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Indonesian Animal Words: The Ultimate Vocabulary List

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We’ve all heard of the island of Bali in Indonesia.

It’s one of the world’s most exotic travel destinations. The beaches, nature, and greenness are heavenly, and this imagery is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of “Indonesia.”

Another fascinating component of Bali is its fauna, with the Komodo dragon being its most famous species. The dragon has been named the largest lizard, and the deadly venom in its saliva makes it one of the most lethal predators in the world.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to Indonesian animal words that will help you talk about the variety of unique animals that live in Indonesia as well as the most common animals abroad. Orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Bali starlings…these animals, and many more, will make for an appealing conversation topic during your next trip to Indonesia. 

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. At Home (Pets)
  2. On the Farm (Farm Animals)
  3. In the Wild / Forest / Safari (Land Animals)
  4. In the Ocean (Aquatic / Marine Animals)
  5. Bugs and Insects
  6. Birds
  7. Reptiles & Amphibians
  8. Animal Body Parts
  9. Animal-Related Idioms and Slang Expressions
  10. Conclusion

1. At Home (Pets)

Woman Petting Dog

Raising pets is not as common in Indonesia as it is in the West. Housepets are an expense that the majority of the population cannot afford; their main concern is putting food on the table, not feeding and caring for a dog or cat. House pets are mostly raised in the countryside, where families use them for their eggs, milk, and other animal products.

The tradition of owning pets (especially dogs and cats) is not really part of Indonesian culture, though birds are an exception. Free movement of pets in and out of the house is not something Indonesians would tolerate, especially given that 86.7% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim. 

In Islam, dogs are deemed Najis (unclean) animals. A Muslim believer, when touched or licked by a dog, is required to change their clothes and wash the body parts that made contact with the dog. If you’re planning to have Indonesian friends or cleaning staff over at your apartment, they may expect you to keep your pet at a distance, given that they would want to avoid touching it.

If you want an environment with more tolerance for your pet, the Balinese are an ethnic group that does usually raise dogs. This is because they believe dogs’ barking keeps away bad luck.

It’s also worth noting that Batak and Manado ethnic groups happen to eat dogs, and Chinese Indonesians (along with Christians) tolerate dogs more than their fellow Muslim countrymen.

Here are the names of animals in Indonesian that you might find kept as pets in your country: 

Kucing“Cat”
Anjing“Dog”
Hamster“Hamster”
Kelinci“Rabbit”
Mouse“Mouse”
Tikus“Rat”
Marmot“Guinea pig”
Ikan mas“Goldfish”
Burung beo“Parrot”

2. On the Farm (Farm Animals)

Black-and-White Cow

Farming and agriculture is one of the key sectors of the Indonesian economy. While it has been highly industrialized, farming still remains a vital source of income and nutrition for Indonesian households.

In fact, the agricultural sector of Indonesia contributed around 14.5% of the country’s total GDP in 2013, and approximately 30% of Indonesia’s land area is dedicated to farming activities. The country is the largest producer of cloves, cinnamon, and palm oil.

When it comes to traditional local farming, animals are usually involved in the farming process or raised on farms for their milk, eggs, and meat. 

It’s well worth noting that pigs are not very popular in Indonesia given the country’s Muslim majority, but we still included it on the following list of Indonesian animal words.

Sapi“Cow”
Babi“Pig”
Domba“Sheep”
Kambing“Goat”
Kuda“Horse”
Induk ayam“Hen”
Kalkun“Turkey”
Angsa“Goose”
bebek“Duck”
Ayam jantan“Rooster”

You can also head over to our Learn with Pictures lesson Farm Animals for more information and vocabulary! 

3. In the Wild / Forest / Safari (Land Animals)

Brown Bears

If Indonesia were famous for one thing, it would be for its diverse nature and beautiful wilderness. In fact, Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, resulting in its rich medley of different landscapes. 

Islands like Sumatra and Kalimantan have considerably more rainfall than the rest of the country, and therefore more rainforests. And there are plenty of animals in the Indonesian rainforest! You can find many of the predators and big animals traditionally found in Asia, such as leopards and lions in parts of Java or Sumatra. Papua is also home to some traditionally Australian reptiles and animals such as crocodiles, tree-kangaroos, ring-tailed possums, and more.

But the two most popular species of wildlife in Indonesia are orangutans and Komodo dragons; we’ve saved Komodo dragons for the reptiles section, but orangutans (which have the same name in Indonesian) are included in the following list:

Orangutan“Orangutan”
Harimau sumatera“Sumatran tiger”
Beruang“Bear”
Serigala“Wolf”
Rusa“Deer”
Kelinci“Hare”
Rubah“Fox”
landak“Hedgehog”
Tupai“Squirrel”
Babi hutan“Boar”
Singa“Lion”
Harimau“Tiger”
Jaguar“Jaguar”
Harimau kumbang“Panther”
Gajah“Elephant”
Jerapah“Giraffe”
Monyet“Monkey”
Gorila“Gorilla”
Kanguru“Kangaroo”
Koala“Koala”
Panda“Panda”
Kemalasan“Sloth”
Anjing laut“Seal”
Pinguin“Penguin”
Beruang kutub“Polar bear”
Walrus“Walrus”

4. In the Ocean (Aquatic / Marine Animals)

Deep Waters

For many tourists, a trip to Indonesia means plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving. This is attributed to Indonesia’s beautiful coasts and clear waters, but the sea creatures you may encounter are just as fascinating. Whale sharks, manta rays, green turtles, blue-ringed octopuses, and the list goes on…

To help you talk about these animals in Indonesian, we’ve compiled a brief list for you: 

Ikan“Fish”
Hiu“Shark”
Lumba-lumba“Dolphin”
Ikan paus“Whale”
Singa laut“Sealion”
Ubur-ubur“Jellyfish”
Gurita“Octopus”
Kuda laut“Seahorse”
Bulu babi“Urchin”
Bintang laut“Starfish”
Remis“Mussel”
Timun laut“Sea cucumber”

5. Bugs and Insects

Bee Kingdom

Indonesia is mostly a tropical country, so rainfall is constant all year long and the temperature is 26°C (78.8°F) on average. This weather makes Indonesia the perfect home for a variety of bugs and insects. Be ready to deal with mosquitos when you visit Indonesia (if you haven’t already)!

Lebah“Bee”
Tawon“Wasp”
Nyamuk“Mosquito”
Lalat“Fly”
Laba-laba“Spider”
Belalang“Grasshopper”
Kecoa“Cockroach”
Kupu-kupu“Butterfly”
Semut“Ant”
Ngengat“Moth”
Siput“Snail”
Siput“Slug”

6. Birds

Ever heard of Bali starlings? They’re one of the most beautiful birds you may ever encounter, and they’re native to Indonesia’s island of Bali.

Unfortunately, this species is critically endangered. It’s believed that there are only 100 adults still alive in the wild. You can see this bird for yourself at West Bali National Park or in one of Bali’s breeding centers.

Here are nine bird names with their Indonesian translations:

Jalak Bali“Bali starling”
Camar“Seagull”
Gagak“Crow”
Elang“Eagle”
Merpati“Dove”
Burung hantu“Owl”
Kucica“Magpie”
Burung gereja“Sparrow”
Merak“Peacock”

7. Reptiles & Amphibians

Whether you’re a fan of reptiles or not, you’ll certainly encounter one at some point during your travels in Indonesia.

Here’s a vocabulary list of amphibian and reptile names in Indonesian:

Katak“Frog”
Kodok“Toad”
Buaya“Crocodile”
Kadal“Lizard”
Kura-kura“Turtle”
Penyu“Sea turtle”
Ular“Snake”
Komodo“Komodo dragon”

8. Animal Body Parts

By now, you should be more familiar with the different animals found in Indonesia and what they’re called in the native language. We’ll now go over a few common animal body parts, as these words will help you better describe the animals you come across on your adventures! 

Ekor“Tail”
Rambut“Hair”
Bulu“Fur”
Gigi“Tooth”
Taring“Fang”
Cakar“Claw”
Tanduk“Horn”
Kuku“Hoof”
Bulu“Feather”
Sayap“Wing”
Paruh“Beak”
Mulut“Mouth”
Sirip“Fin”
Sungut“Tentacle”
Surai“Mane”
Belalai“Trunk”
Gading“Tusk”
Antena“Antenna”
Kaki“Leg”

9. Animal-Related Idioms and Slang Expressions


When you do everything a person tells you to without questionSeperti kerbau dicucuk hidungnya 
Like a buffalo pinned by the nose
States that even great people have flawsSepandai-pandai tupai melompat, suatu saat pasti akan jatuh juga.
No matter how well a squirrel can jump, it will eventually fall.
When a person can easily see flaws in others, but not in themselvesSemut di seberang lautan tampak, gajah di pelupuk mata tak tampak.
An ant across the sea is visible; an elephant on the eyelid is invisible.
Doing something for someone with hidden motivesAda udang di balik batu. 
There’s a shrimp behind the rock.
When you can’t calm down, or when you overreact in a funny waySeperti cacing kepanasan 
Like an overheated worm

Want to make your Indonesian conversations even more colorful? Then try learning the expressions listed on our Essential Idioms That Will Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker and Top 10 Conversational Phrases vocabulary lists! 

10. Conclusion

Congratulations for getting this far. You’re now armed with enough Indonesian animal words to become the next zoo guide at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo! To practice, drop us a comment with the name of your favorite animal (or animals) in Indonesian.

Feel like you need a bit more practice to get there?

Maybe you’re still not too sure how to put sentences together, or don’t feel like you’ve mastered the basics yet.

Let IndonesianPod101 help! 

IndonesianPod101 is a learning platform that provides an effective system for learners at all levels. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced learner, IndonesianPod101 will present you with the perfect content for increasing and sharpening your skills.

What makes us different from other Indonesian learning resources is our integrated learning techniques. Think line-by-line breakdowns of text, transcripted video and audio lessons, pronunciation comparison tools, an online flashcards system, and more.

You can also access a native Indonesian-speaking tutor who will answer your questions about the Indonesian language and culture, and even create a personalized learning program tailored for your needs.

And the best part?

You can try it all for yourself at no cost.

Create your free lifetime account on IndonesianPod101.com and start learning today.

Happy learning!
Selamat belajar!

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30 Indonesian Phone Words and Phrases

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Ever heard of the 7-38-55 communication rule?

The rule says that communication is composed of 7 percent spoken word, 38 percent tone of voice, and 55 percent body language. While this rule is sometimes misconstrued, it’s true that we rely heavily on these subtle clues when communicating. 

But on the phone, we’re limited to only 45% of our communication means: spoken word and tone of voice. 

This can make it nerve-wracking to get on the phone with a stranger. It’s a style of communication we’re not naturally made for. 

And phone calls in a foreign language like Indonesian can be even scarier! 

Learning a few Indonesian phone call phrases can help take a lot of this pressure off your shoulders. Once you have the most common words and expressions down, you’ll be a much more effective communicator over the phone and will be able to take most calls with ease.

Below are 30 telephone phrases in Indonesian with two example dialogues.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Picking up the Phone
  2. Saying Who You Are
  3. Stating the Reason for Your Call
  4. Asking to Speak to Someone
  5. Asking Someone to Wait
  6. Leaving a Message
  7. Asking for Clarification
  8. Ending the Phone Call
  9. Sample Phone Conversations
  10. Conclusion

1. Picking up the Phone

Man in Bed on the Phone

To start with, you’ll want to learn how to pick up the phone in Indonesian and say hi. Considering that Indonesians are rather spontaneous people, you shouldn’t worry too much about your phone greeting.

If you’re talking to a friend or speaking in another informal context, try:

Hello?
Halo?

When it comes to formal contexts, such as calling a restaurant, company, or doctor, it’s preferable to use the following phone call phrase:

Good day.
Selamat siang.

2. Saying Who You Are

When you answer a call in Indonesian from a new number or customer, it’s well worth introducing yourself to the caller after you pick up the phone.

Since lengthy introductions are unnecessary in casual dialogues, you can use the following expression:

This is [name].
Ini [nama].

Are you receiving a call from a customer for your business? Or are you calling a company yourself? Try these phrases:

This is [name] from [company].
Ini [nama], dari [perusahaan].

This is [name], and we’re calling you from [company].
Ini [nama], dan kami memanggil Anda dari [perusahaan].

3. Stating the Reason for Your Call


Businessman on the Phone

This will probably be the most difficult part of your conversation, so you’ll want to rehearse this as much as possible before making the call. That way, you can make sure you get your point across and save both you and your caller time.

If you’re calling for a certain request, use the following expression:

I’m calling to ask… / confirm… / make a reservation.
Saya menelepon untuk menanyakan … / mengkonfirmasi … / membuat reservasi.

If you’re looking to talk to a certain person (or want to be forwarded to an English speaker), use this phrase:

I’d like to speak to someone about… 
Saya ingin berbicara dengan seseorang tentang…

And last but not least, here’s the expression you’ll want to use when returning a call:

Good morning / day / evening. Did you call earlier? 
Selamat pagi / siang / malam. Tadi [Bapak / Ibu] menelepon?

4. Asking to Speak to Someone

Want to be forwarded to someone in particular? Or are you calling your friend’s home phone number and want to talk to him? These phrases will help you do just that…

May I speak to…?  
Bolehkah saya berbicara dengan…? (formal)
Bisa bicara dengan…? (informal)

This will be your go-to expression for calling home telephones, as there’s a good chance someone else will be picking up the phone:

Is [name] there? 
Apakah [nama] ada?

5. Asking Someone to Wait

Telephone

Asking someone to wait may sound a bit harsh if you don’t use the right words. That’s why you should memorize a few expressions to get your message across in such situations.

When you don’t want your caller frustrated by long waiting times, let them know that you’re still with them by using the following expressions:

Can you please wait a few minutes?
Bisakah Anda menunggu beberapa menit?

Just a moment, let me check. 
Tunggu sebentar, biar aku cek.

Could you hold a moment?  
Bisa tunggu sebentar?

Let me transfer you to his office. Stay on the line, please. 
Mohon jangan ditutup. Saya akan mentransfer Anda ke kantornya.

6. Leaving a Message

Man in Suit with Earphones On

With the growing popularity of SMS and social media, voicemail is slowly becoming outdated. Few people still use this feature on their personal phones. That said, leaving a message for the intended recipient is still relevant in the business world. Below are four expressions to help you do just that.

Please let him know… 
Tolong beri tahu dia…

Can I leave a message? 
Bisa aku meninggalkan pesan?

Can you tell him to call me back at [phone number]? 
Bisakah Anda meminta dia untuk menelepon saya kembali di [nomor telepon]?

How can I leave a note for Mr. / Mrs.?
Bagaimana saya bisa meninggalkan catatan untuk Tuan / Ibu?

7. Asking for Clarification

Woman on the Phone in Front of a Laptop

When talking on the phone in Indonesian, there’s always going to be a moment when you’ll want to ask for clarification, whether it’s due to the traffic noise in the background or due to your lack of language skills.

The connection is weak. Can you please repeat again?
Koneksinya lemah. Bisa tolong ulangi lagi?

Sorry, could you say that again? 
Maaf, bisa ucapkan lagi?

I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time hearing you. I think there’s a bad connection. 
Maaf, kurang jelas. Kelihatannya koneksinya jelek.

Sorry, I can’t hear you. Your voice is breaking up.
Maaf, aku tidak bisa dengar. Suaranya putus-putus.

Could you spell your name for me, please? 
Bisakah Anda mengeja nama Anda untuk saya?

Just to double-check… 
Saya ulang ya… (Literally: Let me repeat…)

If your Indonesian is still basic and you want to try switching to English, use the following expression:

Do you speak English?
Apakah Anda berbicara bahasa Inggris?

8. Ending the Phone Call

Depending on the context, there are a few ways you can end a conversation over the phone in Indonesian.

Thank you very much for your call. Let’s catch up soon!
Terima kasih banyak atas panggilan Anda. Ayo segera menyusul!

Anything else I can help with? 
Ada lagi yang bisa saya bantu?

You’ve been very helpful. Thank you. 
Anda sudah sangat membantu. Terima kasih.

See you at eight p.m. on Wednesday. 
Sampai jumpa jam 8 malam pada hari Rabu.

It was nice talking to you. 
Senang berbicara denganmu.

9. Sample Phone Conversations

Now that you have several useful phrases to start practicing, it’s time to see how a real-life phone call in Indonesian might sound. Below, we’ve included two sample dialogues for you: one informal and one formal. 

Informal phone conversation

Two friends are setting up a time to meet for lunch on a weekend at a local restaurant in Jakarta. Here’s a short conversation they’ve had on the phone.

Eko: Halo.
Annisa: Halo.

Eko: Hello.
Annisa: Hello.

Eko: Apa kabar?
Annisa: Baik. Saya sedang belajar untuk ujian. (Bagaimana dengan) kamu?

Eko: How are you doing?
Annisa: Good. I’m studying for an exam. How about you?

Eko: Saya baik-baik saja, terima kasih. Saya sedang membaca buku. 
Annisa: Ohh, begitu.

Eko: I’m good, thanks. I’m reading a book.
Annisa: Oh, I see.

Eko: Kamu berada di kota akhir pekan ini? 
Annisa: Iya. Kenapa, kamu punya rencana?

Eko: You’re in town on the weekend?
Annisa: Yes. Why? Do you have any plans?

Eko: Mau makan siang akhir pekan ini?
Annisa: Boleh, kenapa tidak! Kapan?

Eko: Want to go for lunch this weekend?
Annisa: Yeah, why not! When?

Eko: Sore-sorelah…
Annisa: Bisa keluar jam 2 siang?

Eko: In the afternoon…
Annisa: Can you go out at two in the afternoon?

Eko: Saya lebih suka jam 3.
Annisa: Boleh juga.

Eko: I prefer three.
Annisa: Sounds good.

Eko: Kalau begitu, sampai nanti!
Annisa: Sampai nanti!

Eko: See you then!
Annisa: See you then!

Formal phone conversation

After they’ve set the time and place, one of the friends calls the restaurant to reserve a table. Here’s an example of a short phone conversation for this situation. 

Eko: Selamat siang!
Resepsionis: Restoran Jakarta – Selamat siang!

Eko: Good day!
Receptionist: Jakarta Restaurant – Good day!

Eko: Saya ingin memesan meja untuk dua orang…
Resepsionis: Baik… Hari ini sudah penuh, tetapi Anda bisa melakukan reservasi untuk besok.

Eko: I would like to reserve a table for two…
Receptionist: Very well… We’re out of tables today, but you can make a reservation for tomorrow.

Eko: Sebenarnya, saya ingin memesan untuk hari Sabtu.
Resepsionis: Tentu. Jam berapa tepatnya?

Eko: Actually, I’d like a table for Saturday.
Receptionist: Sure. What time exactly?

Eko: Tolong jam 3 sore.
Resepsionis: Baik. Atas nama siapa?

Eko: Three in the afternoon, please.
Receptionist: Very well. On whose behalf should I book?

Eko: Eko.
Resepsionis: Baik, Pak Eko. Sampai jumpa akhir pekan!

Eko: Eko.
Receptionist: Perfect, Mr. Eko. See you on the weekend!

10. Conclusion

And that’s it! You now have a good idea of what a short phone conversation in Indonesian looks like.

Memorize enough phone call phrases and you’ll be ready to rock and roll.

It won’t be as embarrassing next time you have to take a call from your Indonesian delivery guy, or when you have to call your doctor in Jakarta for an appointment.

Feel like learning even more phrases and vocabulary?

Then check out IndonesianPod101.

Here, you can find a full range of online lessons designed by native Indonesian language experts. 

That includes audio, video, and text content, all incorporated with the latest language learning tools like slowed-down audio, pronunciation comparison tools, online flashcards, word lists, and more.

All of this comes with personalized guidance from a language expert at your disposal.

Access all of these features now by signing up for free (no credit card required) at IndonesianPod101.com.

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30+ Indonesian-Language Love Phrases to Impress Your Date

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Did you know that 40 to 50 percent of couples in the U.S.A. end up divorcing?

Staggering, right?

Now compare that to Indonesia’s continuously declining 10% divorce rate.

With stats like that, you’ll probably find yourself feeling very good about the idea of having an Indonesian partner.

Being a conservative country, Indonesia is the perfect place for securing a stable, loving relationship if that’s your cup of tea.

And considering that it’s one of the easiest languages to pick up, learning some Indonesian-language love phrases to help you express your feelings is definitely not a bad time investment.

This is especially true if you count the benefits you might reap from impressing your partner with your Indonesian skills.

I mean, if you’re willing to go the extra mile and learn your date’s native language, they’ll probably think it’s a good idea to stick around.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a complete list of 30 Indonesian love phrases to get you going.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-up Lines and More
  2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  4. Endearment Terms
  5. Must-know Love Quotes
  6. Conclusion

1. Confess Your Affection: Pick-up Lines and More

People Heart Signs

Pick-up lines may sometimes sound cringy or a bit out-of-context, but using the right words at the right time can really seal the deal and land you a first date. After a nice chat (or even a long friendship), it might be worth throwing in a pick-up line or taking some initiative regarding your potential date. Here are some great lines you can use:

Kamu sangat cantik / tampan.
You are so beautiful / handsome.

To let your partner know that you think of them as more than a friend, it’s a good idea to start out with this line and express how you feel about them. 

Aku tidak bisa berhenti memikirkanmu.
I can’t stop thinking about you.

Depending on your partner, trying to take things further may come off as a bit too strong, especially in conservative societies like that of Indonesia. This expression strikes the perfect balance.

Boleh saya menjemputmu? 
May I pick you up?

Need to take initiative without coming across as too direct? Use this expression and watch your future date’s eyes light up.

Maukah kamu pergi denganku Sabtu malam? 
Do you want to go out with me Saturday night?

A perfect date only comes with perfect timing. After you’ve decided on a place and a plan for your first date, you can use this question to clearly express your intentions and see when your potential date will be available.

Boleh saya menciummu? 
Can I give you a kiss?

It’s easy to get carried away with conversation on a good date and forget about the romantic aspect of things. Using your Indonesian skills to spice up the special moment of your kiss might go a long way.

Terima kasih atas malam yang indah. 
Thank you for the wonderful night.

Appreciation and respect go a long way in Indonesia’s warm culture, whether we’re talking about normal day-to-day interactions or dates. This brief sentence is an apt way to express gratitude to your Indonesian date.

2. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

Woman Kissing Man’s Cheek

Like in many other Asian countries, the culture in Indonesia is very conformist. This means that people are hesitant to stand out from the crowd and be direct. 

Therefore, it’s your job as the foreigner to continuously take the initiative with your date and be the first to express your feelings—which will hopefully be mutual! 

After coming off of some great dates and starting to develop serious feelings for your partner, you can smoothly escalate things to an official relationship using the following Indonesian love sentences.

Saya bermimpi tentangmu.
I dream of you. 

Wondering how to hint at those romantic dreams you’ve been having lately? Here you go. 

Saya terus memikirkan kamu.
I think of you all the time. 

Not all of us can remember our dreams, but we all think about those we love the most. This phrase is a great way to hint at where you’d like your relationship to go. 

Katakan bahwa kamu mencintaiku!
Say that you love me! 

Are you sure that your partner is in love with you, but is too shy to say it out loud? You can use this phrase to encourage them to express their feelings, and enjoy an amazing moment.

Saya cinta padamu. [Formal]
Aku cinta kamu. [Informal]
I love you. 

This is the perfect phrase for expressing your love in Indonesian if you want to leave a slightly firm, gentlemanly (or womanly!) impression on your partner.

Saya mencintaimu. [Poetic]
I love you. 

You and your partner happen to be the romantic, poetic type? Then try saying saya mencintaimu on your next date night over some wine and cheese. 

Saya akan selalu mencintaimu.
I will always love you.

Many people have trust issues, and your date might be among them. Affirming your feelings with this sentence could go a long way.

3. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

Intimate Couple

Marriage is a very important component of Indonesian culture. If you want to fit in with the traditions, your relationship with your Indonesian partner will probably be expected to lead to marriage. 

But before we get into the best love phrases in Indonesian for proposing, it’s worth noting a few things about how this all works in Indonesian culture.

Just like in most Western cultures, it starts out by asking your partner to be your wife—this normally won’t require a ring or a fancy dinner. If she says yes, she will be expected to let her parents know. If the future bride’s parents agree, you let your parents know.

If everything goes well up to this point, you ask her parents for a blessing in your marriage, and arrange a proper meeting between your parents and theirs.

After going through that, you can start arranging a wedding and making plans for your honeymoon! 

The process will be much more fun if you add a little Indonesian to the mix. Here are some great phrases for your proposal day:

Saya ingin kamu menjadi istriku.
I want you to be my wife. 

In Western cultures, this sentence (your proposal!) traditionally comes with a fancy dinner date and a ring. Given Indonesia’s modest culture, that’s not necessarily the case. 

Kamulah takdirku.
You are my destiny. 

Saya sangat mencintaimu dan ingin kamu menjadi istri saya.
I love you very much and ask you to be my wife. 

Jadilah istriku!
Be my wife! 

Menikahlah denganku!
Marry me! 

Kita diciptakan untuk bersama. Katakan ‘ya.’
We are created for each other. Say “yes!” 

If things get emotional after you propose, it’s worth using this expression to affirm your proposal and get your future wife to say “yes”! 

4. Endearment Terms

Intimate Happy Couple

To keep a long-lasting bond with your partner, using endearment terms in your day-to-day interactions is crucial. Nothing serves better as a love reminder than these endearment terms. It’s worth noting that the -ku additions to the endearment expressions below translate to “my” in English.

Beb
Babe

The Indonesian language has absorbed many loanwords, and beb is one of them. One reason this expression is great to use is that it’s in both your and your partner’s mother tongues. 

Matahariku / mentariku
My sun 

Sayangku
My dear 

Kelinciku
My bunny 

Cintaku
My love 

Manisku
My sweetie

Manis can mean both “cute” and “sweet.”

5. Must-know Love Quotes

Senior Couple Reading

Indonesians have a very warm culture. A bit of romance will go a long way with your partner, and quotes are perfect for this purpose. Below are six Indonesian love quotes for you. 

Saya mungkin bukan kencan, ciuman atau, cinta yang pertama, tapi saya ingin menjadi yang terakhir.
I may not be your first date, kiss, or love, but I want to be your last.

Perasaan terbaik adalah ketika kamu melihat dia dan dia sudah lebih dulu menatap.
The best feeling is when you look at him and he is already staring.

Bersama-sama denganmu adalah tempat kesukaanku untuk berada.
Together with you is my favorite place to be.

Jika saya menjalani hidup saya lagi, saya akan mencarimu lebih cepat.
If I were to live my life again, I’d find you sooner.

Jika aku tahu apa itu cinta, itu karena kamu.
If I know what love is, it is because of you.

Ketika aku melihat kamu, aku melihat seluruh sisa hidupku sekarang.
When I look at you, I see the rest of my life in front of my eyes.

Which of these love quotes in Indonesian is your favorite? 

6. Conclusion

And there you go, you’re now officially ready to express and impress in Indonesian! Which of these love phrases did you like the most? Are you ready to try it out on your Indonesian lover?

Having these phrases at the ready is a great idea, but wouldn’t you want to throw a couple more words into your conversations

Maybe an Aku suka rambutmu (I love your hair) or Bersulang! (Cheers!)? 

Enter IndonesianPod101.

With one of the best available mobile and desktop Indonesian learning systems, IndonesianPod101 is a no-brainer.

And hey, (before you get to your wallet), sign-up is free!

No credit card required.

No catch. 

No flim-flam.

You’ll get access to a proven learning system with thousands of concise audio & video lessons, integrated with the most effective learning technologies such as audio recording features and slowed-down audio.

Don’t just take my word for it—sign up now and watch your Indonesian skills skyrocket.

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Negation in Indonesian: Learn How to Say No!

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If you’ve decided to learn a foreign language, whether for work or just for fun, it’s essential to stay positive and motivated. This will make all the difference as you progress toward your language learning goals. 

As you aim for positivity and a smooth language learning journey, I’m sure you would love to always be able to say yes!

However, as you may imagine, you’ll also need to learn how to form negative sentences in Indonesian before you master the language. Don’t worry though. We only mean “negative” from a grammatical point of view…so keep the positive vibe!

In this article, you’ll learn all about negation in Indonesian: how to answer a closed-ended question correctly and politely, how to transform positive sentences into negative ones, and how to use other common negative expressions. 

We perfectly understand that saying no is never easy, especially for us people-pleasers. But we assure you it will become a less daunting task (at least from a language-learning perspective) by the time you finish this complete guide to Indonesian negatives.

So, let’s start looking at how to say no and form negative sentences in Bahasa Indonesia.

A Woman Holding Cards that Say Yes and No
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Negative Sentences
  2. How to Give a Negative Answer to a Question
  3. Other Negating Words
  4. Want to Dig Even Deeper?

1. Negative Sentences

First of all, how do we define and recognize a negative sentence?

In English, negative sentences usually have the word “not” or “no.” To negate a verb, for example, we place “not” after an auxiliary verb (do, have, be, etc.).

  • Maria is not happy. 
  • We did not go to the supermarket today. 

In short, a negative sentence is usually one that states that something is false.

Negations play a very important role in any language. If you didn’t know how to transform a positive sentence into a negative one, how to use negative expressions, or how to say “no” in general, everyday life would probably get pretty interesting (and not in a good way!).

As such, forming negatives correctly in Bahasa Indonesia is an essential part of your language learning journey. It’s just as important as expanding your vocabulary and practicing your listening, speaking, and writing skills.

The good news? Learning how to do it is actually quite easy! Indonesian grammar and syntax are very simple, and there are just a few things you’ll have to remember in order to form negatives correctly. 

An Indonesian Girl Holding the Indonesian Flag Triumphantly

Perfect Indonesian negation is waiting for you!

Indonesian Negation

There are two main words in Indonesian for negative phrases and sentences: tidak and bukan. These two words of negation are often confusing for learners and non-native speakers and, sometimes, even for Indonesians themselves. 

Some people say that one word is formal and the other informal, but this is not exactly true. Let’s see the difference between tidak and bukan, so that you’ll never have doubts about this again!

Tidak

The most commonly used word for forming negative sentences in Indonesian is tidak. This word can be seen as an equivalent of the English word “not,” but it’s also the same word used for “no.”

Tidak is used to negate verbs and adjectives, which means it’s employed in sentences that describe actions and/or qualities. Have a look at the examples below to get a better understanding:

  • Saya tidak minum kopi. (I don’t drink coffee.)
  • Kopi itu tidak panas. (The coffee is not hot.)

In the first sentence, we are negating the verb minum (to drink), which describes an action. In the second sentence, we are negating the adjective panas (hot), which describes a quality of the coffee. 

To use tidak, simply place it after the subject; nothing else in the sentence needs to change at all. Pretty easy, right? Here are some more examples:

  • Saya tidak suka apel. (I do not like apples.)
  • Dia tidak malas. (He is not lazy.)

Again, in the first sentence we negate the verb suka (to like), while in the second we negate an adjective that describes a quality: malas (lazy).

A Man Multitasking

He is not lazy.

Bukan 

Another word that we use to form negative sentences in Indonesian is bukan, which can also be translated as “not.”

Bukan is used the same way as tidak: We simply place it after the subject of the sentence to make the sentence negative. 

The difference between these two words lies in the fact that, while we use tidak for negating verbs and adjectives (actions and qualities), we use bukan to negate nouns (things, objects, and people) and personal pronouns (I, you, he/she/it, we, you, they …or… me, him, them, etc.). 

  • Ini bukan pensil, ini buku. (It’s not a pencil, it is a book.)
  • Saya bukan Superman. (I am not Superman.)

In the first sentence, we negate an object (the noun pensil or “pencil”), while in the second, we negate the noun “Superman.”

Here are some more examples:

  • Ini bukan buku. (This is not a book.)
  • Saya bukan dia. (I am not him/her.)

Again, here we negate the noun buku (book) and the personal pronoun dia (he/him/she/her). 

Another interesting thing about the word bukan is that it can be used in questions as an equivalent to the English phrase “isn’t it?” and its variations. 

To do this, you simply have to attach bukan to the end of the sentence to turn it into a question. 

  • Kamu  mahasiswa, bukan? (You are a student, aren’t you?)
  • Pesawat berangkat jam lima, bukan? (The plane leaves at five, doesn’t it?)

This construction can be used when you’re unsure or doubtful about the truth of the statement and are seeking confirmation from the person you’re talking to. It’s a good expression to learn how to use and recognize! 

Once you know the difference between these two words, it will be much easier for you to choose the right one during a conversation, and native speakers will surely be impressed by your knowledge!

2. How to Give a Negative Answer to a Question

In general, all questions can be divided into two groups: open-ended and closed-ended questions. A closed-ended question is usually one that can be answered with “yes” or “no,” without needing to give any further explanation.

A Woman Trying to Find Money in Her Money Purse

No, I don’t have any change, sorry.

In English, for example, we say: “Yes, I do.” / “No, I don’t.” As we know, after saying that, we are free to give an explanation if we want to.

Logically, to respond to a yes-or-no question in Bahasa Indonesia, we’ll also start with a yes (ya) or a no (tidak). 

It’s actually not considered impolite to leave it there! If you want, you can repeat the sentence you were asked, but this might sound unnatural. For an extra touch of politeness, just add terima kasih (thank you).

3. Other Negating Words

Sure, knowing how to use tidak and bukan in all types of sentences is a great start, but there’s a lot more to learn about negatives. If you want to sound like a native, it’s essential to know how to use other common negative expressions. 

Let’s see a few more words you’ll need for negation in Indonesian:

  • nothing = tidak ada / bukan apa-apa
  • never = tidak pernah
  • nowhere = tidak ke mana-mana
  • neither = tidak dua-duanya
  • not / un- = tak 

4. Want to Dig Even Deeper?

If you’ve decided you want to learn more Indonesian grammar rules and vocab, check out all the great content available on IndonesianPod101.com. On our website and through our app, you’ll have access to all the content you need to make your language-learning experience as interesting and pleasant as possible.

You can also listen to our podcasts and audio lessons to improve your listening skills, gradually build your Indonesian vocabulary with word lists and our free dictionary, and get to discover great strategies from our top language experts on how to best approach the study of Bahasa Indonesia.

A Woman Studying Early in the Morning with Textbooks and Her Phone

If you’re learning Indonesian because you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, we highly recommend our travel Survival Course

Being able to understand and communicate with the locals in their native language will not only help you remain safe during your stay, but it will also provide amazing and unique opportunities to connect with Indonesian people and make sure your adventures are truly unforgettable. 

Sure, we hope that you’ll be able to be positive and answer yes to all the invitations and opportunities that come up. But at least now you know how to build negative sentences correctly in Indonesian, just in case. Or, like with curse words, you might not want to use Indonesian negation yourself—but at least you’ll know when someone else does.

And, if you’re learning Bahasa Indonesia to enhance your professional life, make the commitment and start practicing and studying with all of the incredible resources on IndonesianPod101.com. 

With a little commitment, you’ll start seeing improvement before you know it. 

Our content will help you stay motivated to learn so that you can reach your Indonesian language goals as fast as possible!

Before you go, try writing out a few negative sentences in Indonesian in the comments. We’ll get back to you with feedback and corrections. Good luck!

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Why learn Indonesian? Here are 10 great reasons.

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If you’re planning to start learning a foreign language, Indonesian might seem like an odd choice… But it really isn’t! 

So, why learn Indonesian? Especially when there are so many other (more popular) languages to choose from?

Well, did you know that Indonesia is the fourth most populous region on the entire planet? This means that you’ll have about 23 million potential conversation partners, if we’re just talking about native speakers. If we count those who speak it as a second language, that number skyrockets to over 200 million!

An Indonesian Child Waving the Indonesian Flag and Cheering

This is only one of the many reasons you should start learning Indonesian now… Do you want to learn 10 more? Keep reading and you won’t be disappointed. 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
  2. Personal and Professional Benefits
  3. Is it Easy?
  4. The Fastest Way to Learn Indonesian

1. Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

It’s clear by now that being able to speak multiple languages is a great advantage for your social and professional life. Did you know, however, that the benefits of learning a second language can actually extend way beyond our practical everyday lives?

Studies have shown that being multilingual actually affects the brain and its functioning, as well as personality and development, in ways we never realized before. 

So, here are the first few reasons why you should learn Indonesian (or any other language, for that matter).

Reason 1: It will change the way you think.

Learning another language opens your mind. 

This is no news, of course, and language-lovers all over the world have reported genuinely changing and transforming over the course of their language learning journey.

Learning a foreign language helps you develop new skills, which in turn allow you to think about and see the world in a different way. Along with these new abilities, you’ll acquire new tastes and it’s likely that your attitudes will shift as well.

No worries though, these changes are always positive. They’ll simply allow you to add nuances and layers to your knowledge and character, making you a more affable, compelling, and open-minded individual. 

Reason 2: You can gain access to a whole new world.

Once you learn a new language, a whole new world of content opens up to you. Many people don’t even realize this when they set off to learn a foreign language, but there’s a whole Google in every single one of them. 

So, instead of typing what you’re looking for in English, type it in Indonesian and you’ll find…well, authentic Indonesian content. And not only that which has been translated or filtered for you!

This means more music, recipes, films, series, and much more. Go explore the Indonesian online world and practice your skills with local, original content.

Reason 3: Learning a second language improves one’s brain function.

It has been proven that studying foreign languages improves creativity, problem-solving abilities, and multitasking skills. And the benefits don’t even end there: Science has also shown that being multilingual can substantially delay the onset of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

A Brain Surrounded by Sketches of Different Thoughts

Are you looking for a way to keep your brain healthy? It really is quite simple: Pick a language and start learning it! People who are able to speak more than one language can be more aware of their surroundings, and exhibit finer logical and perceptive competences.  

Research is proving that bilingual brains display—and are able to develop—a greater number of neural pathways, which results in the processing of information through a wider variety of channels.

What better reason to learn Indonesian? It will improve your health while making you smarter and more creative for the rest of your life!

2. Personal and Professional Benefits

Now that we’ve listed some of the advantages of knowing a foreign language in general, let’s jump back to those concrete, day-to-day life reasons to study Indonesian. 

After all, we all want to reap the benefits of knowing a new language as soon as possible, don’t we?

Reason 4: You’ll have more travel opportunities.

Yes, this is probably what you thought about first… Pristine beaches in Bali, great food on the streets of Jakarta, and boat rides across the Indonesian archipelago.

A View of Jakarta, Indonesia from a Balcony

If you speak even some basic Indonesian, traveling will be easier and safer. By being able to communicate with the locals, you’ll surely be able to experience a more authentic and unique side of the country as well.

Speaking of which, knowing Bahasa Indonesia will also come in handy in other countries of Southeast Asia, as it’s mutually intelligible with Malay, Brunei, and other local dialects of the region. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? 

Reason 5: Have we mentioned the Southeast Asian business benefits?

Even if English is widely spoken by young people, learning to communicate in Indonesian is essential if you’re planning to work in close contact with the Indonesian or Southeast Asian market. 

The Indonesian economy is growing rapidly, and investing in it seems like a good idea. It’s predicted to become one of the biggest economies in the world, and could reach levels like those of China and India in the next 10 years. 

If your goal is to do business in Southeast Asia, you definitely have a good reason to learn Bahasa Indonesia as soon as possible. You can certainly use your language skills to stand out in the business world.

Reason 6: You’ll get better deals.

Whether we’re talking about bargaining at a market in Bali to bring back some souvenirs, or discussing money with your Indonesian business clients, you’ll probably end up getting a better deal if you speak the seller’s (or buyer’s) native language.

Two Business People Shaking Hands

So make sure you know your numbers in Indonesian, and don’t be afraid to use your language skills. They’ll be surely appreciated and are likely to get you farther than you thought they would when striking a business agreement.

Reason 7: It’s a great way to really dive into the culture.

If you’re not the bargaining type, don’t worry. After all, as they say, language can be seen as a window into culture, and knowing Indonesian will really help you understand the life and habits of those who speak it. As we already mentioned, you’ll have access to so much more information than just that which is available in translation; this will allow you to deepen your connection to the history, customs, and beliefs of the Indonesian people.

For those of us interested in understanding and connecting with new places in the world, knowing the language really is an invaluable tool. Not to mention the fact that, if you want, you’ll have the opportunity to experience Indonesian life as a local. And that’s not something just anyone can do.

3. Is it Easy?

Now, you might be thinking: Okay, but isn’t Indonesian extremely hard to learn? 

Actually, you’d be surprised!

Also, it’s not only the complexity of the language that you should take into account, but also the resources available to study and practice it. The right tools can make learning a language much easier and much more fun. 

Reason 8: It’s easy! 

Even if it differs from English in almost all aspects of vocabulary and grammar, the Indonesian language is still relatively easy to pick up and use. It has a small vocabulary and simple spelling…and the grammar is very friendly compared to that of other non-Indo European languages.

Taking all this into account, Bahasa Indonesia might actually be one of the easier Austronesian languages for an English speaker to pick up. 

Reason 9: It’ll give you more opportunities to learn other languages.

Learning Indonesian provides a great introduction and foundation for those looking to study the Austronesian language family. 

This means that, once you have some basic knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia, learning languages like Malay, Brunei, and other local dialects will become so much easier!  

If you’re a language-lover, Indonesian can be a great choice, as it’s the gateway to a whole world of other languages.

Reason 10: The internet and technology make it even more convenient. 

Can you imagine living in the West and trying to learn Indonesian even just 50 years ago? Tough, right? You’d have to find and buy a coursebook in a specialized shop, then get a grammar manual and a couple of dictionaries at the very least.

A Woman Learning Indonesian on Her Tablet

Nowadays, you just turn on your laptop or phone and…boom! Endless language learning content, exercises, and courses. You can find books and films in Indonesian, recipes, podcasts, music, and more. 

The possibilities of the internet are endless. And this is true for language learning as well. So, take advantage of the amazing times we live in, and learn Indonesian now. It’s never been easier—or more fun and accessible!

4. The Fastest Way to Learn Indonesian

Speaking of technology, make sure you visit IndonesianPod101.com for incredibly useful language learning content. 

On the site, you’ll find lessons for all kinds of learners, topic-specific phrasebooks, podcasts on how to improve your skills, and cultural information to make your travels even more fulfilling. 

If you’re planning to travel or move to Indonesia, take a look at our travel Survival Course and all of the video and audio lessons available to prepare yourself for this big adventure. 

We hope these 10 reasons to learn Indonesian inspired you and motivated you to give your all for this language learning journey. 

So, hurry up—the 17,000+ islands of the Indonesian archipelago are waiting for you!

Before you go, we’d love to hear from you. How close are you to making a decision about Indonesian? Do you still have any questions or concerns? We’ll be glad to help you out!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Indonesian?

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Those who have tried know: Learning a foreign language may not be easy, but it’s an amazing and fulfilling process. By learning to understand, speak, and think in a foreign language, we add a new skill to our repertoire—but that’s not all! We can also change the very way we see the world.

But in today’s civilization, time is money and many of us feel too trapped by responsibilities to try mastering a language ourselves. So if you’re planning to study Indonesian, an important question to ask yourself is: How long does it take to learn Indonesian? And perhaps more importantly: Is it worth the investment? 

Did you know that Indonesian has a lot of words that can’t be translated into English? One of my favorites is faedah, which describes something that has a value and a benefit that goes beyond the commercial (and even the material) aspect. It’s a real, intrinsic value… Just like that of learning a new language! 

Everyone wants to reap the benefits of hard work as soon as possible, and this is why we all instinctively look for a fast and easy way to learn foreign languages. We want to start practicing right away and use our new skills to find a better job, to travel, or to better communicate with a loved one.

We would certainly like to know exactly how long it takes to learn a new language, so that we can make plans… But, unfortunately (or not), language learning does not work like that. There’s no one best or fastest way to learn Indonesian, and above all, there is definitely no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns differently, and lots of different factors will influence how quickly you learn.

Let’s have a look at what these are, and maybe try to find the best way to take advantage of them to learn Indonesian fast!

An Hourglass Against a Dark Background
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the essential factors to take into account when trying to determine how quickly you can learn a language is your actual experience with languages. 

The Language(s) You Speak

What is your first language? And what other foreign languages do you speak? 

Yes, this may actually make a difference in how quickly you’ll be able to learn Indonesian. If you know a language very closely related to Indonesian, such as Malay, it will be way easier for you to pick it up. 

If you’re a native speaker of English, the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) classifies Indonesian as a Category II language. This is halfway between the easiest and the hardest languages to learn for English speakers!

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Have you learned a language before?

If you’re already fluent in two or more languages (for example, if you were raised bilingual), it will be easier for you to learn Indonesian. Several studies show that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language, because they’re more accustomed to being exposed to a new language.

Even if you’re not bilingual or fluent in a foreign language, just having studied and learned one at some point in your life will be useful. When your mind has had to get used to memorizing words and rules, and looking at different letters and symbols, it will not forget it—even after many years.

Basically, the skills you developed studying one language will actually help you learn another, even if the two languages are unrelated!  

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first things you’ll do when learning a foreign language is to study how it’s built and how it works. This is usually done by studying its structure and grammar.

A Woman Lying on the Grass Studying

If you already have some experience studying syntax and grammar, even if just for your own language, it will make it much simpler for you to learn the grammar and syntax of a foreign language.

So, if your plan is to start learning Indonesian (or any other language), it’s definitely a good idea to get some grammar foundations to build on! 

Learning Style

The way you learn is another incredibly important aspect of how long it will take you to become fluent in Indonesian. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning to a classroom setting, even on an intensive course, it will take you longer to learn and feel confident with your language skills outside the classroom. Try exposing yourself to Indonesian in your everyday life and I assure you that you’ll cut down the time you need to learn it! 

Make a habit of reading in Indonesian, watching Indonesian films and series, and listening to Indonesian podcasts while you drive or cook. This will help, but if you want to practice your conversation and speaking skills as well, the best thing you can do is find a language partner.

Your Time

Of course, even if we haven’t mentioned it yet, the time you dedicate to learning a language is paramount! 

If you want to learn quickly, try to dedicate as much time as you can to studying, practicing, and exposing yourself to the language. 

Practicing daily is a must: Research has actually shown that students who dedicate an hour a day to language learning—whether revising grammar, memorizing vocabulary, watching a film, or reading a book—learn significantly faster than those who just stick to weekly multi-hour classes.

And of course, if you have the opportunity, full immersion is best. If you can travel to Indonesia and live there for a while, that will make a huge difference!

A Balinese Temple

Approach

Your approach and attitude while learning a foreign language are extremely important, and might make all the difference!

Your Motivation

It’s no secret: Staying motivated and interested is essential for learning a foreign language. Why are you learning Indonesian?

Have this clear in your mind and use the reasons you find to set weekly (or even daily) goals for maximum efficiency. This strategy will not only help you stay motivated and interested in learning, but it will also make you want to put more effort into it.

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will help you learn more easily and quickly, and it will go hand in hand with maintaining a positive attitude. This is a winning strategy you should adopt during your language learning journey! 

Try to see learning as a fun and interesting activity; something that you’re choosing to do, rather than being forced to do.

A Woman Holding Flowers in Front of Her Eyes

Remember: Learning a foreign language will open your horizons and mind, both on a personal and a professional level, to say the least.

When you think of it like this, you’ll always feel like learning something new every day, which will make the process more fun and much faster! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, even if these are all just estimates, we’ve tried to put together a timeframe encompassing how long it will take you to reach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of Indonesian. 

Beginner

As a beginner speaker of the language, you’ll be able to introduce yourself, understand slow and clear spoken language, and ask basic questions (probably making some small mistakes). 

If your objective is to be able to greet people, have very basic conversations, and order a meal at the restaurant, this level is probably enough. 

According to the FSI, you’ll need to dedicate a minimum of 250 hours to reach this level. If you study 15 hours a week, you’ll be having basic conversations in just 4 months! That’s pretty fast, isn’t it? 

Intermediate

Do you want to learn the Indonesian language to a more advanced level?

At the intermediate level, you’ll be able to understand clearly spoken everyday conversation, maybe asking some questions to keep up. This level will also allow you to understand the main points while watching videos and reading the news. If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to ask for information, follow directions, and have basic interactions with locals about familiar subjects.

An Indonesian Woman Wearing a Kebaya

To achieve an intermediate level, you’ll need double the time as you did for the beginner level. This means about 500 hours, which, with the same intensity of study as mentioned above, will take you around 8 months. 

Advanced

If you want to be fluent in Indonesian, you’ll need to achieve advanced language skills. At this level, you’ll have no problem navigating all kinds of situations in your daily life abroad or while traveling, and you’ll be able to have full conversations with native speakers. You’ll also be able to watch Indonesian movies and read books… Basically, you will be fluent. (Even if there will always be something more to learn about this beautiful language.)

As we mentioned above, according to the FSI, Indonesian is a Level II language and thus requires 900-950 hours of study time if you want to reach total proficiency. This means that if you dedicate 15 hours a week to studying, you’ll be fluent in just over a year! Not bad if you consider that some other, more complex, languages require twice or even three times as long!

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to start learning a new language

And, as we just saw, the sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll achieve your language objectives and start practicing real-life Indonesian. 

Looking for a great online Indonesian resource to get you started? On IndonesianPod101.com, we offer all kinds of language learning content designed to help you stay motivated and interested. Here you’ll find blog posts, Indonesian lessons for all levels, a dictionary, and vocabulary lists. 

How long it takes you to learn Indonesian just depends on you. How much time are you willing to invest in it? Our courses and resources are specifically created to give you all the right tools to learn Indonesian as quickly and easily as possible, so that you can make the most of your precious time!

Whether you’re a complete beginner who wants a full-immersion experience or an intermediate speaker who just needs to widen your vocabulary, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you make a decision about Indonesian—or if you still have questions for us! We’d be glad to help.

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Speak Like a Native With These 30 Indonesian Proverbs

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Proverbs are popular sayings that provide a little dose of wisdom, a truth that is sometimes so obvious we overlook it. 

Can you think of a proverb in your native language that touched you at an important moment of your life?

Indonesians are actually famous for using a lot of slang words and proverbs in their daily lives. If you want to sound like a local, you’d better learn some Indonesian proverbs yourself! Doing so is a great way to let your language skills shine and familiarize yourself with Indonesian culture.

Balinese Rice Fields

As they say, “There is no time like the present.” Learn the thirty most popular Indonesian proverbs and you’ll be sure to leave a good impression!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. The Top 30 Indonesian Proverbs
  2. Conclusion

1. The Top 30 Indonesian Proverbs

1. Nasi sudah menjadi bubur.

Literal translation: The rice has become porridge.

Meaning: This is basically like Lady Macbeth’s, “What’s done, is done.” And no, it cannot be undone!

2. Ada udang di balik batu.

Literal translation: There is a prawn hiding behind the rock.

Meaning: This saying is often used to express the idea that there’s a hidden agenda or intention (usually negative) behind someone’s actions. 

3. Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau.

Literal translation: The neighbor’s grass is always greener than ours.

English equivalent: The grass is always greener on the other side.

Meaning: This proverb is a classic, and it exists in many different languages and cultures. Apparently, it’s an intrinsically human behavior to think that others are always in a better position than oneself.

4. Sambil menyelam minum air.

Literal translation: Drinking water while diving.

Meaning: So, in Indonesia, it’s not just about drinking (water, of course!) while diving. This expression refers to multitasking in general, managing to accomplish more than one thing at a time.

A Man Multi-tasking

5. Bertepuk sebelah tangan.

Literal translation: To clap with only one hand.

Meaning: This means that there is no reciprocity in a given situation. Imagine if one hand wanted to clap, but the other was not interested! It’s most often used when referring to romantic situations where the love is one-sided, or in business when only one party is interested in striking a deal.

6. Seperti/bagai telur di ujung tanduk.

Literal translation: Like an egg on the tip of a horn

Meaning: I mean, imagine an egg on the tip of a horn…doesn’t sound ideal, does it? And this is exactly what this saying describes: a dangerous, tense, critical situation.

7. Otak di dengkul.

Literal translation: Brain on the knees

English equivalent: Not the sharpest tool in the shed

Meaning: Though this one means the same thing as the English equivalent, Indonesians prefer to be a bit more straightforward. If you’re not the smartest, they’ll say you have your brain on your knees. Not much use for it there…

8. Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya.

Literal translation: The empty can sounds the loudest.

Meaning: This refers to people who don’t have much knowledge (or wit!). Their head is like an empty can. And it’s usually these people who speak the loudest (both literally and metaphorically!). 

9. Anjing menggonggong, kafilah berlalu.

Literal translation: The dog barks but the caravan goes on.

Meaning: Life goes on even if some people try to stop progress.

10. Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh juga.

Literal translation: No matter how high a squirrel jumps, it will eventually fall.

Meaning: The poor squirrels actually have nothing to worry about here. This proverb is most often used to describe criminals (or at least very sneaky people) who, eventually, will always be caught!

A Squirrel in the Grass

11. Sudah jatuh tertimpa tangga.

Literal translation: To fall and be struck by a ladder

English equivalent: When it rains, it pours. 

Meaning: Not only did you fall down the ladder, but then the ladder fell on you—and who knows what else might happen next! This idiom describes those situations where various misfortunes all arrive at the same time, or directly follow each other. 

12. Besar pasak daripada tiang.

Literal translation: The peg is bigger than the pole.

Meaning: This saying is often used to describe a person who is spending more than he/she earns. If the peg is bigger than the pole, you won’t be able to build a very good shelter, will you? This saying reflects the culture, as many Indonesians would rather live humbly than borrow money.

13. Ada asap ada api.

Literal translation: If there is smoke, there must be fire.

English equivalent: Every why has its wherefore.

Meaning: Well, this can mean two things. Pretty obviously, there cannot be an effect without some cause. The second meaning is: If there is a rumor, it must have some foundation in truth!

14. Tak ada gading yang tak retak.

Literal translation: Every ivory has its cracks.

Meaning: Nothing’s perfect, as even the finest ivory has cracks!

15. Dikasih/diberi hati, minta jantung.

Literal translation: You give them the liver, but they still ask for the heart.

English equivalent: You give him an inch and he will take a yard.

Meaning: This refers to a situation in which someone is taking advantage of someone else’s generosity. 

16. Air tenang menghanyutkan.

Literal translation: Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water runs calm. 

English equivalent: Still waters run deep.

Meaning: Like its English equivalent, this proverb means that a calm exterior probably hides a passionate nature, and that silent people can actually possess a lot of knowledge and be very intelligent.

A Crocodile against a White Background

17. Seperti kacang lupa kulitnya.

Literal translation: Just like the peanut forgets its shell

English equivalent: To bite the hand that feeds you

Meaning: The Indonesian version is not quite as aggressive as the English one, but both refer to someone who is being ungrateful. It can be used when someone who’s become successful forgets about his origins, his family, and his friends.

18. Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian.
Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian.

Literal translation: Rafting to the headwaters, swimming to the riversides. It is painful at first, but victorious in the end. 

English equivalent: No pain, no gain.

Meaning: We all know what this means… In order to achieve something, suffering is necessary!

19. Buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya.

Literal translation: The fruit falls near the tree.

English equivalent: Like father, like son. 

Meaning: This saying is used when a son’s or daughter’s behavior or nature resembles that of their parents.

20. Pikir dahulu pendapatan, sesal kemudian tiada berguna.

Literal translation: Think first your idea, for later regrets are useless.

English equivalent: Look before you leap.

Meaning: Don’t act until after you’ve thought about the possible consequences and dangers of your actions. 

21. Lebih baik satu burung di tangan daripada sepuluh burung di pohon.

Literal translation: Better one bird on hand than ten birds on a tree.

English equivalent: One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Meaning: It’s better to hold on to something you’ve already secured, rather than taking the risk to get something better that is not guaranteed.

22. Sekali merengkuh dayung, dua tiga pulau terlampaui.

Literal translation: One stroke at the paddle, two and three islands have passed.

English equivalent: Killing two birds with one stone

Meaning: This saying is used when you’re able to accomplish two different things at the same time, or solve two problems with a single effort.

Someone Rowing in Still Waters in Indonesia

23. Tak ada rotan akar pun jadi.

Literal translation: If there is no cane, use the root instead.

English equivalent: Better than a stick in the eye

Meaning: You don’t have exactly what you need? Well, just use what you’ve got. It’ll be better than nothing.

24. Harimau mati karena belangnya.

Literal translation: Tigers die because of their stripes.

Meaning: Those who tend to show off their wealth or superiority will attract not only attention, but also adversity—just as tigers attract attention and are killed because of their stripes. 

A Tiger Sunbathing on a Big Rock

25. Mulutmu harimaumu.

Literal translation: Your mouth is your tiger.

Meaning: Speak carefully, because words are a reflection of yourself.

26. Di mana ada kemauan, di situ ada jalan.

Literal translation: Where there is a will, there is a path.

English equivalent: Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Meaning: Determination will overcome obstacles. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way!

27. Bagai air di daun talas.

Literal translation: As the water is on the taro leaf

Meaning: Water on a taro leaf slips away in a moment. This saying describes a volatile, flaky person who can’t be trusted.

28. Bagai pinang dibelah dua.

Literal translation: Like a betel nut split in half

English equivalent: Like two peas in a pod

Meaning: Identical; very similar.

29. Bagai pungguk merindukan bulan.

Literal translation: Like an owl yearning for the moon.

Meaning: To wish for something impossible or unreachable. 

30. Karena nila setitik, rusak susu sebelanga.

Literal translation: With only a drop of indigo, the whole pot of milk is ruined.

Meaning: Be careful, because even a small mistake can ruin an otherwise perfect work.

2. Conclusion

“All good things must come to an end…”

But it’s not really the end, is it? There’s so much more to learn about the Indonesian language! 

As they say, “Practice makes perfect!” So continue practicing your Indonesian skills on IndonesianPod101.com. With all the features we offer (audio podcasts, videos with transcriptions, word lists, a dictionary, and more), you’ll pick up this beautiful and interesting language in no time. 

And remember: Your mouth is your tiger, so learning to speak like a local is going to pay off big time!

Which of the Indonesian-language proverbs from this list is your favorite, and why? Let us know in the comments! 

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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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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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