The Indonesian language, bahasa Indonesia - Azimuth Adventure Travel Ltd
The Indonesian language, bahasa Indonesia

The Indonesian language, bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa Indonesia officially became the national language of the Indonesian Republic in 1928. It is a derivative of the Malay language enriched by the absorption of Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Chinese, Dutch and Javanese words. Even French and English have had some influence to a lesser extent. The Indonesian archipelago counts hundreds of native languages. The creation of a common language was meant to unify the different components of the nation and build a national identity after long years of colonisation.

Origins of Bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa Indonesia comes from an existing language spoken in the Riau province. It was chosen by the nationalist movement and proclaimed as the official language through Sumpah Pemuda, the Youth Pledge. The movement’s leader, Sukarno, declared that Bahasa Indonesia would be the language of the future nation.   The word bahasa means language in Sanskrit. Thus, Indonesian language serves as the medium of communication between the inhabitants of the entire archipelago. It occupies the 21st position on the list of difficult languages to learn and appears as one of the most spoken languages in the world with its estimated 225 million speakers.

Particularities of the Indonesian language

Like most languages, Bahasa Indonesia has its own system of personal pronouns. Its precision's in reflecting social relations between people can hardly be expressed in French or English. For example, certain pronouns denote that the speakers are very close to each other. There are no distinct tenses in Bahasa Indonesia. To demonstrate the time aspect of a sentence, the speaker will use a number of hints and time adverbs. For example, the future will be indicated by the addition of ‘akan’ before the verb. To express the past, the words telah (formal) or sudah (informal) will be used, both mean ‘already’. Word order is another important factor in Bahasa Indonesia. The final meaning of a sentence can change substantialy if the words are placed in a different position. A minimal understanding of syntax is essential to properly use the language with all its subtleties. 

Basic vocabulary :

    • Welcome: selamat datang
    • Good morning : selamat pagi (morning ‘till 11am),
    • Good day : selamat siang (11 ‘till 3pm)
    • Good afternoon : selamat sore (3pm  ‘till evening).
    • Good evening: selamat malam
    • Good night (to sleep): selamat tidur
    • Good bye, see you: selamat tinggal, sampai jumpa lagi
    • Thank you: terima kasih
    • How are you?: Apa kabar ?
    • Drink: minum
    • Eat: makan
    • Sleep: tidur
    • Go: jalan
    • Miss: nona
    • Mr:  Pak / Bapak
    • Mrs, mother : Ibu / bu (the later is more like “ma'am")
With a little bit of effort, it is possible to rapidly acquire the basics of Bahasa. Once in Indonesia, your ability to express yourself and be understood by the locals will be very rewarding. Indonesians always appreciate any attempt travellers make to speak their language.
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