Add us to Your
Favorite Websites


The Basics
Explorers' Room

Do you appreciate the free content on this site?

Show your support!

Donations to this web site are not tax deductible



Why Bahasa?


Pronunciation Pointers 


FREE Bahasa Indonesia E-Course!


The Easy Way to Increase Your Vocabulary


The Next Level


Bahasa Indonesia is the correct term for the Indonesian language. At times foreigners may refer to it as only Bahasa, but the word Bahasa simply means language. Likewise, Bahasa Inggris refers to the English language. Therefore, Bahasa Indonesia appropriately means the Indonesian language.

Indonesian is almost the same as Malay, which is spoken in Malaysia. But bahasa Indonesia has many foreign influences, including Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese and Chinese. An increasing number of English words have also found their way into the Indonesian language.

Almost all Indonesian citizens are fluent in the Indonesian language. This is in spite of the fact that there are actually over 365 different languages and dialects actively spoken across the Indonesian archipelago! Even the smaller islands have at least one language that is uniquely their own, such as on Bali. Other islands have many more languages. In such a diverse multi-lingual environment, it is easy to see the vital need for a unifying language. Bahasa Indonesia is that language.

Although English is understood and commonly spoken in the tourist areas, the Indonesian people as a whole are often not fluent speakers of English. Except for those who work in international business or the travel industry, English is not usually essential to daily life in Indonesia and thus not practiced on a regular basis.

English is a difficult language to learn. Indonesian, on the other hand, is as easy as language learning gets, even for people who have never studied a foreign language.

You might find it great fun, as well as quite useful to consider adding a few words of bahasa Indonesia to your repertoire of memorized foreign phrases. Why? Because it is not necessary to travel to Indonesia in order to find acquaintances with whom to chat in the Indonesian language.

Indonesian people working in Asian restaurants and other service positions, especially in larger cities around the world. Cruise vacations have become quite popular in recent years. At least some crew members on most cruise ships are from Indonesia. Most notably, Holland America Line and Windstar cruises hire a major portion of their service staff exclusively from Indonesia. So whether you are on a low-key Caribbean cruise, or are enjoying a casual dinner at the local Thai restaurant, you will quite possibly have the opportunity to speak a little bahasa Indonesia. Of course, if you do plan a visit to Indonesia, being able to speak the language will make your trip that much more enjoyable.


Top of Page

Pronunciation Pointers

Click here to open a printable PDF document

or Right Click here and choose "Save Target As..." to download to your computer.

To read PDF files, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here for Free Download.

Indonesian is primarily a phonetic language so words are basically pronounced in the same way as they are spelled.  

The language is rhythmic with somewhat level emphasis. When in doubt, don’t emphasize any particular syllable and listen for correction by native speakers. After a little practice, you will get the feel for proper word stress.


“a”        always an “ah” as in “father” (NEVER long “a” as in “pay”)

“e”        generally a shorter sound than the short “a” in English; often the most effective pronunciation is saying the word as though the letter e did not exist!

Example: “Selamat” is often pronounced as “slamat”

There are a few exceptions to this rule, where the “e” has an “a” sound as in “say”

At times, you will have to play it by ear and listen for the correct pronunciation.

 “i”       “ee” as in “meet”

“o”        long “o” sound as in “hold”

“u”       “oo” as in “toot”

“aa”       both letters “a” are pronounced individually so that there is a hesitation between them

“ai”        long “i” sound as in “eye” (“ah+ee” in one sound)

“au”      “ow” as in “cow” (“ah+oo” in one sound)


Consonants - generally pronounced as in English, with these exceptions:

“c”       “ch” as in “chip”

“g”        hard “g” sound as in “goat” (NEVER a soft “j” sound as in “gem”)

“ng”      “ung” as in “lung”. The sound comes from the back of your throat WITHOUT the hard “g” sound. This can be a little tricky, but easily mastered with a little practice.

“ngg”    “ung”+ hard “g” sound as in “hunger”

“ny”      “nya” as in “canyon” made at the roof of your mouth. This may take a little practice as well, but will feel natural in a short time.

“h”        a sigh-like sound that is pronounced, at times quite prominently. Unlike English, it is NOT silent no matter where it is found in a word.

“k”        the normal “k” sound as in “kite” EXCEPT when found at the end of a word, where it is cut off or very soft. This is also called a glottal stop, which is similar to the sound at the back of your throat when saying “oh-oh”

“r”         rolled as in most other non-English languages. For English speakers, the sound is similar to the “tt” in “butter” or the heavier “dd” in “muddy”, or can be trilled as in the Spanish word “arriba”. Just think of Speedy Gonzales!!


Top of Page

The Next Level

Once you know the basics of bahasa Indonesia, there are many resources available to help you progress in your language learning adventure. The following are provided to keep you moving in the right direction. Selamat belajar! (Happy studying!)
bullet Vocabulary list of most common conversational words (PDF file)
bullet Increase your Vocabulary Quickly and Easily
bullet Join our Blog - Sign up for Kelas Bahasa
bullet Recommended Language Learning Books and Programs
bullet Language Learning Web Site Links
bullet Listen to Indonesian Radio (news and music)
bullet Reading Practice in Bahasa Indonesia

To read PDF files, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here for Free Download.

Top of Page


Home      The Basics      Culture      Language      Travel      Explorers' Room     

Toko Shop      Reading