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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.