Compare the Indonesian to English Grammar is not an easy task to do. You will find cultural difference between in because language is a representation of a society even a country. One of the biggest difference between Bahasa Indonesia and English is the Indonesian Pronouns.
Because a deep respect to older people (very common in Eastern Culture), pronouns is a way to show our manners. Therefore, there are many pronouns to refer a single pronouns in English. Consequently, there are several Indonesian formal pronouns. Now take a look!
I = Saya
The first one is ‘saya’. While there are many translations of ‘I’ in Bahasa Indonesia, the only formal and standard form of it is ‘saya’. It is highly recommended to use it when you are put in formal situation, such as letter, speech, formal meeting, introducing yourself (including in e-mail or short message) or student to teacher. It is also applied in Indonesian Possesive Pronouns (my, your etc). Here are the examples.
- Selamat pagi, Pak. Nama saya Juni. Saya mau bertanya apakah bapak ada waktu sebentar? (Good morning, Sir. My name is Juni. I would like to ask, do you have a minute, Sir?)
Notes: even The first-person pronouns (including ‘saya’) is prohibited in academics writing because it represent subjectivity, while academic writing need to be objective (no personal opinion). Therefore, using first-person pronouns will be considered informal.
In Bahasa Indonesia, using of difference terms refer to ‘you’ represent the way you see the interlocutor. While you use ‘kamu’ for peers or someone close, in formal situations there are two types of ‘you’ translation and both have different function. In formal situation, such as meeting clients, survey, speech, you could use ‘Anda’ as ‘you’.
However, it is considered disrespectful to use it for older people because ‘Anda’ has less personal sense and too patronizing (especially it is mostly used in speech, formal events, for clients). On the other words, using it in wrong time makes you sounds ‘cocky’. Instead, there are ‘safe option’.
You could refer you as title, such as ‘Bapak/Ibu/Paman/Tante’ (to much older people/your teacher), ‘Mas/Mbak/Kak’ (to peers/someone a little bit older/stranger) or Saudara. [Check Indonesian Cultural Words].
Here are the examples of Indonesian formal pronouns.
- Produk ini amat cocok untuk Anda (This product is really fit for you) – Sales and client
- Anda mungkin berpikir pertemuan kali ini hanyalah sekadar acara berkumpul (You might think this event as only a meeting ceremony) – speech
- Apakah Bapak sudah makan siang? (Have you eaten lunch, Sir?)
- Tolong nyalakan lampu, Mbak. (Miss, please turn on the light)
- Saudara berasal dari mana? (Where are you from?)
*saudara literal meaning is ‘sibling(s). In another occasion it is a very formal second-person pronouns. Moreover, it could be followed by the name of interlocutor (if, of course you know their name, in example: Saudara Nina ([Miss] Nina) to refer second-person.
Notes: if you want to call your family (mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandpa and many more) as second-person (you), just use their position. Here are the examples.
- Saya mau pergi, Ma (I want to go, Mom) *Ma is abbreviation of ‘mama’ (mother)
- Om, mau ke mana? (Uncle, where are you going?)
As you know in English, ‘you’ could refer both singular and plural. In Bahasa Indonesia, it is not the same. While ‘Anda’ could refer to many people, there are different form of plural second-form pronouns.
Here they are of Indonesian formal pronouns.
- You (p) = ‘kalian’ (informal)
- You (p) = Anda, Anda semua (all of you)
- Ladies and Gentlement = Saudara-saudara, saudara sekalian, Bapak/Ibu sekalian (mostly used in speech or by MC)
He/She = Beliau/ (Title + Name/Position)
Unlike English, we could not refer third-person only as their sex. We should also notice their age and position compared to us. Instead of using ‘dia’, if we want to refer older people, respected person (teachers, president or even national hero). we need to replace it with ‘beliau’, especially in formal occasion (presentation, workshop etc). It is a very unique word in Indonesia and it shows respect to the person we refer. On the other case, you could just replace it by their title + name (like Mr. Yos or Dr. Jun or General Cortez) or their position. Here are the examples.
- Bapak Sanjaya merupakan pakar linguistik. Beliau telah menerbitkan lebih dari 50 buku sepanjang hidupnya (Mr. Sanjaya is a notable linguist. He has published more than 50 books throughout his life) – introducing a speaker/inviation
- Ibu saya adalah seorang dokter. (My mother [she] is a doctor)
There are things you should know about Indonesian Formal Pronouns. It is very important to understand this culture so you would not got misjudged only because you have no idea about how to say ‘you’ and ‘I’. It would be pathetic, right? Furthermore, to enhance your knowledge about Indonesian culture and society, please read these following articles.