Indonesian Phrases

Bahasa Indonesia is based on the high Malay language as spoken and written in the Riau Islands, as in the early 19th. century, Malay was the lingua franca throughout the then Dutch East Indies,  the language spoken in trade transactions. The more democratic Malay language was preferred by nationalistic youth above the Javanese language, despite the fact that Javanese is more sophisticated and at the time spoken by the majority population, Yet, Javanese is feudal as it has different levels of language depending on one’s status and the status of the person spoken to. The Youth Pledge of 1928, therefore, vowed to build one Indonesian country, one nation, speaking one language: bahasa Indonesia.


Since then, Bahasa Indonesia has developed rapidly incorporating Javanese terms, Jakarta dialect, as well as many English and Arabic words into its vocabulary.


Bahasa Indonesia use Latin alphabets but some parts of Indonesia have their own scripts, too. Bahasa Indonesia is rather easy to learn and once you get the hang of it, you’ll find out that it’s actually quite simple. You can try some simple Indonesian phrases, to get you started.


Fact: there are 583 languages and dialects spoken by the different ethnic groups in Indonesia. Imagine a school of 583 students who each speaks different languages or dialects. Confusion will be an understatement. Therefore it’s very fortunate that every single ethnic group embraces Bahasa Indonesia as the national language.


Bahasa Indonesia is relatively simple and by using a few phrases or sentences, you’ll be more appreciated and respected. You can find Indonesian phrase books in good book shops.


But these few pointers below can help. Try slipping a few of them in daily conversations and ask whether you get it right. It’ll be a great ice-breaker.

English Bahasa Indonesia
How do you do ? Apa kabar?
Good Morning Selamat Pagi
Good Afternoon Selamat Siang
Goodbye Selamat Tinggal
Fine Baik
Welcome Selamat Datang
Personal Pronouns & Titles
I Saya
You Kamu/ Anda
We Kami
He/ She Ia/ Dia (both are genderless)
They Mereka
Mr. Tuan
Miss Nona
Mrs Nyonya
General questions
Can you help me? Dapatkah Anda membantu/ menolong saya?
How do I get there? Bagaimana cara untuk kesana?
How far? Seberapa jauh?
How long will it make? Seberapa lama?
How much (Price)? Berapa harganya?
What is this/ that? Apa ini/ itu?
What is your name? Siapa nama Anda?
When? Kapan?
Where? Di mana?
Why? Kenapa/ mengapa?
Go up/ascend Naik
Descend Turun
Turn Berbelok
Right Kanan
Left Kiri
Front Depan
Behind Belakang
North Utara
South Selatan
East Timur
West Barat