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What writing system(s) does this language use?[edit]

Indonesian (known locally as Bahasa Indonesia, literally the "Indonesian Language") uses the Roman alphabet, like English and German.

It is written mostly phonetically, with the exception of the letter 'e', which can be pronounced either hard or soft depending on the word. The hard 'e' is pronounced like 'eh'. Some dictionaries represent this by writing 'é'. The soft 'e' is like the English schwa sound, an unstressed sound, like the 'a' at the beginning of 'agree' or the 'o' at the beginning of 'other'.

The Indonesian language has a simple way to form words. There are base words (kata dasar) that can be used with prefixes (awalan) and suffixes (akhiran). To build your vocabulary, you only need to memorize the base word, and you can often make sense of the variations using the prefixes and suffixes.

This language has old spelling and new spelling. The table below shows the difference between old spelling and new spelling.

oe u
tj c
dj j
j y
nj ny
sj sy
ch kh

Around 1947, the government changed ‹oe› to ‹u›. Then the government changed the other spellings again in 1972. Some of the old spellings do survive in proper names; for example, the name of the second president of Indonesia is still sometimes written Soeharto.

How many people speak this language?[edit]

Slightly less than 255 million people speak Bahasa Indonesia as a main language. However many Indonesians, especially those of the older generations, are not fluent in Indonesian.

The Indonesian language is based on the Malay language with many words added from English, Dutch, Arabians, Javanese, and many local languages of Indonesia such as Sundanese, Betawi, Minangkabau, etc.

Since becoming the official national language of Indonesia, the language has developed quickly with the addition of many English-based words.

Where is this language spoken?[edit]

Bahasa Indonesia is chiefly spoken in the Republic of Indonesia and East Timor, as well as minority populations around the world such as the Netherlands, Suriname, the Philippines, Australia, Saudi Arabia, New Caledonia, and the United States.

What is the history of this language?[edit]

Indonesian is the official language of the country of Indonesia. On 28 October 1928, a meeting of young Indonesian nationalists resulted in a declaration called Sumpah Pemuda (literally "Youth Pledge"). That declaration contains the pledge that "the sons and daughters of Indonesia, respect the language of unity, Indonesian." Indonesian today is a standardized dialect of the Malay language, which had been used for centuries by merchants and traders in Southeast Asia. During this time, the many islands of Indonesia all had different languages. The standard language was invented to be close to as many as possible, without making some people feel left out by choosing a language that wasn't theirs. It became Indonesia's official language when Indonesia declared independence in 1945.


dialect — one form of a language; sometimes different regions of an area develop slightly different forms of a language, called dialects.


pledge — to make a deeply serious promise (to do something).


unity — condition of being one or undivided.

Who are some famous authors or poets in this language?[edit]

Chairil Anwar

Chairil Anwar (July 26, 1922 - April 28, 1949) was an Indonesian poet and member of the "1945 generation" of writers. Chairil was educated at Dutch schools, but dropped out at the age of 19. He moved to Jakarta and began to read western literature. Death became a theme of many of his poems. His collected poems were published as Deru Campur Debu [Roar Mixed with Dust] in 1949. He died on April 28, 1949. This day is celebrated as literature day in Indonesia.

Merari Siregar (July 13, 1896 - April 23, 1941) was an Indonesian writer. She completed her studies at a Kweekschool and in 1923 received a diploma as Handelscorrespondent Bond 'Federal Trade Correspondent' in Jakarta. She is especially known for Azab dan Sengsara ('Pain and Suffering') from 1920 about the problems of a forced marriage.

What are some basic words in this language that I can learn?[edit]

Basic words:


Ya. (EEYU)


Tidak. (TEE-duk)


Maaf. (MA-AF)


Terimakasih (ta-ree-maa-kaa-seeh)

Greetings & phrases:

Good morning.

Selamat pagi. (slum-mut PU-GEE)

Good night

Selamat malam. (slum-mut MU-LUM)

How are you?

Apa kabar? (A-pA KA-bar?)

My name is ______ .

Nama saya ______ . (NUM-MU su-yu _____ .)

Where is the toilet?

Di mana toiletnya? (DEE mu-nu TOY-leht-nyu?)


0 : nol

1 : satu

2 : dua

3 : tiga

4 : empat

5 : lima

6 : enam

7 : tujuh

8 : delapan

9 : sembilan

10 : sepuluh

What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?[edit]

Burung Kakatua is a children song in Indonesian language. This song is simple and have many rhymes.

Burung kakatua
Hinggap di jendela
Nenek sudah tua
Giginya tinggal dua

The translation of that song is

Perched on the windowsill
Grandma is already old
She only has two teeth left