Bahasa Indonesia is a deceptively simple language. With a nice, friendly bounce, it is easy to learn the basics.
Certainly, within a few days, most visitors will feel confident enough to let loose a few words here and there. Such is the friendly atmosphere of the country, even non-polyglots can delve into its linguistic waters.
Of course, they may stumble and fall, but the warm Indonesian smile will furnish with them enough verve not to give up. It’s an energising sensation, to pick up another tongue, and with 17,000 islands to choose from, there’s plenty of chance for conversation practice across the country.
However, it is also an intricate language, replete with hundreds of dialects. Balinese, Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese… for a country so rich in history and heritage it’s somehow fitting to have so many vernaculars in use. Someone somewhere once said it can take many lifetimes to truly appreciate everything Indonesia offers, such are its anthropological, social and cultural delights. Mastering Bahasa is no exception.
Deploy the Bahasa
However, this doesn’t help when trying to buy a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of water. What matters are numbers and cold, hard words. Bahasa, for all its wonderful qualities, can be a quick language to hear. Indeed, when spoken full throttle it displays all the rhythmic qualities of a machine gun. It’s extremely satisfying to hear but one could easily drown in a sea of incomprehension.
Read more: Heading to Malawi? It might be an idea brushing up on some Chichewa.
The key, of course, is practice. Below are some basic aids to conducting transactions in Bahasa. There’s some numbers and some likely questions. It’s not a comprehensive list but like anything, a little effort can go a long way. Be confident, let the words sink in and don’t be afraid. Indonesians are generally very helpful and gracious and will certainly help out if they sense you’re struggling. Kamu siap?*
|Twenty-one||Dua puluh satu|
|Thirty||Tiga puluh (and so on until the 90s)|
|Two hundred||Dua ratus|
|Two thousand||Dua ribu|
|Ten thousand||Sepuluh ribu|
|Twenty thousand||Dua puluh ribu|
|What is the price?||Berapa harga?|
|How many?||Berapa banyak?|
|How much do you want?||Mau berapa banyak?|
|How much?||Berapa ini? / Berapa harganya?|
|I want / would like …||Saya ingin …|
|Do you have …?||Apakah kamu punya …?|
|It’s too (expensive)||Itu terlalu (mahal)|
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