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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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Your Entryway To Indonesian Culture

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Anybody who’s visited Indonesia knows that the country is big on culture.

From traditional handicrafts and performances to pariwisata budaya (“cultural tourism”), Indonesians enjoy sharing their culture with a world that’s usually all too eager to overlook its multicolored facets.

How well do you know Indonesian culture? If your answer is “not at all,” this lesson is for you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Values and Beliefs
  2. Philosophies and Religions
  3. The Indonesian Family
  4. Indonesian Art
  5. Indonesian Food
  6. Traditional Holidays
  7. Conclusion

1. Values and Beliefs

Two Indonesian Children Waving Indonesian Flags for Independence Day

“Unity in Diversity.”

That’s the English translation of the old Javanese phrase Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, the official motto of the Republic of Indonesia.

Literally translated, that phrase means “[From] many, remains one.”

Indonesia is a young country, having just achieved its independence from Japan (and later the Netherlands) in the mid-twentieth century. The popular historical narrative is that Sukarno (like many Indonesians, he has only one name) and his government unified the country and stoked the fires of nationalism for the benefit of everyone.

How, though, does one unify a country with hundreds of millions of people across tens of thousands of islands?

Sukarno was working with roughly the same borders that were established in colonial times, when British-held Malaysia was separated from Dutch-held Indonesia. These borders stretched from the island of Aceh in the east all the way across Java, Sumatra, Bali, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi, reaching Papua.

Throughout Indonesia, cultural diversity is fairly prominent and lends the country much of its richness. Today, different islands do have different dominant cultures, but the country is still remarkably unified despite the occasional separatist movement. 

This is possible through a culture of tolerance and santai (“relaxation”), where most Indonesians believe it’s not their prerogative to look too closely into the affairs of others. Although there are differences in ideologies that spring up, Indonesians tend to allow people to believe and practice as they wish.

To that end, and also because Indonesia is still a developing country, there is a lot of individual freedom and an assumption that people will generally follow the rules. Although there exists policing and bureaucracy, the streets are hardly patrolled and informal arrangements (distinct from bribes!) keep people happy when dealing with each other.


2. Philosophies and Religions

An Indonesian Mosque

A huge chunk of understanding Indonesian culture rests in learning about the country’s approach to religion. 

It’s impossible to discuss religion in Indonesia without mentioning more history. Traders from Africa and the Middle East knew the Malay Archipelago as a land rich in spices and tropical crops, and they brought with them the religion of Islam.

Today, Islam is by far the dominant religion nationwide, with hundreds of millions of devout followers.

Most restaurants are halal by default, and it’s impossible to avoid the beautiful cry of the azan (“prayer call”) five times a day. Women tend to cover their hair with hijabs or jilbab, a garment typical of Indonesian Islam that reaches down to the midriff.

Although it may be surprising based on the population numbers, the government recognizes several religions as official. In Bali, for instance, Hinduism is much more prominant than Islam, and most people there worship at traditional temples. In addition to Islam and Hinduism, the other official religions are Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Judaism is considered a foreign curiosity, and atheism is neither widespread nor particularly liked. Atheist travelers to Indonesia can avoid uncomfortable comments if they “adopt” one of the official religions if asked about it.

These religions really do co-exist in a very visible way. In Yogyakarta, a predominantly Muslim area in Central Java, there are Christian and Islamic universities literally across the street from one another, and tourists flock an hour or two away from the city to visit Hindu temples at Borobudur.

3. The Indonesian Family

You can’t discuss culture without touching on notions of family, no matter where you are in the world. This is an area where Indonesian culture and traditions really shine through—even into the language itself!

Indonesians tend to have relatively large families. For example, three or four children may be living with their parents and a few members of their extended family. They don’t tend to move that far from home, though the economic draw of big cities has made it quite tempting to do just that. Generally, though, in today’s Indonesia you meet people who live in the same general area that their grandparents did.

Indonesian people believe in a collective family concept. This means that your actions, whether good or bad, reflect on your family. A deadbeat dropout is going to bring shame to their brothers, sisters, and cousins, while a fresh graduate in a technical field is going to be the pride of all the family members.

The closeness of the family is even noticeable in the Indonesian language! It’s correct and good Indonesian to address strangers as Bu (“mother”), Pak (“father”), Mas (“brother”), Kak (“sister”), and more. Listen closely in stores and restaurants and you’ll hear Indonesians saying these family member terms constantly, even to learners like yourself!

4. Indonesian Art

Sarongs Designed with Indonesian Batik Patterns

Unfortunately, Indonesian art has not been recognized on the world stage nearly as much as it should be. Beyond tourists bringing back the occasional souvenir from Bali, most people would be hard-pressed to name a single Indonesian actor, singer, painter, or poet.

This is all the more shameful because Indonesians love their own art.

Traditional shows such as wayang (“shadow puppet”) operas can last for hours and bring huge crowds of spectators, and any Indonesian university student has had the chance to attend a traditional gamelan class where gongs and bells are played in a choir.

Handicrafts such as batik fabric are visible throughout the archipelago as well. Batik is a method of coloring cloth by painting elaborate designs with hot wax before dyeing the cloth in such a way that the wax protects the designs. Many shops specialize purely in batik designs, boasting two or three floors of batik shopping space! Indonesians even have a special holiday dedicated to displaying batik designs through fashion shows and parades. 

If you ever get the chance to hang out in a city with a large population of young adults, you’ll definitely see someone break out the guitar at some point. Indonesians love music, and even though they prefer to sing American pop hits nowadays, Indonesian artists of all types exist and thrive.

There’s even a special genre of pounding dance music called dangdut, similar to trance or Mexican banda music. This type of music is ubiquitous in smaller restaurants and shops.

5. Indonesian Food

Indonesian Satay Dish with Veggies and Dipping Sauce

Indonesian culture and food go hand in hand. We’re actually coming out with an article specifically about this topic, so we won’t reveal too much here.

Indonesian food can be characterized as manis, gurih, pedas, and goreng—sweet, savory, spicy, and fried.

Street food is everywhere, especially at night. You’ll find fried bananas (pisang goreng), barbecue skewers (sate), filled thick pancakes (martabak manis), and even a type of savory tapioca ball in spicy peanut sauce known as cilok.

Thanks to Indonesia’s embrace of internationalism, it’s easy to find good food from all around the world.

Chinese immigrants to Indonesia centuries ago laid the groundwork for a particular type of Chinese-Indonesian fusion food stemming from the southern provinces of Canton and Hokkien. It’s sweet, but without the thick sauces found in Chinese restaurants in the United States or Europe.

In the malls and shopping centers, you’ll easily find upscale restaurants serving Thai, Korean, and Japanese food, plus of course European and American food. Unfortunately for world cuisine lovers, outside of the biggest cities it’s nearly impossible to find foreign restaurants actually run by foreigners.

Food in restaurants is usually eaten with utensils, rarely with chopsticks or with the hands. Generally, each person orders their own plate for the meal instead of eating family-style.


6. Traditional Holidays

An Indonesian Child Holding an Indonesian Flag on Independence Day

The two biggest holidays each year are New Year’s Day on January 1 and Indonesian Independence Day on August 17, during which public businesses are closed and anybody with fireworks sets them off.

Independence Day, or Hari Kemerdekaan, is observed with a flag celebration in the morning and traditional games all day for children and adults alike. Indonesians tend to be fairly patriotic, and as August 17 approaches, the red-and-white flags come out in greater and greater numbers.

Of course, the holiday that can’t be ignored is Ramadan, the annual holy month of the Islamic calendar. Since it doesn’t follow the “standard” calendar exactly, Ramadan is on a slightly different date every year.

During this month, it is forbidden for Muslims to eat or drink at all during the hours from sunrise to sunset. In comparison to normal days, you hear significantly more prayer calls and see a lot more social activity in the evenings. The fasting is a little easier for Muslims in Indonesia since the country is located at the equator, meaning days only last about twelve hours no matter what time of year it is!

7. Conclusion

If this page got you even more interested in Indonesian culture, you’ve come to the right website.

Learning Indonesian with IndonesianPod101 is an excellent way to get exposed to Indonesian culture. We provide cultural notes in each podcast episode as well as special culture-related articles on our blog.

Culture, after all, is really just what any group of people have collectively agreed upon as “normal.” By slowly immersing yourself into real-life Indonesian, you’ll get more and more used to what Indonesians think, say, and feel over time.

Mastering the Indonesian language is one thing, but using it in a culturally correct way is a whole other step. As you learn Indonesian, make sure to do so using a holistic, well-rounded platform like IndonesianPod101.com.

How does the culture of Indonesia compare with your country’s culture? Let us know in the comments!

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Kartini Day: Celebrating an Indonesian Woman’s Dream

Around the globe, the 18th-20th centuries saw much initial progress toward women’s rights and gender equality. In the United States and Europe, names such as Sojourner Truth, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton often come to mind when discussing these topics. But in Indonesia, the most commended name in this regard is R.A. Kartini

In this article, you’ll learn more about this incredible woman and her namesake holiday, Kartini Day.

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1. What is Kartini Day?

A Sketch Drawing of Kartini

Kartini Day is an Indonesian holiday first officially celebrated in 1964, established by the first Indonesian president Sukarno. It takes place each year on April 21, the birthdate of Raden Adjeng Kartini (fondly referred to as Ibu Kartini or Mother Kartini). 

On this day, Indonesians commemorate the life of Kartini and celebrate the strides she made toward the emansipasi (emancipation) of women in the country. To give you some background…

Indonesian women during this period had very limited rights; only a few were able to get a good education, and all were expected to marry. Girls of reputable families were required to endure a period of isolation upon turning twelve years old, during which they were forbidden from leaving the home until they were wed. Polygamy was the norm during this time and most marriages were pre-arranged. 

Who is Kartini?

R.A. Kartini was born in 1879 to a wealthy and powerful family in Java. 

Due to the status of her family and the academic blood that ran through their veins, Kartini was fortunate in being able to attain a basic education. But once she reached the age of twelve, Kartini began her period of isolation. She bided her time in self-education, reading a variety of material and writing letters to her Dutch friends (as she had already learned the Dutch language). Her reading and letter conversations introduced her to concepts of feminism, female empowerment, and gender equality, which she took to heart and implemented into her later life. 

In 1903, Kartini was wed to a regency chief named Joyodiningrat, who had three wives already. Her husband allowed her to open a school for girls, which she ran herself until her early death in 1904 following the birth of her first child. She was only 25 years old, yet in her short life, she managed to not only make a name for herself but also to raise the social status of Indonesian women and highlight key issues regarding gender inequality. 

Even today, the biography of Kartini inspires Indonesian women and women around the world. 


2. Kartini Day Celebrations

An Indonesian Woman Wearing a Traditional Kebaya

Kartini Day is largely a time of celebrating and promoting women’s rights and female empowerment. Because this means different things to different people, there are many ways that Indonesians celebrate Kartini Day. 

One key component you should note is that women wear pakaian adat tradisional (traditional costumes) on this day. The two items most often worn include the selendang (a type of shawl) and the kebaya (an embroidered blouse-dress). Some men also choose to dress in traditional costume on this day, wearing batik (a special type of fabric design native to Indonesia). 

In addition, there are many Kartini Day activities taking place all over Indonesia, with competitions being particularly popular. For example, there’s the lomba memasak (cooking contest), during which mother-daughter teams work to cook the best meal. There are also fashion shows, makeup competitions, and drawing contests. 

On Kartini Day, Indonesian school teachers may encourage their male students to show appreciation toward their female classmates; in addition, they may give special lessons about Kartini. 


3. From Darkness Into Light

Kartini’s days of letter-writing played a significant role in her life and helped to shape her worldview. Her letter exchanges with friends and family are considered so inseparable from her story that they were actually compiled into a book. 

This book is called From Darkness Into Light, and it was published by Mr. J.H. Abendanon in 1911, just a few short years following Kartini’s death. An English translation was produced by Agnes L. Symmers later on. 

4. Essential Vocabulary to Know for Kartini Day

Several Pieces of Indonesian Batik Fabric

Want to impress your Indonesian friends with your relevant vocabulary knowledge on Kartini Day? Here are some of the words from this article, plus a few more:

  • Festival (Festival) – noun
  • Selendang (Selendang) – noun
  • Kebaya (Kebaya) – noun
  • Batik (Batik) – noun
  • Pakaian adat tradisional (Traditional costumes) – phrase
  • Emansipasi (Emancipation) – noun
  • Peragaan busana (Fashion show) – phrase
  • Kompetisi (Competition) – noun
  • Lomba memasak (Cooking contest) – phrase
  • Lomba merias (Makeup contest) – phrase
  • Lomba menggambar (Drawing competition) – phrase

Make sure to visit our Kartini Day vocabulary list to hear and practice along with the pronunciation of each word! 

Final Thoughts

Kartini, often labeled the first Indonesian feminist, is considered a national hero and it’s not hard to see why. She had the courage and determination to go against the grind, using her insight, intellect, and vision to help Java and Indonesia take positive first steps toward female empowerment and gender equality. 

We hope you enjoyed learning about Kartini Day with us, and that you walk away from this article with a better understanding of Indonesian culture. 

Who are the most prominent female figures in your nation’s history? Have any of them inspired you? How so? We always love hearing your thoughts! 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more great content from IndonesianPod101, have a look at the following articles: 

Finally, make sure to create your free lifetime account today so you can access even more fun and practical Indonesian language learning content! 

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Fill Your Stomach (And Your Brain) With Indonesian Food

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When you travel to a foreign country for the first time, one of the main attractions is the restaurants. Even if you start with something familiar like a fast-food chain, foreign restaurants always have something intangibly different about them.

That makes them excellent places to practice your language skills.

Besides satisfying your cravings, ordering food in a foreign language is the perfect hurdle to clear on your way toward proficiency. It’s authentic language usage, but in a small and controlled environment where you can be forgiven for making mistakes.

In this article, you’ll learn about the many tasty Indonesian foods on offer, as well as some practical restaurant phrases to help you get by.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. What is Indonesian Food Like?
  2. Must-Try Dishes in Indonesian Restaurants
  3. Unique Indonesian Food
  4. Food-Related Vocabulary
  5. Bonus: Simple Recipes to Make Authentic Indonesian Food at Home
  6. Conclusion

1. What is Indonesian Food Like?

Indonesian Nasi Campur Dish

Unless you’ve looked out for one, you’ve probably never seen an Indonesian restaurant. Although there are tens of thousands of Indonesians living outside Indonesia, they don’t tend to open up restaurants. Whatever the reasons may be for that, it just makes the experience all the better when you actually get to one.

Indonesian food is, of course, quite diverse, as the culture of each province can differ significantly throughout the archipelago. In this article, we’ll focus largely on the food found in the most populous cities of Java, the most populous of the islands.

Generally speaking, Indonesians like spicy food with rice and vegetables, often without any additional sauce and frequently fried.

In the largest cities, you can find a wide range of restaurants catering to any budget size. The smallest places are called warungs, and they tend to be quick counter-serve restaurants with similar menus and few house specialties (if any).

Moving one step up, you’ll find larger rumah makan, or restaurants serving their own specialties made with a bit more creativity than warungs offer. That’s not a mark against the tastiness of food from a warung, mind you!

Finally, the nicest restaurants are in the downtown areas or in the malls. These are often part of chains, and some offer food from around Asia. It’s easy to find excellent Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai food all in the same food court.

But let’s imagine you’re in a highly recommended rumah makan. What can you expect from authentic Indonesian cuisine? What’s on the menu?

2. Must-Try Dishes in Indonesian Restaurants

Indonesian Nasi Goreng Dish

If your chef comes from Central Java, they’ll probably be including gudeg on the menu. This is the classic dish of the city of Yogyakarta, and it’s made with slow-simmered jackfruit and coconut milk to create a rich and creamy stew. It definitely takes quite some time to cook, but they say it’s part of the Javanese outlook on life.

Another slow-cooked dish is rendang, a dry curry. First you take some tender beef and boil it in a coconut milk curry—and then you keep boiling it until the curry dries into a paste. Then it gets fried, and the outcome is a perfectly tender and spicy rendang.

Next is a spicy salad with peanut sauce known as gado-gado. Peanuts actually aren’t particularly common in Indonesian cooking (they’re much more associated with Thai cooking), and neither are salads. That doesn’t stop gado-gado from being a very filling, very spicy, and very nutritious meal!

Most people know about something called satay, which is pretty widely known in Southeast Asian cooking as a Malaysian dish. It can be spicy or sweet, and you can get it with beef (sate sapi) or goat (sate kambing). Also note that it’s spelled sate in Indonesian.

Finally, nasi goreng literally translates to “fried rice.” This Indonesian rice dish is different from traditional Chinese fried rice because of the spices used and how it usually doesn’t include as many vegetables. You can always tell a plate of nasi goreng from other fried rice because it’s patted into a sort of ball and sprinkled with fried shallots.

3. Unique Indonesian Food

Jus Alpukat, Indonesia’s Avocado Juice

The foods mentioned above are definitely staples of the Indonesian diet, but they can often be found in Singapore or Malaysia as well. As it happens, there are also plenty of beloved foods in Indonesia that can really only be had in-country.

First among these is an unassuming jus alpukat, literally “avocado juice.” Since avocados are naturally creamy, it ends up being more of a milkshake than a juice. The secret to an excellent jus alpukat is to add a bit of sugar, a bit of cream, and to drizzle the inside of the cup with chocolate syrup before adding the blended avocado.

Next up is martabak, a classic late-night food to be had while cruising the streets on your motorbike. Anybody who’s spent time in the Middle East might be familiar with this crepe-like folded pancake, but in Indonesia it takes on a new twist. Typical for Indonesia, this traditionally savory dish is turned into a sweet one. You can often tell a martabak stall from other snack stalls by the cans of condensed milk stacked up to the ceiling!

Indomie is a beloved instant noodle brand that, fortunately, can be found around the world, even where there are no Indonesian restaurants for miles. It’s a staple in small warungs, where the noodles are boiled for moments before being flash-fried into a savory and crunchy dish.

Last on the list is ayam geprek, a twist on fried chicken that’s popular among university students for its convenience. It’s a breaded chicken breast beaten to a pulp with peppers mixed in, easy to eat as finger food and easy to share with friends!

4. Food-Related Vocabulary

A Red Chili Pepper

Now that you’re all ready to eat, it’s time to learn exactly what to say throughout the course of your restaurant visit.

First off, you should be able to easily ask about whether the food you want is spicy or sweet. To call a waiter over, you’ll use the word permisi, so let’s start there.

  • Permisi, apakah ayamnya manis? / “Excuse me, is the chicken sweet?”

Indonesian food is often rather manis, but foreigners don’t usually mind. What they mind a lot more is pedas (“spicy”). Cooks and waiters may try to hit you with a fast and short phrase:

  • Mau pedas nggak? / “Do you want it spicy?”

Or they may simply say:

  • Berapa cabe? / “How many peppers?”

Indonesian spices are different from the more international Mexican or Chinese spices, so tread carefully!

Indonesia is a country with several different religions and cultures co-existing, especially between the mostly Muslim island of Java and the mostly Hindu island of Bali. Everyone is familiar with some kind of dietary restriction or another, so feel free to ask:

  • Apakah ini ada sapi/babi? / “Does this have beef/pork?”

Finally, after you’ve eaten your fill, feel free to compliment the chef.

  • Enak sekali, Bu/Pak! / “It was delicious, ma’am/sir!”

5. Bonus: Simple Recipes to Make Authentic Indonesian Food at Home

A Woman Chopping Vegetables

No plans to travel to Indonesia soon? You can still experience something quite close to real Indonesian cuisine at home with these fast recipes.

    → Don’t forget to see our vocabulary list on Cooking for some useful everyday words!

A- How to Make Indomie Sosis

You can order it online or find it in an Asian grocery store, but just make sure you get the mi goreng (“fried noodles”) flavor of Indomie. As a bonus, the packages all have instructions in Indonesian!

First, cook the noodles. Instant noodles cook fast (that’s the point) but you have to be careful not to let them soak up too much water. When they’re about half-cooked, take them out, let them dry a moment, and immediately put them into some hot oil for frying.

As they’re cooking, add the sauce packet from the Indomie packet so that the noodles get cooked in the oil and the kecap (sweet soy sauce).

Next, put the powdered flavoring at the bottom of an empty bowl and add the noodles on top. Layer on a fried egg (telur) or hot dog (sosis), and now you’ve got the perfect warung snack!

B- How to Make Ayam Geprek

This crispy chicken dish is both unique and extremely simple.

First, create an egg and flour batter for a chicken breast and deep-fry it to your own taste. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the batter for extra flavor, and make it a relatively thick breading, too.

Then put a couple of fresh or pickled chili peppers in a mortar and pestle, place the freshly fried chicken on top of them, and beat it to a pulp. The breading will break apart, and the chili juices will flavor both the breading and the white meat.

Be careful, though. If you’re using actual Indonesian peppers, this can be an extremely potent dish. Many foreigners start with just half a pepper and work their way up.    

6. Conclusion    

Of course, there’s a lot more to the Indonesian language than just food words.

With IndonesianPod101, you can start from scratch and build up a seriously impressive knowledge of the Indonesian language and culture in just one place.

You can start out with beginner articles and podcast lessons, and follow the track of study all the way up to lengthier texts and authentic conversation videos. It’s all here, and it’s all ready for you to learn with.

Start today and be totally prepared for your next visit to an Indonesian restaurant!

Which Indonesian food are you most excited to try, and why? Let us know in the comments!

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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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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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