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Lesson Transcript

Fira: Hi everyone! I’m Fira!
Gina: And I’m Gina. Welcome back to IndonesianPod101.com! This is All About, Lesson 14, Top FIve Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes in Indonesian.
Gina: You’re in for a very useful lesson, because we’re here to give you some tips on how to avoid common mistakes made by learners of Indonesian. Now remember, nothing’s wrong with making mistakes.
Fira: It’s how you learn!
Gina: In this lesson, we’ll just give you a heads up so that you can be aware, and it will make your Indonesian language learning experience a lot easier! Okay, Let’s get started!

Lesson focus

Fira: Tip number one; Don’t say "I" more than necessary!
Gina: Remember that Indonesian is a high-context language, meaning that you can leave out certain words like pronouns and sound more natural in the process.
Fira: You fill in all the missing elements from the surrounding context. Hence, the term “high-context”. So you should not overuse the pronoun "I", which, if you remember, is saya in Indonesian.
Gina: Do you remember how to say "My name is…"?
Fira: Nama saya… 
Gina: Right. Plus, your name, of course. Here is where Indonesian and English differ greatly.
Fira: In casual conversations, we’re inclined to talk about ourselves a lot. That makes us sound a bit conceited, but we do! In English, we have to state the subject in most of our sentences in order for it to make sense. This results in your average English speaker saying things like "I did this" and "I ate that", with the "I" pronoun appearing very frequently.
Gina: So when you start learning Indonesian, a language that is in some ways quite similar, but perhaps superficially simpler to English, you cannot simply apply the same grammatical rules, like including saya in every sentence. Remember that this will sound completely unnatural to Indonesian speakers. Don’t worry; unless you specify otherwise, we know you’re most likely talking about yourself.
Fira: So just remember to say saya once at the beginning of the story or conversation, and then forget about it! The less you use it, the better.
Gina: Okay, what’s the next tip?
Fira: Tip number two; Don’t use an inappropriate form of "you"!
Gina: We’ve touched on the topic of how to say "you" in Indonesian, but only just briefly during our pronunciation lesson because this is such a tricky topic.
Fira: Yeah there are about a half-dozen ways to say "you", and almost all of them can lead to potential faux pas! There’s always the chance that if you use a certain form of "you", you’ll either offend or excessively flatter your listener. You don’t want to do either of those things.
Gina: So to avoid doing this, Fira, can you give an example of a more neutral form of "you"?
Fira: Sure! Most learners learn the form anda as a pretty safe way to say "you".
Gina: Ah, yes, anda. But it can be a problem if you use it more than necessary, right?
Fira: That’s right. It’s an impersonal form, which means that you can use it with people you meet for the first time in a formal situation. But after you get to know each other, which is usually a short time afterward, it’s best to move on to other forms of "you".
Gina: Why is that?
Fira: It’s because anda also distances the speaker from the person he or she is speaking to, and you don’t want that if you’re going to have a meaningful discussion. You may come across as aloof and unapproachable if you continue to use anda.
Gina: Yes. At that point, you can use the person’s name instead. That’s one common strategy to avoid that situation. Okay. What’s the next tip?
Fira: Tip number three; Past and present are the same.
Gina: In Indonesian, you can use the same verb for past tense and present tense. We talked about this in a previous lesson. Fira, can you give an example to refresh our memories?
Fira: Sure. In Indonesian, you can say saya makan to mean both “I eat” and “I ate”. Saya means “I” and makan means “to eat”.
Gina: How do you say “I eat fried rice” or “I ate fried rice”?
Fira: You can say Saya makan nasi goreng. The only way people will know if it’s past or present tense is if you use nouns specifying time.
Gina: So you can use words like “earlier”, “this morning”, or “last night.”
Fira: Exactly. You can say Saya makan nasi goreng tadi. This means “I ate fried rice earlier.” Here, tadi means “earlier”.
Gina: It’s that simple! I love Indonesian! What’s the next tip?
Fira: Tip number four; Learn to be comfortable with your velar nasal consonant now! Indonesian has many sounds that are similar to English, so there aren’t too many challenging sounds, except for one; the velar nasal pronunciation of "ng."
Gina: Don’t we have this in English, though? Like in the word "sing"?
Fira: Yes, but notice that "ng" is always in the middle or at the end of words in English. It’s never at the beginning of the word. In Indonesian, there are a number of words that have this particular sound at the beginning of a word! For example, the informal way of saying "understand" is ngerti. Nger-ti. Ngerti.
Gina: Do you hear that consonant at the beginning? It’s not an "n" and it’s not an "n" + "g" sound. It’s the sound at the end of "sing" put at the beginning of the word. How about another example?
Fira: The informal way to say "send" is ngirim. Ngi-rim. Ngirim.
Gina: Again, notice the sound of the consonant at the beginning of the word. This is the velar nasal consonant. Fira, how can listeners improve their enunciation skills with this particular sound?
Fira: Well, one good way is to think of cutting the word "sing" in half so that you get just the sound of the final consonant; "ng".
Gina: Alright, "ng" And then what?
Fira: At that point, once you feel comfortable, you can put various vowels after the "ng" and practice pronouncing those syllables, like "ng-a", "ng-i", "ng-u", "ng-e", "ng-o" so on.
Gina: That’s a pretty good strategy, Fira!
Fira: If you keep at this, velar nasals won’t scare you anymore!
Gina: Okay Fira, what is the last tip we have for everyone?
Fira: Tip number five; Watch out for similar sounding words! Now this could happen in any language, but Indonesian has a smaller number of sounds than English let’s say, meaning that there are many words that sound really similar. The difference being only one syllable or something like that. And when you’re starting out and still have a small vocabulary, it becomes even easier to mix words up.
Gina: Right. What are some examples?
Fira: One example is pak and bak.
Gina: They sound really similar…so what do they mean?
Fira: Pak with a "p" means "father", and it’s what you would call most middle-aged men, or fathers. Sort of like “mister” but much more personal. Bak with a "b" means a "water basin".
Gina: Yeah! You have to be careful with this one. You wouldn’t want to call a nice gentleman a water basin!
Fira: Yeah, that would be extremely awkward!
Gina: How about another example?
Fira: Here’s a triple bonanza! Boleh, bule, and bola.
Gina: Wow, what do those mean?
Fira: Boleh means "may" or "go ahead" as we’ve learned in an earlier lesson. Bule is slang for a "white person". It originally referred to an albino water buffalo calf. And bola means "ball."
Gina: Yikes! So, be careful when you’re giving permission to someone by saying “go ahead”. You might end up calling them a “white person”!
Fira: Right, which could be confusing or even worse, misunderstood as racist!
Gina: Well, that’s all for this lesson, listeners. Go ahead and start using these phrases in your daily life when you’re speaking Indonesian!
Fira: And see the lesson notes for further examples of their usages in regular conversation.


Gina: See you next time, everyone!
Fira: Sampai jumpa lagi