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Lesson Transcript

Fira: Halo. Nama saya Fira.
Gina: Hello everyone, and I’m Gina. Welcome back to IndonesianPod101.com. This is Pronunciation, Lesson 2 - the Pronunciation of Vowels in Indonesian.

Lesson focus

Fira: In this lesson, you’re going to learn about Indonesian vowels. Do you know how many vowels Indonesian has?
Gina: Sure. It has only 6 vowels – and 2 diphthongs. Diphthongs are 2-vowel sounds that combine.
Fira: And their pronunciation is not that different from English sounds, actually.
Gina: The first thing to remember is that there are only 6 different vowels in Indonesian. Only 6! Unlike English vowels – there are 11 different vowels in English – the 6 vowels in Indonesian can be written with 5 letters used to characterize vowel sounds. All but one Indonesian vowel has ONE pronunciation each.
Fira: Let’s take a look at the vowels one by one. First we have the letter"-A."
Gina: The Indonesian "-A" is pronounced like the [ah] in "father." What’s next?
Fira: Next is the letter "-I."
Gina: It’s pronounced like the [ee] in "feet." It can also be like the [I] in "fit", if there is a consonant following it in the same syllable.
Fira: Ok, next is the letter "-O."
Gina: It’s pronounced like the [oh] in "so"…kind of! Let’s stop here for a moment. Try saying the word "so" in English. Notice that "-o" sound kind of slips into a "-u" at the end? Try it - "so-u." We want to avoid this in Indonesian.
Fira: Let me say it one more time. O / O(Slow)
Gina: Okay, what’s next?
Fira: The last letter is "-U.
Gina: This is pronounced like the [oo] in "boot." It can also be like the [oo] in "book", if there is another consonant following it in the same syllable. And Fira, there’s one vowel we skipped, isn’t there? How about the letter "-E?"
Fira: Ah, yes, the letter "-E." Well, the truth is that the letter "-E" in Indonesian stands for two separate sounds. The first is [eh], like in the word "bet."
Gina: Can we hear a word with this sound?
Fira: Sure – "teko." [Te-ko]. This means "kettle." (again) teko. So, this is where the letter "-E" is pronounced as [eh].
Gina: And there’s another way to read this letter, right?
Fira: That’s right. Sometimes, the character ‘E’ sounds like [uh]
Gina: Can you give us an example?
Fira: Sure. "Pedas." [Pe-das]. This means "spicy hot." This is spelled "-P-E-D-A-S." "Pedas."
Gina: Did you notice that this time the "-E" is pronounced as [uh]? So Fira, how do we know when we’re supposed to pronounce "-E" as [eh] and when we’re supposed to pronounce "-E" as [uh]?
Fira: Well, this is one thing that you will just have to learn. However, there is one strong tendency.
Gina: Oh, what’s that?
Fira: If there is a word spelled with "-E," and if that syllable has a strong emphasis – what we call "stress" – then it will most likely be pronounced as [eh]. In many unstressed syllables with "-E," the vowel is pronounced as [uh].
Gina: So, this is a strong tendency.
Fira: Yeah, but there are a number of exceptions. Like "enak", which means “delicious”. In this word, the second syllable is stressed, but the first "-E" is still pronounced as [eh].
Gina: I see. Okay, now let’s talk about Indonesian diphthongs. “Diphthong" refers to 2-vowel sounds that combine to act as a single vowel. And Indonesian has two special diphthongs in particular.
Fira: Yes, these are "-ai" and "-au." Let’s begin with the first one, "-ai." It’s like the [i] in "side." [Ai]. An example of this in Indonesian is the word "baik," which means "fine."
Gina: What about the next one?
Fira: The next diphthong is "-au." This is like the [ou] as in "ouch!" [Au]. An example of this is in the word "lauk pauk," which refers to "food staples."
Gina: Now, there’s another reason why we bring up these two sounds in particular. One thing to note is that language changes – all the time.
Fira: Although there is a diphthong in a word, people read it in a different way. For example, the word SANTAI meaning “to relax” has the first diphthong “A-I” at the end. However, some younger people will just read it as ‘Sante’.
Gina: And a similar thing happens with the second diphthong, right?
Fira: That’s right. In daily conversations, many people read ‘Kalau’ with the second diphthong ‘AU’ at the end as ‘Kalo’, not as ‘Kalau’


Gina: Okay, well that’s all for this rather long lesson, listeners! Be sure to check the lesson notes to reinforce what you’ve learned, and leave us a comment if you’ve got any questions. In the meantime, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time!
Fira: Sampai Jumpa.


Please to leave a comment.
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IndonesianPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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Did you like this lesson?

IndonesianPod101.com Verified
Monday at 10:36 AM
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Hi Anita!

Thank you for your question!

In Indonesian there is no distinction between long and short vowels.

So in the case of enak, ekor, and cewek, the 'e' is pronounced like the 'e' in the English word 'bet'.

Hope that helps!

Let us know if you have more question! :)



Team IndonesianPod101.com

Anita Davidsen Dudek
Saturday at 12:40 PM
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What about e that sounds like long a as in enak, ekor, and cewek?

IndonesianPod101.com Verified
Monday at 02:06 PM
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Hi Allen!

Yes, the standard (dictionary) form is santai dan kalau.

However, in fast pronunciation, it often gets shortened and becomes sante and kalo.

In written text, please do not use sante and kalo.

If you have any more question please let us know!


Team IndonesianPod101.com

allen sow
Monday at 06:38 PM
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so, kalau and kalo, is same meaning on pronunciation ?

like santai, and sante, also same ?

IndonesianPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 01:34 PM
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Hello Peter,

Thanks for posting! :smile:



Team IndonesianPod101.com

Wednesday at 06:10 PM
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very helpful for getting the vowels right