How to Speak Indonesian Words for Beginner – Phrases – Examples

Hello! Welcome back!

Beside Indonesian Grammar Rules, having correct pronunciation will help a lot in conversation. You do not want mispronounced ‘bat’ as ‘bad’ or vice versa, right? because it would change a whole sentence. Therefore, we will learn how to speak Indonesian Words.

Like many nation, it consists diverse society and has its own dialect, so actually unlike English there is no correct and incorrect in terms of Indonesian Words Pronunciation. However, we would learn the common pronunciation of words. In fact, always remember that you would find many different pronunciation and it is okay because we live in the diversity.

Basic alphabet and phoneme in Indonesian

Two things that would help you in how to speak Indonesian Words for beginner like a pro is understand Indonesian Alphabets as well as Indonesian Phonemes.

As it explained at previous lesson, there is significant difference between alphabet and phoneme. Alphabet is the symbol (written form), while the phoneme is the sound. As you can see, Indonesia has same alphabet system with English as well as Dutch and German, but it has more similarities with both latter languages.

Aa [ɑ] Bb[be] Cc[ce] Dd[de] Ee[e] Ff[ef] Gg[ge} Hh[hɑ] Ii[i] Jj[ʤe]
Kk[kɑ] Ll[el] Mm[em] Nn[en] Oo[o] Pp[pe] Qq[ki] Rr[er] Ss[es] Tt[te]
Uu[u] Vv[fe] Ww[we] Xx[eks] Yy[ye] Zz[zet]        

Notes: Common mistakes that may appeared when you pronounce it is usually the ‘e’. At least there are three different way to pronounce [e]. First, is [e] like in lay [leɪ], or in Bahasa Indonesia bebek [bebek]. Secondly, is [ɛ], like in bed [bɛd] (but in Bahasa Indonesia it could pronounce similar with ‘e’. The third one is [ə], like when you pronounce the ‘a’ in ‘a book’. You need to remember it. These are some few examples.

  • ke [kə] – to
  • tempat [təmpat] – place
  • mengambil [məŋambil] – take
  • seperti [səperti] – like/seems
  • tetapi [tətapi] – but
  • nenek [nenek] – grandma
  • benda [bənda] – thing
  • lempar [lempar] – throw
  • empat [əmpat] – four
  • sepak [sepak] – kick
  • mentah [mentah] – raw

In addition, Indonesia also has special nasal word that uncommon in English or any country. In example, there is [ñ] sound (represented with the letter ‘ny’), like in nyamuk [ñamuk] – mosquito, banyak [bañak] – many/much, kenyang [kəñaŋ] as well as [ŋ] sound (represented with the letter ‘ng’] sound that placed at the beginning of the word, such as ngantuk [ŋantuk] – sleepy, ngomong [ŋomoŋ] – talk and so on.

Indonesian Diphtong

If you want to know how to speak Indonesian words for beginner like a native, beside the ‘e’ and nasal sound, also be careful with Indonesian Diphtongs (ai, au and oi). Those three forms as a diphtong should be pronounced as a unity. However, not all ‘ai’ [ay], ‘au’ [aw], ‘oi’ [oy] are diphtongs. Here are some common words for examples.

  • pantai [pantay] – beach
  • air [a’ir] – water
  • bau [ba’u] – smell
  • kalau [kalaw] – if
  • konvoi [konfoy] – convoy 

Try to pronounce some words in Indonesian!

Unlike English that has phonetic system that appeared on the dictionary, Bahasa Indonesia does not have it at all. Therefore, Bahasa Indonesia has no standardization. On the other hand, it would be more flexible as well as diverse like the country itself.

Here are the list of words for the exercise about how to speak Indonesian words for beginner from the easy one to most complex with the common pronunciation. Try to read it out loud!

  • makan [makan] – eat
  • perempuan [pərəmpuwan] – female
  • Indonesia [Indoneʃa]
  • Bahasa [bahasa]
  • aktif [aktif] – active
  • aktivitas [aktifitas] – activity
  • akhir [axir] – akhir
  • pergi [pərgi] – go
  • mempertanggungjawabkan [məmpərtaŋguŋjawabkan] – take responsibility
  • nyanyi [ñañi] – sing
  • memperbaharui [məmpərbaharu’i] – renew
  • cakrawala [cakrawala] – horizon
  • khatulistiwa [katulistiwa] – equator
  • sumbangsih [sumbaŋsih] – contribution
  • saat [saʔat] – when, at
  • Jumat [jum’at] – Friday
  • maklum [maʔlum] – tolerant
  • menggarisbawahi [məŋgarisba‘wahi] – underline
  • congklak [coŋklak] – a traditional game
  • menstandardisasi [mən’standar’disasi] – standardize

It’s very important to also master pronunciation of basic words to help you speak like a pro. Add many vocabulary from many source and try to pronounce it as well as try to impersonate person to video. That’s the way of how to speak Indonesian words for beginner and master it faster. Don’t give up and practice more.