
  • Kalau presiden tetap berbohong, orang-orang tidak akan memilih dia lagi.
    “If the president keeps lying, people won’t vote for him again.”
  • Kalau kamu belajar bahasa Indonesia, kamu harus membaca buku Indonesia.
    “If you study Indonesian, you need to read Indonesian books.”

The other use for kalau is as a marker of a changed topic, something like “as for” in English.

  • Kalau Jakarta, terlalu macet.
    “If [we’re discussing] Jakarta, it’s too congested.”
  • Kalau di Bali, kamu harus pergi ke Ubud!
    “As for Bali, you’ve got to go to Ubud!”

11. Conclusion

We didn’t point it out explicitly, but you probably noticed the Indonesian way to express ownership, too: If teman is “friend,” teman saya is “friend I” or “my friend.”

If you go through some of the Indonesian lessons and resources here on IndonesianPod101.com, who knows what other patterns you’ll find? Your brain is absolutely wired to pick up on connections like this.

The only problem is, you might learn too fast and start speaking more than you can understand! Always balance your spoken or written Indonesian with lots of listening and reading.

Good thing IndonesianPod101 has everything you need in that regard, too—vocabulary lists, grammar and pronunciation guides, and even smart flashcards!

Check out the Indonesian learning materials right here and enjoy effortless Indonesian in practically no time at all!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if we’ve answered your questions today! How many of these Indonesian sentences are new to you? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Become A Pro At Using Indonesian Adverbs

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Nobody really sets out to memorize a bunch of adverbs.

It might even be the least exciting part of speech – but there must be a reason we learn them! The reason is, if you ever want to describe something with any kind of detail, you’re going to need adverbs. Indonesian adverbs are easy, and for every one you memorize, you’ll open up a world of language possibilities.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. How Do You Do It?
  2. Numbers and Amounts
  3. Why Did You Do It?
  4. How Often And When?
  5. Showing Tense
  6. A Lot Or A Little?
  7. Like This or Like That?
  8. Where Did You Put it?
  9. How Likely Is It?
  10. Conclusion

1. How Do You Do It?

Question Mark on Chalk Board

This is the classic adverb format – you modify a verb to explain how you’re doing that verb. Indonesian has two ways to do this, most of the time. You can either use an Indonesian adverb, or the word dengan “with” with the modifying word. You can also get away with using the adjective as an adverb, chances are your Indonesian audience will understand you anyway.

1- hati-hati – carefully

Jawablah hati-hati.

Answer carefully.

2- pelan-pelan – slowly

Jangan menulis pelan-pelan. (or dengan perlahan)

Don’t write slowly.

3- cepat-cepat – quickly

Dia cepat-cepat menghabiskan makanannya.

She quickly finished her food.

4- dengan baik – well


Cinta bekerja dengan baik di sini.

Cinta works well here.

5- dengan sempurnaperfectly

Saya tidak bisa menyetir dengan sempurna.

I can’t drive perfectly.

6- dengan indah – beautifully

Bapak bisa menulis dengan indah.

You, sir, can write beautifully.

7- dengan serius – seriously

Mahasiswa belajar dengan serius.

Students study seriously.

8- dengan mudah — easily

Kami memang dengan mudah.
We won easily.

9- dengan susah payah – with difficulty

Aku menyelesaikan pekerjaaanku dengan susah payah.

I finished my work with difficulty.

10- dengan sembarangan – carelessly

Dia meletakkan barang-barangnya di lantai dengan sembarangan.
He put his stuff on the floor carelessly.

11- tanpa sadar – unknowingly

Dia ditipu tanpa sadar.
She was tricked unknowingly.

12- dengan tergesa-gesa – hastily

Jangan memasak tergesa-gesa.
Do not cook hastily.

13- dengan rata (adj) – equally

Kami dibayar dengan rata.
We are paid equally.

14- dengan samar-samar – vaguely

Hal itu dideskripsikan kepadaku dengan samar-samar.
It was described to me vaguely.

15- dengan jujur – truthfully

Mengapa kamu tidak mengakui dengan jujur?
Why won’t you admit it truthfully?

16- dengan lancar – smoothly

Semuanya akan berjalan dengan lancar.
Everything’s going to go smoothly.

17- dengan senang – happily

Saya membersihkan dengan senang.
I happily clean up.

18- dengan fasih – fluently

Aku bisa berbicara bahasa Jepang dengan fasih.
I can speak Japanese fluently.

19- dengan kasar – rudely

Dia mengambil kertas dari tanganku dengan kasar.
She took the paper from my hand rudely.

20- dengan sabar — patiently

Ibu menunggu jawaban dariku dengan sabar.
Mother patiently waits for my answer.

21- dengan gelisah — anxiously

Pengacara itu mengetukkan penanya dengan gelisah.
The lawyer is tapping his pen anxiously.

2. Numbers and Amounts

Top Verbs

If the first category was “classic adverbs,” then this part should help you describe amounts and degrees to which things happen. That’s just as important!

1- sedikit – a bit

Kata-katanya membuat ayahnya sedikit tersinggung.
His words made the father feel a bit irritated.

2- banyak – a lot

Ini terlalu banyak.
This is a lot.

3- beberapa – some

Beberapa toko di mal ini sudah tutup.
Some shops in this shopping mall are closed.

4- lebih banyak – more

Kamu harus lebih banyak berolahraga. 
You have to exercise more.

5- kurang – not enough, less

Saya kurang tidur semalam.
I did not have enough sleep last night.

6- terlalu – too much

Saya terlalu banyak makan semalam.
I ate too much last night.

7- kurang lebih – more or less

Saya kurang lebih mengerti maksudmu.

I more or less understand what you mean.

8- Sekurangnya – at least

Sekurangnya telepon ibumu sebulan sekali.
At least call your mom once a month.

9- hampir – almost

Adi berumur hampir tiga belas.
Adi is almost thirteen.

10- bersama – together

Kami main sepak bola bersama.
We play football together.

11- sendiri – alone

Aku suka menonton film sendiri.
I like to watch movies alone.

12- cukup – well enough

Dia cukup pintar.
She’s pretty smart.

13- Selain – apart from

Selain membunuh, mencuri juga bisa dihukum.
Apart from murder, theft can also be punished.

14- terlepas dari – besides

Terlepas dari siapa dia, saya tidak percaya dia.
It doesn’t matter who he is, I don’t believe him.

15- hanya – only

Tiketnya hanya tersisa dua.
There are only two tickets left.

16- makin – get to become

Ibu makin khawatir.
Mother is becoming more worried.

3. Why Did You Do It?

More Essential Verbs

In Indonesian, what we know of as “conjunctions” can also fit the grammatical category of adverbs. Several of these are adverbial phrases instead of just one word.

1- jadi – therefore

Dia mau masak, jadi saya beli wortel.
She wants to cook, so I bought carrots.

2- bagaimanapun – however

Bagaimanapun, saya tidak akan lupa.
In any case, I won’t forget.

3- akan tetapi – however

Anda sudah masuk ke rumah, akan tetapi, dia mau Anda pergi.
You’ve already entered the house, however, he wants you to leave.

4- kalau-kalau – in case of

Pakai jas hujan dalam kasus hujan.
Wear a poncho in case of rain.

5- karena – because

Aku mencintaimu karena kamu cantik.
I love you because you’re beautiful.

6- sehingga – to the point that

Mohon untuk membersihkan sehingga bersih.
Please clean this until it’s sparkling.

7- untuk – in order to

Saya menggunakan pisau untuk memotong.
I use a knife in order to cut.

8- umumnya – generally

Anak-anak umumnya tidak punya pekerjaan.
Children generally don’t have jobs.

4. How Often And When?

Woman Looking at Watch

Adverbs of time are some of the most important and by far the most commonly used. Just think of when you’re talking to a delivery driver and you want to say “Are you coming now?” They’ll probably answer “Sorry, I’ll be there soon!”

1- sekarang – now

Saya mau pergi sekarang.
I want to leave now.

2- nanti – later

Jangan melakukannya nanti.
Don’t do it later.

3- dulu – before

Aku duduk dulu.
I’ll sit down first.

4- belum – not yet

Kita belum berkenalan.
We don’t know each other yet.

5- baru – recently

Saya baru datang di Amerika.
I just recently arrived in America.

6- jarang – rarely

Dia jarang makan yang pedas.
He rarely eats spicy things.

7- sering – often

Kamu sering lupa namaku.
You often forget my name.

8- sebentar – a moment

Aku tidur sebentar.
I’ll sleep for a moment.

9- biasanya – usually

Joko biasanya datang jam 11.
Joko usually comes at 11.

10- tidak pernah – never before

Kamu tidak pernah ke Solo?
You’ve never before been to Solo?

11- satu kali  – once

Hanya ke sana satu kali.
Only been there one time.

12- dua kali – twice

Aku sudah bilang dua kali.
I’ve already said it twice.

13- lagi – again

Aku tidak akan bilang lagi.
I’m not going to say it again.

14- sekali seminggu – once a week

Saya main tenis sekali seminggu.
I play tennis once a week.

15- constantly – terus-menerus

Istrinya terus-menerus belajar bahasa Spanyol.
My wife constantly studies Spanish.

16- kadangkala – sometimes

Monyet kadangkala masuk ke rumahku.
Monkeys sometimes come into my house.

17- kadang-kadang – occasionally

Aku kadang-kadang lupa kata-katanya dalam bahasa Inggris.
I occasionally forget the English words.

18- angin-anginan – inconsistently

Mengapa kamu membuat peraturan angin-anginan?
Why are you inconsistently making rules?

19- silam – ago

Itu sudah beberapa tahun silam.
That was several years ago.

20- tadi pagi – this morning

Tadi pagi ada kecelakaan di dekat stasiun kereta.
This morning there was an accident near the railway station.

21- tadi siang – this afternoon

Webinar itu sudah selesai tadi siang.
The webinar was over this afternoon.

22- kemarin – yesterday

Dia dibawa ke rumah sakit kemarin.
He was hospitalized yesterday.

23- besok – tomorrow

Kita besok akan memerlukan mobil.
We will be needing a car tomorrow.

24- hari ini – today

Hari ini kita jalan kaki saja.
Let’s just walk today.

25- … depan – next …

Tahun depan saya tidak akan tinggal di sini lagi.
Next year I will not be living here anymore.

5. Showing Tense

Indonesian doesn’t mark its verbs for tense. Instead, it uses adverbs placed in front of the verb to give a sense of time.

1- sudah – already

Kamu sudah tinggal di Jakarta?
You already live in Jakarta?

2- tadi – before now, some time in near past

Saya tadi lupa mau memberikan ini.
(I forgot) I was going to give you this.

3- akan – will, going to

Aku akan menikmati kue itu.
I’m going to enjoy this cake.

4- telah – already 

Pertunjukkan itu telah berlangsung 5 menit yang lalu.
The show started 5 minutes ago.

5- sedang – in progress

Mereka sedang membaca buku.
They’re reading books.

6- masih – still

Dia masih mencintainya.
She still loves him.

7- baru saja – just now

Dia baru saja pergi.
He left just now.

6. A Lot Or A Little?

Lots and Lots of Penguins

These are known as “intensifiers,” and they’re good companions to the ones in the “numbers and amounts” section from earlier.

1- sangat – very

Kelasnya sangat membosankan.
The class is very boring.

2- amat – very

Kelasnya membosankan amat.
The class is very boring.

3- banget – very 

Makanan Korea enak banget!
Korean food is so tasty!

4- benar-benar – truly, really

Saya benar-benar tidak mau mendorongmu.
I really don’t want to push you.

5- agak – rather

Soal matematika itu agak sulit.
That math problem is rather difficult.

6- lumayan – relatively

Mebel di sini lumayan murah.
Furniture here is relatively cheap.

7- kira-kira – roughly

Kira-kira dua ratus orang datang.
Roughly two hundred people arrived.

8- sekitar – approximately

Sekitar 34% orang Indonesia merokok.
Approximately 34% of Indonesians smoke.

7. Like This or Like That?

Here’s a secret: these five words make up a huge proportion of informal Indonesian. If you get the chance to watch Indonesians chat, try to count off all the times they say these phrases. The cultural component is huge, though, so you can’t just go in saying these words at random.

1- begini – like this

Kalau begini, harus hati-hati.
If the situation is like this, you have to be careful.

2- seperti ini – in this way

Potong rambut seperti ini.
Cut hair in this way.

3- begitu – like that

Jadi, begitu sih.
Well, it’s about like that.

4- seperti itu – in that way

Jangan lari seperti itu.
Don’t run in that way.

5- memang – indeed

Ini memang yang paling penting.
This is indeed what is most important.

8. Where Did You Put it?

Man Carrying Boxes into House

Locational adverbs are often overlooked but are of course extremely helpful whenever describing directions or distances. These adverbs are usually used with prepositions di, ke, and dari

1- di sini – here

Ada apa di sini?
What’s here?

2- di sana – there

Letakkan di sana.
Put it there.

3- ke luar negeri – abroad

Dia akan pergi ke luar negeri tahun depan.
She’s going to go abroad next year.

4- di luar negeri – abroad

Dia sedang belajar di luar negeri.
She is studying abroad.

5- di dekat sini – nearby

Apakah ada hotel bintang tiga di dekat sini?
Are there three star hotels nearby?

6- di mana-mana – everywhere

Di mana-mana ada orang yang mau dapat uang.
There are people everywhere who want to get money.

9. How Likely Is It?

Indonesians are hesitant to give direct answers when they’re even a little bit unsure. Get some practice with these!

1- Sebenarnya – actually

Sebenarnya, aku sudah lulus.
Actually, I already graduated.

2- mungkin – maybe

Mungkin kamu bisa belajar di UNY.
Maybe you can study at UNY.

3- barangkali – possibly

Barangkali ada sesuatu di dalam.
There might be something inside.

4- mungkin – probably

Ini mungkin narkoba.
These are probably drugs.

5- semoga – hopefully

Semoga kami bisa menjadi teman.
Hopefully we can become friends.

6- jangan-jangan – could it be

Jangan-jangan dia terjebak di kemacetan.
Could it be that she is stuck in a traffic jam?

7- mesti – definitely

Ini mesti milik Ibu.
This must belong to you.

8- mudah-mudahan – hopefully

Mudah-mudahan dia bisa datang.
Hopefully she can make it.

9- boleh – may

Kalau sudah mandi, kamu boleh menonton TV.
If you have already taken a shower, you can watch the TV. 

10- bukan – not (followed by nouns and other adverbs)

Kamu bukan anak-anak lagi.
You’re not a child anymore.

11- tidak – not (followed by verbs and adjectives)

Di luar tidak hujan.
It is not raining outside.

12- jangan – don’t (expressing disapproval)

Jangan duduk di lantai.
Don’t sit on the floor.

10. Conclusion

Nice job! These words will no doubt serve you well.

The absolute best way for you to review these adverbs is to wait a day or so and read through the list and example sentences again, out loud if you can. That’ll really lock the words in your memory.

For more fantastic lessons, sign up today with IndonesianPod101.com and check out more grammar and vocabulary resources right from your computer or phone! There’s never been a better or easier way to learn Indonesian.

And in the meantime, if you have any questions about Indonesian adverbs, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section. We’re always glad to help you out!

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The 100 Most Commonly Used Indonesian Verbs

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Indonesian verbs are both very different from English verbs and very easy to learn.

How can that be? Well, it turns out that Indonesian syntax is pretty close to English syntax, and the verb complications simply add extra shades of meaning—we’re not dealing with huge differences here.

Since verbs are indisputably important to everything you want to say in Indonesian, here’s a list of the most common Indonesian verbs, divided into categories based on both grammatical function and meaning.

We’re not even going to explain very much here about the grammar. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve picked up!

Ready to learn Indonesian verbs? Let’s get to it.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Warmup: Common No-Prefix Verbs
  2. Part 1: Ber- Verbs
  3. Part 2: Me- Verbs
  4. Part 3: Ter- Verbs
  5. Conclusion

1. Warmup: Common No-Prefix Verbs

Top Verbs

The majority of Indonesian verbs have prefixes that sort of guide the meaning. You’ll see more details on Indonesian verb prefixes soon, but here are some very common and important verbs that simply don’t come with prefixes at all.

1. duduk – to sit


Jangan duduk di kursiku.
“Don’t sit on my chair.”

2. ingat – to remember


Ingatlah apa yang saya akan laporkan.

“Remember what I’m going to report.”

3. masuk  – to enter


Mari, masuk!
“Welcome, enter!”

4. lupa  – to forget


Kok aku lupa membawa air.
“Oh gosh, I forgot to bring water.”

5. mulai  – to begin


Acaranya tidak akan mulai hari ini.
“The event won’t begin today.”

6. tahu  – to know


Dia tidak tahu apa pun.
“He doesn’t know anything.”

7. minum – to drink


Anda harus minum lebih banyak teh.
“You have to drink more tea.”

8. selesai – to finish


Rere belum selesai tugasnya.
“Rere hasn’t finished her work yet.”

9. tidur – to sleep


Aku akan tidur di luar.

“I’m going to sleep outside.”

10. kembali – to return


Fitri sudah lama belum kembali dari Cina.
“Fitri hasn’t come back from China for a long time.”

2. Part 1: Ber- Verbs

Woman Wearing Scarf

Verbs in Indonesian beginning with the prefix ber- are always intransitive.

Let’s start out this section on Indonesian intransitive verbs with some of the easiest to grasp. If you add ber- to concrete nouns, such as an article of clothing or a mode of transportation, it simply means “to wear or use that thing.”

11. bertopi – to wear a hat


Dia laki-laki yang bertopi.
“He’s a man with a hat.”

12. bersepeda – to go by bike


Kalau bersepeda, jam berapa kita akan sampai?
“If we go by bike, what time will we arrive?”

13. berkapal – to travel by boat (not common)

14. berkuda – to ride a horse


Saya bisa melihat tiga orang berkuda.
“I can see three people on horses.”

15. berkacamata – to wear glasses


Bapakku tidak berkacamata di rumah.
“My father doesn’t wear glasses at home.”

16. berjas – to wear a jacket


Harus berjas di restoran itu?
“Do you have to wear a jacket in that restaurant?”

17. bertubuh kurus/gemuk – to be thin/fat (literally to have a thin or fat body)


Tidak sehat bertubuh terlalu kurus.
“It’s not healthy to be too skinny.”

18. bercelana pendek – to wear shorts


Banyak orang di California bercelana pendek pada musim dingin.
“Many people in California wear shorts in the winter.”

Other ber- verbs are based on more abstract roots. There’s no good reason for why some roots can stand alone, like those in the last section, while other verbs require ber- to sound acceptable. You simply have to memorize these:

19. berubah – to change; to alter oneself


Cinta tidak berubah.
“Love does not change.”

20. berdiri – to stand


Berdiri! Jangan duduk!
“Stand up! Don’t sit!”

21. belajar – to study


Di mana Anda belajar bahasa Inggris?
“Where did you study English?”

22. berjalan – to walk


Aku lebih suka berjalan daripada naik motor.
“I like walking rather than riding a motorbike.”

23. berenang – to swim

Ibuku berenang di laut setiap hari.
“My mother swims in the ocean every morning.”

24. bekerja – to work


Orang muda tidak suka bekerja di sawah.
“Young people don’t like working in rice fields.”

25. berpikir – to think


Aku berpikir kamu tidak tahu jawabannya.
“I think you don’t know the answer.”

26. bertemu – to meet with somebody


Saya sangat senang bertemu dengan Anda.
“I’m very happy to meet with you.”

27. berbicara – to speak a language


Apakah kamu bisa berbicara bahasa Arab?
Can you speak Arabic?”

28. berlari – to run

Saya tidak bisa berlari secepat kamu.
“I can’t run as fast as you do.”

29. berarti – to mean


Kata “pisau” berarti “alat masak yang digunakan untuk memotong.”
The word ‘knife’ means ‘kitchen implement used for cutting.’”

30. bernyanyi – to sing


Apakah kamu suka bernyanyi di kamar mandi?
“Do you like to sing in the shower?”

31. berjudi – to gamble


Anak perempuan saya suka berjudi setiap akhir minggu.
“My daughter likes to gamble every weekend.”

3. Part 2: Me- Verbs

Newlyweds in Field of Flowers

Virtually all of the Indonesian language verbs in this section are transitive, but there are a few very common ones that aren’t necessarily transitive. Let’s get those out of the way first.

32. menikah – to marry


Mungkin dia tidak akan menikah.
“Maybe he won’t get married.”

33. menginap – to stay overnight


Apakah kalian sedang menginap di kota?
“Are you all staying in the city?”

34. menangis – to cry


Bayi itu mulai menangis.
“The baby started to cry.”

35. mendidih – to boil


Kalau airnya sudah mendidih, masukkan mi ke dalam panci.
“If the water is boiling, put the noodles in the pot.”

36. mendaftar – to register

Di mana gedung untuk mendaftar?

“Where is the building to register?”

As me- otherwise indicates transitivity, there are a lot of verbs we can choose from here. Let’s break it up into a few helpful topics.

By the way, in colloquial Indonesian speech, you’ll often hear these words with the m sound omitted, beginning instead with the ng– sound or without the prefix at all.

Moving Things Around

Here are some Indonesian verbs about actions in physical space. You’ll see these on signs all around Indonesia, like “push,” “pull,” and so on.

Club Sandwich

37. membuat  – to make


Saya tidak tahu bagaimana membuat sandwich.
“I don’t know how to make a sandwich.”

38. membangun – to build

Mereka sedang membangun hotel baru di pusat kota.
“They’re building a new hotel in the city center.”

39. membuka – to open


Dia membuka kotak dan melihat di dalam.
“He opened the box and looked inside.”

40. menutup – to close

Apa kamu yakin kamu sudah menutup pintu gudang baik-baik?
“Are you sure you closed the storage room door properly?”

41. mendorong – to push

Anak itu dimarahi karena mendorong temannya pada waktu pelajaran olahraga.
“That kid was scolded for pushing his friend during P.E.”

42. menarik – to pull


Di jalan ada sebuah kuda yang sedang menarik kereta.
“There’s a horse pulling a cart in the street.”

43. melemparkan – to throw

Apakah kamu bisa melemparkan bola basket?
“Can you throw a basketball?”

44. menjatuhkan – to drop


Adik menjatuhkan telur sampai pecah lagi.
“Little brother dropped and broke the eggs again.”

45. menghentikan – to stop


Apakah kamu bisa menghentikan suara itu?
“Can you stop that sound?”

46. menggeser – to slide


Kamu harus menggeser pintunya karena itu pintu geser.
“You have to slide the door because it is a sliding door.”

47. memotong – to cut

Saya kurang hati-hati dan memotong jariku.
“I wasn’t careful and I cut my finger.”

48. menyetir – to drive


Aku tidak suka menyetir mobil kecil.
“I don’t like driving small cars.”

Interacting with People and Things

More essential Verbs

Now for some slightly more abstract transitive verbs. A few of these appear mostly in respectful addresses, but in a society like Indonesia’s, there’s a lot of respectful addresses flying around.

49. menjaga – to watch


Apakah kamu mau menjaga anjingku?
“Do you want to watch my dog?”

50. mengenal – to know somebody


Mereka pasti tidak mengenal kamu.
“They definitely don’t know you.”

51. menolong – to help


Denny menolong anaknya dengan pekerjaan rumah.
“Denny helps his child with homework.”

52. mengajar – to teach


Guru mengajar anak-anak kalkulus.

The teacher teaches children calculus.”

53. memberi – to give

Rudi memberi botol air yang terakhir kepada Rina.
“Rudi gave the last bottled water to Rina.”

54. meminjam – to lend; to borrow


Setiap hari Sabtu saya meminjam sebuah buku dari perpustakaan.
“Every Saturday, I borrow a book from the library.”

55. menghormati – to honor


Hari raya itu untuk menghormati pahlawan Indonesia.
“The holiday is for honoring Indonesia’s heroes.”

56. menghargai – to appreciate; to respect


Aku menghargai persahabatan kita.
“I value our friendship.”

57. mengobrol – to chat


Mereka sedang mengobrol dan tidak bekerja.
“They’re chatting and not working.”

58. mengerti – to understand


Maaf, saya tidak mengerti.
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”

59. melaporkan – to report

Dia akan melaporkan berita secara langsung.

“She’s going to report the news live.”

60. menjelaskan – to explain

Mungkin Anda bisa menjelaskan hal ini?

“Maybe you can explain this situation?”

Spare-Time Activities

You’ve learned before how to talk about your hobbies in Indonesian. But did you discuss all of the activities on this Indonesian verbs list?

Man Writing with Typewriter

61. menulis – to write


Bapakku masih sedang menulis bukunya.
“My father is still writing his book.”

62. mengetik – to type


Seberapa cepat Anda bisa mengetik?

“How fast can you type?”

63. menonton – to watch


Apakah Anda mau menonton film baru?
“Do you want to watch the new film?”

64. mendengarkan – to listen to


Dia suka mendengarkan lagu romantis.
“He likes listening to romantic songs.”

65. mencuci – to wash


Aku harus mencuci sepatu.
“I have to wash my shoes.”

66. menggambar – to draw


Saya bisa menggambar apa saja.
“I can draw anything at all.”

67. membaca – to read


Aku belum membaca buku bapakku karena dia belum selesai menulisnya.

“I haven’t yet read my father’s book because he hasn’t finished it yet.”

68. memainkan – to play

Aku tidak bisa memainkan Fortnite malam ini.

“I can’t play Fortnite tonight.”

69. membeli – to buy


Di mana Anda membeli tas ini?
“Where did you buy this bag?”

70. menjual – to sell


Di sana ada toko yang menjual helm motor.

“There’s a shop that sells motorcycle helmets.”

71. memasak – to cook

Apakah kamu tahu bagaimana memasak mi goreng?
“Do you know how to cook fried noodles?”

72. mencium – to kiss


Aku melihat dia mencium pacarnya.
“I saw them kissing their partner.”

73. membayar – to pay

Ada diskon 50% kalau Anda membayar dengan kartu kredit.
“There is a 50% discount if you pay with credit card.”

74. mencetak – to print


Di mana saya bisa mencetak skripsi?

“Where can I print my thesis?”

75. mengecat – to paint


Kamu masih belum mengecat gedung itu, benar?
“You still haven’t painted the building, right?”

Changing Something

The –i and -kan suffixes have many meanings. Among them is a sense of changing something’s state, such as making something “clean” or “dark.”

76. mengotori – to make dirty


Kalau kamu pakai sepatu di dalam rumah, kamu akan mengotori lantai.
“If you wear shoes indoors, you’ll make the floor dirty.”

77. membersihkan – to clean up


Kapan kamu akan membersihkan kantormu?
“When are you going to clean your office?”

78. menerangi – to illuminate


Lampu menerangi jalan pada sore hari.
“The lamps light up the street in the evening.”

79. mengisi – to fill

Ibu itu mengisi kaleng bekas minyak goreng dengan tepung.
“That woman filled an empty cooking oil tin with flour.”

80. membasahi – to dampen


Hujan akan membasahi Bumi.
“The rain will wet the earth.”

81. mengeringkan – to dry


Aku akan mengeringkan pakaian dengan hairdryer.

“I’m going to dry my clothes with a hair dryer.”

82. memanaskan – to heat


Ovennya memanaskan rumah.

“The oven is heating the room.”

83. melengkapi – to complete

Rina melengkapi penampilannya dengan seulas lipstik merah.
“Rina completed her look with a stroke of red lipstick.”

84. memperbaiki – to fix; to repair


Siapa di sini bisa memperbaiki pesawat?

“Who here can fix a plane?”

If you’re interested in why some of these have an -i ending and others have a -kan ending, well, that’s a subtle distinction beyond the scope of this article. You can find many more grammar explanations on our website! Also be sure to keep on the lookout for our upcoming article on Indonesian verb conjugation!

4. Part 3: Ter- Verbs

Ter- verbs usually describe a state or an accidental action. They can also describe “having an ability,” but those verbs aren’t particularly common, so you don’t have to learn about them yet.

States of Being

Checking in at a Nice Hotel

85. terletak – to be located


Hotel Matahari terletak di pusat kota Jakarta.
“The Matahari Hotel is located in the center of Jakarta.”

86. terbuat – to be made of


Pintu terbuat dari kaca.

“The door is made of glass.”

87. terbatas – to be limited


Waktu untuk mendaftar terbatas.
“The time for registration is limited.”

88. terbuka – to be open


Pintu terbuka dan kucing keluar.
“The door opened and the cat went out.”

89. tersedia – to be available


Sarapan Barat tersedia setiap hari.
“A Western breakfast is available everyday.”

90. tersebut – to be mentioned


Hukum tersebut tidak adil.

“The aforementioned law is not fair.”

91. terhormat – to be honored


Wakil yang terhormat, mohon untuk duduk.
“Honored representative, please sit.”

92. terkenal – to be known


Dia terkenal di negara Asia Tenggara.
“He is well-known in Southeast Asian countries.”

93. tertarik – to be interested


Aku tidak tertarik dengan sejarah.
“I’m not interested in history.”

Oops, accident!

Negative Verbs

In English, passive verbs are used for both accidental and intentional actions. In Indonesian, they work differently. 

You can take any one of the hundreds of men- verbs and change the affix to di– to indicate the passive voice. But if you change it to ter– instead, it usually picks up the meaning of “doing something unintentionally.” Let’s have a look.

94. tertidur – to doze off


Mengapa kamu selalu tertidur dalam kelas?

“Why do you always fall asleep in class?”

95. terkejut – to be startled


Aku terkejut waktu aku melihat laba-laba itu.
“I was startled when I saw the spider.”

96. terjadi – to happen


Apa yang akan terjadi kalau dia tidak datang?
“What will happen if she doesn’t arrive?”

97. tertabrak – to crash


Motor tertabrak dengan truk.
“A motorcycle crashed into a truck.”

98. terjatuh – to fall


Gelas terjatuh dari meja.
“The glass fell from the table.”

99. tersenyum – to smile


Dia tersenyum pelan-pelan.
“She smiled slowly.”

100. tertawa – to laugh


Mereka semua tertawa.
“They all laughed.”

5. Conclusion 

What a list! Congratulations, you’re one hundred verbs richer! And beyond that, if you read through the whole list, you’ve also read the equivalent of several pages of Indonesian text from the example sentences alone.

If you’re comfortable with Indonesian pronunciation, you could go back and read some of your favorite ones aloud. That would stick them in your mind much better than just passively absorbing them through text would!

No matter how long our lists of verbs are, though, it’s not the same as experiencing the full language. For that, you’ll need an audio or video program like IndonesianPod101, where you can get your hands on tons of fascinating, instructive Indonesian content.

You’ll probably even find verbs that aren’t on this list!

Before you go, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you have in the comments section. Are there any verbs you still want to know? We look forward to hearing from you!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Indonesian

Your Complete Guide to the World of Indonesian Pronouns

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Is Indonesian easy or hard?

Both.

It’s hard because the structure and organization of the language is quite different from that of English or other European languages.

But it’s easy because you don’t have to remember a lot of complicated rules—you can pick up most of the differences just by looking at examples.

Take Indonesian pronouns for example. You can actually get further in Indonesian without pronouns than you might imagine. When people talk to you, though, this is something you’ve really got to know.

And Indonsian language pronouns are different from those in English, by a wide margin.

 Is that going to be hard? Only one way to find out.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. The Standard Indonesian Personal Pronouns
  2. Using Ordinary Words as Personal Pronouns
  3. Using Pronouns as Affixes
  4. This, That, and the Other
  5. Question Words
  6. Yours and Mine
  7. Conclusion

1. The Standard Indonesian Personal Pronouns

Introducing Yourself

All right, Indonesian personal pronouns is the trickiest part, and we’re going to jump right in. There are a lot of pronouns in Indonesian. Not quite as many as, say, Vietnamese or Korean, but it’s a whole different ball game compared to English.

The first personal pronoun that everybody learns is saya. Now, Indonesian pronouns don’t change according to the case, so there’s no difference between “I” and “me.” Saya does the trick every time.

  • Saya dari Melbourne.

“I’m from Melbourne.”

  • Mau pergi dengan saya?

“Want to go with me?”

Saya is slightly formal, but really quite neutral in tone. It would definitely sound weird for Indonesian kids or close friends to say it when talking to one another, but you’ll very often hear it on TV shows or in real-life situations when the conversation partners have some distance between them.

The informal version of saya is aku. You’ll hear this all the time in media as well, and if you become friends with Indonesians, you’ll be able to beraku, or “use aku in speech” with them pretty soon.

  • Aku tidak tahu.

“I don’t know.”

The formal second-person pronoun is Anda. This is actually the only one that’s always capitalized.

  • Apakah Anda punya mobil?

Do you have a car?”

Silver Car

The informal version is kamu. Many times, it will be truncated to kau in writing and speech. This is also the short form of engkau, a literary or poetic form not often used in speech.

  • Masa itu, kau belum tahu aku sudah tinggal di Jakarta.

“At that time, you didn’t yet know that I was living in Jakarta.”

Some learning resources will pair saya and Anda, and aku and kamu, but others will mix saya and kamu. Go with what you’re hearing other people use in real life, and be prepared to be flexible!

 The third-person pronoun is relatively simple: in most cases, it’s dia for people of all genders.

  • Dia sudah makan belum?

“Has he/she eaten yet?”

Only in particularly formal contexts would you use beliau as a third-person pronoun. It’s used for talking about people whom you respect greatly, like a public figure.

  • Saat itu, beliau belum menjadi presiden.

“At that time, he/she had not yet become the president.”

In writing, you’ll also see the form ia. This is actually quite an old word, and it can only be used as the subject of a sentence, never the object. Dia used to be the object form, but nowadays it’s used as both subject and object.

 We’re nearly through! Now we have the plural pronouns to think about.

For first-person pronouns, Indonesian distinguishes between inclusive plural (you and me) and exclusive plural (me and somebody else but not you). Kita is the inclusive word, and kami is the exclusive. Since English doesn’t make this distinction, be careful to understand the nuances when you see a translation!

  • Ayo kita pulang sekarang.

“Let’s (including you) go home now.”

  • Kita ada acara hari ini.

“We (including you) have an event tonight.”

  • Kami akan bertemu denganmu besok.

“We’ll meet with you tomorrow.”

  • Kami akan berangkat dulu.

“We’ll (not you) head out first.”

The second-person plural form is kalian, and the third-person is mereka. No extra levels of formality here!

  • Kalian mau makan apa hari ini?

“What do you all want to eat today?”

  • Mereka lahir di Surabaya.

“They were born in Surabaya.”

Although many people still disapprove, mereka is being used more and more to refer to animals. Before, the tradition when referring to animals was to omit pronouns entirely or simply use the actual noun.

2. Using Ordinary Words as Personal Pronouns

Don’t worry, it’s not like every word in Indonesian is going to turn into a pronoun on you. Only a few of them!

The words ibu, or “mother,” and bapak, or “father,” are usually shortened to bu and pak. Then they get used as the second-person (and sometimes the first-person) pronoun when you’re speaking to someone who’s older than you and/or in a higher position. For example, this could be an immigration officer, an administrator, or a friend’s parents.

  • Apakah sudah melihat emailnya, Pak?

“Have you seen the email already, sir?”

This, then, is the most common way for people to speak formally, instead of using saya and Anda with everybody.

When young people talk with people their own age in a polite context, with restaurant employees for example, they’ll use a different set. Here, mas refers to men and mbak refers to women.

  • Permisi Aas, minta air putih.

“Excuse me sir, some water please.”

Calling Waiter’s Attention

You’ll note that mb at the start of a word is a pretty unusual sound combination. These words are actually borrowed from the Javanese language.

Although people might not use them in some of Indonesia’s more far-flung islands, they’ll be understood everywhere. Kakak is a gender-neutral version, seen most everywhere shortened to kak.

  • Permisi Kak, sudah selesai?

“Excuse me, are you already finished?”

And did you know that Indonesians even borrow pronouns from other languages?

In Jakarta slang (which is very popular on TV), the most informal pronouns are gue for “I” and lu for “you.” These actually come from Hokkien, a Chinese language spoken by the first Chinese immigrants to Indonesia and Malaysia. Since they’re so informal and unstandardized, you’ll also see them written as gua/wa and lo/lue.

 Also borrowed from Chinese are koko and cici, the equivalents of mas and mbak in Jakarta. These meant “older brother” and “older sister” in Hokkien, and so the feelings of societal standing continue into Indonesian.

  • Maaf ya Cici, gua nggak lihat lu.

“Sorry miss, I didn’t see you there.”

The English translations of these phrases can sound a little stilted. That’s because in Indonesian, the pronoun is used far more than in English. This creates a feeling of respect and politeness, and if you don’t use the pronoun as much, you might be seen as a little bit rude.

Indonesian has no special forms for object or possessive pronouns. As for reflexive pronouns, there’s just one: sendiri.

You can add sendiri after any pronoun to include the specific meaning “that person and nobody else,” or to add emphasis like we do in English.

  • Dia sendiri membuat kuenya.

“She herself made the cake.”

3. Using Pronouns as Affixes

Fitting Puzzle Pieces Together

An affix can show up in Indonesian as either a prefix (before a word), suffix (after a word), or circumfix (both before and after a word).

In informal Indonesian, you can attach aku to tons of words as the suffix -ku, and kamu as the suffix –mu.

  • Mau pergi denganku?

“Want to go with me?”

  • Jangan berbicara dengan anakku.

“Don’t talk to my child.”

  • Apakah itu tasmu?

“Is that your bag?”

  • Ayo kita naik mobilmu.

“Let’s go in your car.”

You can also attach ku as a prefix to various verbs. This usage is a little tricky—you won’t see it in every novel, but it does appear in some poetic or old-fashioned writing

However, it’s certainly not formal enough to show up in speech. As a foreigner, you’re unlikely to hear it in conversation unless you’re already used to shooting the breeze with Indonesian friends.

  • Dia masih belum kutemukan.

“He still hasn’t found me.”

  • Nanti kujelaskan.

“Later on I’ll explain.”

How about kamu? As a prefix, it takes the form kau-. This is used less commonly these days, as most people tend to simply use the independent form instead of the prefix.

  • Beritahu aku apa yang kaulihat.

“Tell me what you see.”

4. This, That, and the Other

Just like English, Indonesian distinguishes object pronouns by distance from the speaker. Ini corresponds to “this” and itu corresponds to “that.”

  • Itu desa tempat bapakku lahir.

“That’s the village where my father was born.”

  • Apakah ini rusak?

“Is this broken?”

You might think that these words would get reduced in fast speech, but actually that almost never happens. They stay ini and itu instead of being shortened to ni and tu.

We just talked about attaching pronouns to words, and we can sort of do the same thing with ini and itu. However, the form changes drastically.

  • Di meja ada mangkuk hitam. Mangkuk itu milik kakek saya.

“There’s a black bowl on the table. The bowl belongs to my grandfather.”

This particular usage of the -nya suffix and the pronouns ini/itu are the closest thing Indonesian has to definite articles. They point out references to exact things in the world so that we know which bowl we’re talking about.

5. Question Words

Basic Questions

Indonesian has the same question words as English does. Check it out:

apa – what

  • Apa yang sedang kamu lakukan?

“What are you doing?”

di mana – where

This literally means “at which.” Di is one of the most commonly used prepositions, and in fact, it combines with many more words to form the other prepositions. As a set phrase, though, it takes on the meaning of “where.”

  • Di mana orang tuamu?

“Where are your parents?”

siapawho

  • Siapa yang sedang mengobrol di luar?

“Who’s chatting outside?”

So why have we introduced question words here in this article about pronouns? Because in English, we use them as relative pronouns: “That’s the place where I was born.” “I don’t like what he’s doing.” “She’s the person who is most important here.”

In Indonesian, though, we have to use the relative marker yang for some of these. It’s complicated to actually explain how yang works, but with a few examples you’ll pick it right up, guaranteed.

  • Itu tempat  saya dilahirkan.

“That’s the place where I was born.”

  • Aku tidak suka dengan apa yang dia sedang lakukan.

“I don’t like what he’s doing.”

  • Dia adalah orang yang paling penting di sini.

“She’s the person who’s most important here.”  

Let’s look at a few more examples that are often translated with the English relative pronoun “that.”

  • Ini kotak yang saya perlu.

“This is the box that I need.”

  • Ayo makan di resto yang baru dibuka.

“Let’s go eat at the restaurant that was just opened.”

6. Yours and Mine

Kids Eating Ice Cream

Talking about possession in Indonesian can be easy or hard, based on how you look at it. On the one hand, it’s easy because you don’t have to change many words. On the other hand, it’s hard because you often have to rely on the context to tell you the relationship between things and their owners.

To cut a long explanation short, there are no Indonesian possessive pronouns like “yours” or “mine.” Here’s how we express that concept anyway.

We can say the noun again:

  • Motor keren itu motor saya.

“The cool motorbike is mine.”

Or we can use the words kepunyaan (belonging to) and milik (property):

  • Kamera yang paling besar kepunyaan jurnalis yang paling penting.

“The biggest camera belongs to the most important journalist.”

  • Dompetnya milik dia.

“The wallet belongs to him.” (Literally: “Wallet [is] property he.”)

7. Conclusion

Improve Listening

In a grammar-heavy article like this one, you can easily get confused.

That’s why Indonesian in particular is a great language to read lots of examples about. Don’t rack your brains trying to get your mind around which pronouns can be used when; read the example sentences and intuit it yourself.

That natural acquisition process ends up working really well. If, at the end of this article, you’re feeling like you’re ready to take the next step, check out the lessons right here on IndonesianPod101. They’re full of clear explanations with real Indonesians providing examples.

It won’t be long at all before this stuff comes totally naturally to you!

Happy Indonesian learning! 🙂

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