Indonesian (Indonesian: Bahasa Indonesia) is the official language and lingua franca of Indonesia, and also widely spoken in East Timor. With over 230 million speakers, there are a lot of people to talk to in Indonesian.
Indonesian is closely related to Bahasa Malaysia, but the main difference is the vocabulary: Indonesian has been influenced by Dutch, while Bahasa Malaysia has been influenced by English. Both have been influenced by Sanskrit, Arabic and Javanese.
The basic word order of Indonesian is similar to English:subject-verb-object with one basic difference being that the noun or subject comes before the predicate or adjective. For example, Kucing hitam = Black cat; Buku saya = My book. In general, there are no plurals, grammatical gender, or verb conjugation for person, number or tense, all of which are expressed with adverbs or tense indicators: saya makan, "I eat" (now), saya sudah makan, "I already eat" = "I ate".
When plurals are in use, they're often simply a repetition of the singular form, connected by a dash (or, in shortened informal Indonesian, indicated with a "2" at the end). For example, "mobil-mobil" (cars) is simply the plural form of "mobil" (car). One can also choose to use other words, especially in informal situations, such as "banyak" (many) instead: "banyak mobil". The use of singular form doesn't guarantee a single object; the phrase "Ada mobil di depan" (There is; car; in; front) may mean 1 or more cars. Some words don't exhibit plural forms; to be safe, simply use the singular form. The repetitive plural form is most often found in writing.
A characteristic of Indonesian is that it is a so-called agglutinative language, which means that affixes are all attached to a word stem. So a word can become very long. For example there is a base word hasil which means "result" or "success". But it can be extended as far as ketidakberhasilannya, which means his/her failure: "ke"(the state of)-"tidak"(not)-"ber"(-ing)-"hasil"(success)-"an"(the state of, with ke)-"nya"(his/her). These are largely modular; "berhasil" means "to succeed", for example.
If all else fails, simply using standard subject-verb-object form and common particles, while disregarding prefixes and suffixes, is generally unambiguous. For example, to state your intention to find a train station, simply "saya mau pergi ke stasiun" (I; want to; go; to; the station) is both clear and polite.
One legacy of the Sukarno-Suharto era still affecting Indonesia is an inordinate fondness for vaguely Orwellian Newspeak-y abbreviations, chosen more for pronouncability than logic or comprehensibility. For example, the National Monument (Monumen Nasional) is universally known as Monas, the Jakarta-Bogor-Tangerang-Bekasi capital region is called Jabotabek and a police captain at the East Kalimantan HQ (Kepala Kepolisian Resor Kalimantan Timur) would be known as Kapolres Kaltim. Even the socialistic exhortation to stand on your own feet (berdiri diatas kaki sendiri) can be snappily rendered as berdikari and the humble fried rice nasi goreng can be chopped up into nasgor!
Indonesian is very easy to pronounce: it has one of the most phonetic writing systems in the world, with only a small number of simple consonants and relatively few vowel sounds. One peculiarity of the spelling is the lack of a separate sign to denote the schwa. It is written as an 'e', which can sometimes be confusing.
In Indonesia, spelling reforms in 1947 and 1972 have officially eliminated several vestiges of Dutch in the otherwise very phonetic spelling, and the writing system is now nearly identical to Bahasa Malaysia. However, the older forms remain in use to some extent (especially in names) and have been noted in parenthesis below.
Stress usually falls on the second-to-last syllable, so in two-syllable words the first syllable is stressed.
The shorter the better
Colloquial Indonesian shortens commonly used words mercilessly.
tidak → tak → nggak → gak
tidak ada → tiada → gak ada/gaada
sudah → udah → dah
bapak → pak
father; you (polite, for men)
ibu → bu
mother; you (polite, for older women)
aku → ku
kamu → mu
-ku and -mu also act as suffixes: mobilku is short for mobil aku, "my car". Note that shortened words are often less formal, and there for clarity, the standard form may be preferred.
Referring to others politely
Terms for "you" are considered impolite in Indonesia. To call anyone "kamu" is in itself often condescending; opt for the honorific instead.
Bapak/Pak (male)/Ibu/Bu (female)
adults. Defaulting to this is usually safe.
slightly older people, but still in the same age group. E.g. school seniors
It is also safe to call people by their name (with honorifics) or their title, such as "Pak Guru" (a male teacher). In some areas, local terms are in use, such as "Abang" for older males in the Jakarta region. Using the standard Indonesian phrases are also fine in these situations.
How are you?
Apa kabar? (AH-pah KAH-bar?)
Fine, thank you.
Baik, terima kasih. (bah-EEK, TREE-mah KAH-see)
What is your name?
Namamu siapa? (NAH-mah-moo see-AH-pah?)
My name is ______ .
Nama saya ______ . (NAH-mah sahy-yah _____ .)
Nice to meet you.
Senang bertemu anda. (Se-NAHNG berr-teh-moo AHN-dah)
Terima kasih. (Tuh-REE-mah KAH-see)
Terima kasih kembali. (… kem-BAH-lee)
Tidak. (TEE-dah/), Tak (TAH/) (short, hard vowel, cut off before "k")
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
Maaf, permisi. (…, pehr-mee-see)
Selamat tinggal. (S'LAH-maht TING-gahl)
I can't speak Indonesian [well].
Saya tidak bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia [dengan baik]. (Sahy-ya tee-dah/ bee-sah bee-chah-rah bah-hah-sah in-do-NEE-sha [dng-gan bayk])
Do you speak English?
Bisa bicara bahasa Inggris? (Bee-sah bee-chah-rah bah-hah-sah Ing-griss)
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Ada orang yang bisa bahasa Inggris? (Ah-dah o-rahng yahng bee-sah bah-hah-sah Ing-griss")
Hati-hati! (Hah-ti hah-ti)
Selamat pagi. (S'LAH-maht PAH-ghee)
Selamat siang. (... SEE-yang)
Selamat sore. (... soh-ray)
Selamat malam. (... MAH-lahm)
Good night (to sleep)
Selamat tidur. (... TEE-door)
I don't understand.
Saya tidak mengerti. (SAHY-yah TEE-dah/ mng-GEHR-tee)
Where is the toilet?
Di mana kamar kecil? (Dee MAH-nah kam-AR ke-CH-ill?)