Speaking even a little Indonesian can go a long way. Indonesians are generally very impressed when foreigners can speak even a tiny bit of Indonesian and they are very forgiving if you make a mistake with the language. Being able to use basic Indonesian words and phrases will open endless possibilities of communication with local people and will enrich your travel experience.
While there are over 700 languages spoken in Indonesia, almost all Indonesians can speak the national language; Bahasa Indonesia. It is the language of education, communication, transaction and trade documentation, the development of national culture, science, technology and mass media in Indonesia. The story of how Indonesian became the national language of Indonesia is a beautiful one. When Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, although Javanese was the widest spoken language (by almost 50% of Indonesians) it was agreed that Bahasa Indonesia would become the national language, in an effort to unite the diverse population of Indonesia.
Indonesian is an easy language to learn at a basic level. There are no tenses (past or future), everything is in the present tense. There’s no distinction between masculine and feminine nouns – just one word (dia) means his and her. And it’s written in the Latin script (using the same letters as English).
Below are some basic Indonesian words and phrases to help you prepare for your next travel experience!
Selamat Pagi: Good morning
Selamat Siang: Good afternoon/Good day (from about 10am until about 2pm)
Selamat Sore: Good afternoon/Good day (from about 2pm until sunset which is about 6.30pm)
Selamat Malam: Good night/Good evening (from when the sun is already down, which is about 6.30pm)
Apa kabar?: How are you?
Baik: Good (can be used as a simple response to ‘Apa kabar?’)
Selamat Jalan: Goodbye, have a safe journey (said to the person leaving)
Sampai Jumpa: Goodbye/See you later
Anda berasal dari mana? (or just ‘darimana?’): Where are you from?
Saya dari Australia: I’m from Australia
Terima kasih: Thank you
Sama sama: You’re welcome
Saya: I/me/my (formal)
Aku: I/me/my (informal)
Anda: You (formal)
Kamu: You (informal)
Kita: Us (including the person spoken to)
Kami: Us (not including the person spoken to)
Kalian: You (plural)
Ibu: Literally translates to mother, an appropriate/formal way to address a woman
Bapak/Pak: Literally translates to father, an appropriate/formal way to address a man
Mas: An appropriate way to address a young man (less formal then Pak, often used towards service staff)
Mbak: An appropriate way to address a young woman (less formal then Ibu, often used towards service staff)
1 - Satu [sah-too]
2 - Dua [doo-ah)
3- Tiga [ti-gah]
4- Empat [em-putt)
5- Lima [lee-ma)]
6- Enam [e-num]
7- Tujuh [too-joo]
8- Delapan [del ah-pahn]
9- Sembilan [sem-bi-lahn]
10 - Sepuluh [se poo-loo]
100 – Seratus
1,000 – Seribu
1,000,000 (one million) – Sejuta
Mau ke mana?: Where do you want to go?
Saya mau ke pantai: I want to go to the beach
Putar balik: Turn around
Naik apa?: Literally translates to ‘By what’, a common question to ask when you are going somewhere
Jalan kaki or Jalan-jalan: Walk
Eating and drinking
Makan: Eat / Meal
Minum: To drink
Minuman: A drink
Sayur: Vegetables (if you are vegetarian you might want to ask for “Sayur saja” (Vegetables only))
Berapa harganya?: How much?
Harga pas: Fixed price (no bargaining)
Saya mau membeli ini: I want to buy this
Other useful words/phrases
Tidak (informally can be pronounced ‘gak’ or ‘nggak’): No
Permisi: Excuse me (polite to use at the start of a question)
Ada: Is there…? / Do you have…? / There is… / I have….
Bisa: Is it possible…? / Can you…? / Can I…? It’s possible…. / I can…. / You can…
Habis: Sold out / Finished / There is no more / Have you finished?
Jam berapa?: What time
Ke: To (a place)
Di mana?: Where?
Sudah: Already / Finished / Have you yet?
Belum: No yet
Panas: Hot (temperature)
If you would like to continue learning Indonesian, we have listed some suggestions of where to learn Indonesian in person in Australia and Bali below:
o In Perth: Balai Bahasa Indonesia Perth (BBIP) offer courses in line with school terms at two locations in Perth.
o In Melbourne: Australian Indonesian Association of Victoria offer weekly classes across 8 levels from beginners to advanced.
o In Sydney: Sydney Community College runs evening Indonesian classes for adults.
o In Ubud: Cinta Bahasa offer a variety of Indonesian languages courses – at different levels and for different durations. They are available in Ubud, Bali and online.
Other useful resources
- There are many apps and books available for you to learn Indonesian, just google “learn Bahasa Indonesia”
- Download the Google Translate App (and download English and Indonesian languages on the app). You can instantly visually translate printed text from Indonesian to English (great for menus!) and you can instantly translate the spoken word. Also if translate a word the App can speak it aloud for you, great for learning pronunciation.
- Download the free Indonesian Phrasebook by Wikitravel to learn some basic Indonesian phrases.
If you’ve had any experiences learning Indonesian that you’d like to share, or any questions, please comment below.