Indonesian Formal Language – Structures – Forms – Examples

Selamat datang!

Learning Bahasa Indonesia is one thing, but mastering Indonesian Formal Language is a little bit harder. Why? Unlike English, which has strict rules of grammar, Bahasa Indonesia is more flexible (Check Indonesian to English Grammar).

Do you know why the Indonesian chose Malay (Melayu) instead of Javanese as their national language even though the latter one has biggest number of speaker? Because Melayu (which later called as Bahasa Indonesia) is the lingua franca, used by many people from diverse background (mostly as trade language). That is also why Bahasa Indonesia became really dynamic.

Consequently, it became hard to maintain its formal form. But, for academics, law or business and certain part of life, we need to learn more about the Indonesian Formal Language.

Before we start, check these articles.

Using the Indonesian Proper Verb

Formal language is about choice of words. While we later talk about other Indonesian Part of Speech, we now talk about the verb first. Why? Because unlike English which the verbs are divided unto regular and irregular, in Bahasa Indonesia, it is divided as active/passive.

In short, to form an active/passive and transitive/intransitive verbs most Indonesian word would be added affixes, such as me-, me/-kan, ber- and more. Remember the Forming Indonesian Words & Using Indonesian Affixes! In terms of formal language, usually when people talk, Indonesian people somehow often shorten the words, especially the verb. They usually removed the Indonesian affixes, mostly the Indonesian Prefixes. Those are considered okay in non-formal situation, but it is prohibited in formal language.

Here are the example:

Further reading : Indonesian Prefixes and Suffixes

Choosing the Formal Form among the Indonesian synonyms

Every word has its own meaning, even if they are synonyms. But, in Bahasa Indonesia, the word also has different meaning in terms of formality, beside difference in specific sense and condition. Some of it are more polite than others. In English, maybe it is not too significant. Here are some examples.

  • ‘Berbicara’ and ‘ngomong’
    Both words means speak or talk. But, in formal situation, you should choose ‘berbicara’, instead of ‘ngomong’ or ‘bicara’ (root word of ‘berbicara’). Here are the examples.
    – Saya berbicara Bahasa Indonesia (I speak Bahasa Indonesia) – formal
    – Saya ngomong Bahasa Indonesia (I speak Bahasa Indonesia)
    – Saya bisa berbicara enam bahasa (I can speak six languages) – formal
    – Saya bisa ngomong enam bahasa (I can speak six languages)
  • ‘mati’ and ‘meninggal dunia’
    Both means ‘die’, but the ‘meninggal dunia’ is considered more polite than ‘mati’. Moreover, there are many terms for die.
    – Dia telah mati (She has died)
    – Dia telah meninggal dunia (She has died)

Further reading: Indonesian Synonyms

Formal Indonesian Pronouns

Other important thing is choose the right pronouns. As you know Indonesian also has Indonesia Formal Pronouns. Therefore, unlike English which only has one word refer to ‘I’, in Bahasa Indonesia, there are many words to refer it. The polite one is ‘saya’. It also happened to the word ‘you’ (Anda or title, such as Bapak/Ibu/Saudara) and ‘he/she’ (beliau – for someone respected. Here are the examples.

  • Saya berencana membangun jembatan (I have plan to build a bridge) – formal
  • Bagaimana kabar Saudara? (How are you?) – formal
  • Beliau adalah orang pandai (She is an intellectual person) – formal 

Standard vs Non-standard Indonesian Words

This is when Indonesian speaker also has their struggle to speak ‘good’ Indonesian. Because Bahasa Indonesia is derived from Bahasa Melayu, which is a lingua franca (mostly spoke, not written), people learned language mostly from what they heard. Long after that, the standardization had been implemented. Therefore, many of them quite struggle with the standard language.

Many problems happened because translated words or absorbed words. One of the problem is, as you know Bahasa Indonesia has many Indonesian Words Derived from Dutch, recent standardization is based on English. For example, the word ‘praktik’ (practice) is usually pronounced ‘praktek’ because it is derived from practij (Dutch word), but standardized based on the word ‘practice’ (English word). Here are some Indonesian word that usually misspelled.

  • apotek (pharmacy)
  • risiko (risk)
  • antre (queue)
  • standardisasi (standardization)
  • ekstrem (extreme)
  • Jumat (Friday)
    *Check also Indonesian Words Derived from Arabic
  • atlet (athlete)
  • bus (bus)
  • frasa (phrase)
  • frekuensi (frequency)
  • ijazah (sertificate)
  • izin (permission)
  • karier (career)
  • kompleks (complex)
  • legalisasi (legalization)
  • akomodasi (accommodation)
  • November (November)
  • Februari (February)
  • aktivitas (activity)
  • kreativitas (creaitivity)
  • saus (sauce)
  • subjek (subject)
  • makhluk (creature)

Can you find another confusion in terms of which form of word is standard/non-standard? 

‘di’ as preposition and ‘di-‘ as Indonesian prefix

Most Indonesian usually got mistaken by the ‘di’ and ‘di-‘. In Bahasa Indonesia Grammar Rules, ‘di’ is a preposition and should be written separately before the ‘noun’ to form and adverb of place, while ‘di-‘ as suffix (signed by the ‘-‘ punctuation) is a prefix to form a passive verb and is written together with the root word. Most Indonesian unfortunately could not differentiate both functions and mistakenly using it. Here are the proper way to use it.

  • ‘di’ as preposition
    – Ibu berbelanja di pasar (Mom shops at the market)
    – Saya sedang berada di sekolah (I’m at the school)
  • ‘di-‘ as suffix
    – Buah dibeli ayah (Fruits were bought by father)
    – Rumahnya sudah dijual (His house has been sold)
    Check: Indonesian prefix di-

So, those are things about Indonesian Formal Language. I hope you enjoy the lesson. Then, I recommend you to check these following articles.