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Indonesian Pronunciation

The Indonesian language and alphabet is one that has gone through quite a few changes. As recently as 1972, the country made changes to the spelling system. Even though the Indonesian language has undergone changes, it does not mean that it is difficult to learn to pronounce the words in the language. In fact, learning Indonesian is not difficult as long as you put your mind to learning proper grammar and Indonesian pronunciation.

Sounds and Syllables

The Indonesian alphabet has 8 vowel sounds – a, e, i, o, u, as well as ai, au, and oi, which are diphthongs, or combinations of vowels. It features 21 consonant sounds b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, kh, l, m, n, ny, ng, p, r, s, sy, t, w, and w. The letters q, v, x, and z are only in loan words, or words that come from another country, that they use in the language. The digraphs kh (kha) and sy (sya) only show up in words that come from Arabic.

You will have 3 different ways that you can pronounce the letter “e” in the Indonesian language, as well as two different ways to pronounce “o”. When you see a pair of the same vowel, you might think that you simply lengthen the vowel sound when pronouncing the word. That’s not the case though. You should instead add a slight pause between the vowels.

The pronunciation of the consonant diphthongs is important too. The “ng” diphthong will sound like “eng”, while “ny” is pronounced as “nye”. “Kh” has a “kha” pronunciation to it, while “sy” has a “sya” pronunciation. Even though they do not constitute new letters and are simply a combination of consonants, one does have to be aware of the particular sounds they make in order to get the Indonesian pronunciation correct.

Stress and Emphasis

Proper pronunciation can be tricky. One of the popular examples is the word tahu. When you have a silent “h” in the word, and pronounce it as tao, it means “know”. However, when you stress the different syllables and pronounce is “tah-who”, it means tofu. There is quite a bit of difference between knowing and tofu, so you can see why learning Indonesian grammar, words, and pronunciation is so important!

Pronunciation is not overly difficult to learn, and once you have the basics of pronunciation down, you should be able to speak like a pro.