It should go without saying, but a tiny effort in the language department goes an extraordinarily long way when you’re visiting any new country. This seems to be doubly true in Indonesia. Even by learning just a few little words and phrases in Bahasa Indonesia, you can guarantee yourself better service, hospitality and respect if you show the locals a little respect by using their own tongue. Even if you only greet people in Bahasa, and say please and thank-you in Bahasa, that elevates you above 90% of the non-effort-making travelers passing through the country. Easy!
Of course, nobody expects you to be fluent, but you can still make yourself a respectful visitor by learning a few key phrases. Here's our absolute beginner's guide to Bahasa Indonesia!
Most pronunciation is phonetic, with a few notable exceptions.
A few rules to go by:
If you get the pronunciation wrong don’t worry, they’ll correct you! It’s the effort that counts.
Call everyone you talk to sir or madam at the end of each sentence.
Use Pak (sir) and Ibu (ma’am) to address everyone you meet. You’ll seem courteous, polite, and culturally aware in the company of your hosts. Litter your conversation with lots of sirs and ma’ams for maximum effect!
You might need to learn more than one language...
Bahasa Indonesia is most Indonesian’s second language. They’re more likely to speak the local language or dialect at home and with friends, and only use Bahasa when they’re doing business or shopping or something else involving strangers. For example, in Bali, most people speak Balinese at home, which is a complicated language for a foreigner to understand. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!
Important Note: This guide is designed for spoken Bahasa Indonesia only... So all spellings are phonetic!
There you go! All you need to know to be in the know next time you're in Indonesia... Remember, it's the effort that counts, so don't be afraid to have a go and learn by doing. It's often the best way!
Good luck, and enjoy!
Please enter your email address and we will send you an email with a link to reset your password.