Bahasa Indonesia (part I)

I thought Indonesian would be very hard to learn, because it is so different from the languages I already know a little bit about. But it turns out, it is actually a very easy language. And when I say easy, I mean the basics are easy. Just like any language there are many different layers, but if you just want to communicate about food and directions, like I do, you can learn it quite quickly. It’s all about memorizing the words, because there is hardly anything more to it.

So I will tell you some of the words I have learned so far. Let me start by showing off some of my skills.

Nama saya Sanne. Umur saya dua puluh empat tahun, dan saya tinggal di Jakarta sejak September. Saya di sini selama lima bulan, sampai Februari. Setiap hari saya pergi ke kantor, untuk magang. Saya tidak pergi naik taksi atau bis, saya jalan kaki.

Waktu favorit saya adalah makan siang. Saya suka pergi ke rumah makan dengan kolega-kolega saya. Saya suka makanan Indonesia, karena makanan itu enak sekali!

I know, you will all copy-paste this into google translate (yes mum, I’m talking to you). But it won’t work properly, because the formal Bahasa Indonesia and the language people actually speak are two different things. This makes the learning process very confusing sometimes. For instance:

I= saya
I= aku
I= gue

So you have three different ways of saying I. The first is formal. The second is informal. The third is very informal.

One thing I like about the Indonesian language is that they use a lot of titles. And there are so many. For instance:
Mr (older person): Bapak
Mrs: Ibu<
Mr (young person): Mas
Miss: Mbak

It is not uncommon to use these titles after almost every sentence you speak. So it seems the Indonesians are very polite and formal, no?

However, saying please when asking for something is not common at all, and often you just ask: “Do you have…?” If they want something. But saying things with a smile can make it all the more friendly.

Which brings me to another thing I like about this language. They repeat a lot of words. They don’t just answer with yes or no. For instance:

Do you have nasi goreng?
Ada nasi goreng? (so easy!)
The reply: Ada.

Which means they have it.

The easy part about Indonesian is the lack of articles and conjugations. Also, when speaking about he/she, they do not make a distinction between the two genders (which would make speaking about a transsexual person a lot less confusing). For instance:
I am hungry.
I = saya
Hungry = lapar

So: Saya lapar.
He/she is hungry = Dia lapar.
So no hard times with using am/is/are. You just leave it out.

Now, what how about the verbs, I hear you asking.
I want to eat:
I = Saya
Want = mau
Eat = makan
Saya mau makan.

And this sentence stays exactly the same if you talk about others, except for the first word.
Anda mau makan, dia mau makan, kita mau makan, etc.

I loved learning the basics of Indonesian, because it is so great to make people smile when you speak their language. They really appreciate it greatly and because very few people here in Jakarta speak English, it makes communication so much easier.

I am now fully capable of giving someone directions, ordering my food, answering basic small talk and, which I discovered recently, haggling.

Warning: if you start talking a few words of Bahasa Indonesia to an Indonesian person, you will be bombarded with questions and they will start talking very fast, assuming you have mastered their language. Just smile and nod  if you do not understand. That’s what they do when we speak English :)


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