Language Guide

Roamindonesia has added a Language Guide page to the site.  The page is designed to assist travellers to learn the basics of Bahasa Indonesia.  It is easy when staying in the more popular destinations such as Bali to think all Indonesians speak English.  This is not the case.  Away from the major tourist centres some people may speak a few words of English or in many cases none at all.  We appreciate as tourists how much easier it is to be able to speak a few words of Bahasa Indonesia and we note the locals certainly appreciate that an effort has been made to speak their language.

The page contains translation basics which can be downloaded in a PDF as well as links to other language resources.


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Language Guide

Around Bali, English is widely spoken and less so in Java, Lombok and Flores.  But elsewhere, English is almost non-existent so if you’re getting out of Bali, learning a few words of Indonesian will be a great help.

The good news is that Bahasa Indonesia (literally, language of Indonesia), is one of the easiest languages to learn, especially for English speakers. For most people the biggest issue is overcoming their shyness about trying a few words, but in our experience, even in Bali the locals love it when a bule (foreigner) makes an attempt to speak their language so it’s worth making the effort.

With only a few exceptions, the pronunciation of vowels and consonants is quite similar to English but unlike English, there are no tricks such as two or three different ways of pronouncing a single vowel or silent letters.  Bahasa Indonesia is also non-tonal and words are generally spoken exactly as they are spelled.  Lastly, most adjectives and verbs are comprised of a root word to which different prefixes or suffixes applied to denote particular actions, states or descriptors.  For beginners, using the root word alone will generally be enough to be understood.

There are many excellent Bahasa Indonesia language resources readily available on the internet and the good news is many of them are free.  Our go to resources are:

  • Learning Indonesian – Our personal favourite course.  It includes 32 free downloadable podcasts with complementary pdf study guides.  I’ve downloaded the whole lot onto my iPhone so I can study anytime the mood takes me.  The lessons are well structured, well-paced and easy to follow.
  • Lonely Planet Indonesian Phrasebook – Covers most basic words and phrases and is well laid out so finding translations is quick and easy.  The handy pocket size makes it easy to keep with me all the time as my dogged-eared copy will attest.
  • World Nomads Indonesian Language Guide – A really handy resource from World Nomads travel insurers includes a downloadable iPhone app or MP3 Podcast.  If you’re looking to master a few basic words quickly, this is a good place to start.  Best yet, thanks to World Nomads you can download their Bahasa Indonesia language guide right here:

In the meantime, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to Bahasa Indonesia to get you started.

BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BAHASA INDONESIAClick here for your free pdf


Pronunciation rarely varies to that shown below.  The pronunciation of most consonants is consistent with English but there are a few differences. We’ve highlighted the ones to watch out for.

aar’ is in fatherng‘ng’ as in hanging
bas in boatnylike the ‘ni’ as in senior
c‘ch’ as in cheeseo‘o’ as in pot
das in dockpas in pot
e‘e’ as in elephantq‘k’ as in kiss
fas in fishr‘rr’ as in rice but with a slight roll of the tongue
gas in goldsas in sat
has in housetas in tap
i‘ee’ as in meetu‘oo’ as in food
jas in jobvas in vet
kas in kitewas in walk
las in lifexas in wax
mas in manyas in year
nas in nozas in zulu



0NolLarger numbers are denoted by the addition of the following words after the singular number as follows:
3Tiga11 – 19Belas
8DelapanThe only exception is the first number in each group where the prefix ‘se’ is applied instead of using ‘satu’ as follows:
12Dua belas11Sebelas
20Dua puluh100Seratus
21Dua puluh satu1000Seribu
30Tiga puluh1 millionSejuta
40Empat puluh
108Seratus delapan
235Dua ratus tiga puluh enam
200,000Dua ratus ribu
357,000Tiga ratus enam puluh tuju ribu



In Indonesia, it is considered disrespectful to speak to an older man or woman without addressing them properly.  Here’s how:

PakA shortened version of ‘Bapak’ meaning father.  It should be used to address an older man or if speaking to an important person you might normally address as ‘Sir’ such as a police officer.
BuA shortened version of ‘Ibu’ meaning mother.  It should be used to address an older woman.

There are other titles but these two will suffice in most situations as the important thing, which Indonesian’s will appreciate, is the intent to show respect.


Common Words & Useful Phrases

Bahasa IndonesiaEnglishComments
Selamat pagiGood morningUsed until 10am.  Often shortened to just pagi.
Selamat malanGood evening or good night
Selamat jalanGoodbye to someone who is leavingLiterally have a “safe journey”
Selamat tinggalGoodbye to someone who is stayingLiterally have a “safe stay”.
Selamat datangWelcome
Hari baikHave a nice day
Apa kabar?How are you?Literally what’s news?
BaikFineResponse to apa kabar
Getting to know each other
Siapa nama anda?What’s your name?
Nama saya…My name is…
Senang bertemu dengan AndaI’m happy to meet you
Anda dari mana?Where are you from?
Saya dari…I’m from…
Yes, No & Maybe  
TidakNoAmong Indonesian’s, tidak (no) is most commonly used to negate something rather than as a direct response to question.   Instead, Indonesian’s prefer to use sudah (I already have it, I’ve already done it etc) or belum (I haven’t got/done it yet but I might one day).  Most non-native Indonesian speakers use tidak only but if you can master sudah or belum instead, you’ll get a far more positive response, especially when dealing with hawkers and vendors.
BelumNot yet
SayaMe, mine, IUsed to yourself in any form
AndaYou, yoursPolite form of referring to someone you’re speaking to
KamiWe, us, ours
MerekaThem, they
Anak / anak-anakChild / children
Kami bersamaWe’re together
KembaliYou’re welcome
Terima kasihThank you
MaafSorryPronounced ma’af
PermisiExcuse me
Anda bisa bicara bahasa inggris?Do you speak English?
Saya tidak bicara Bahasa IndonesiaI don’t speak Indonesian
Saya sedikit saja bicara Bahasa IndonesiaI only speak a little Indonesian
Tolong, bisa anda bicara pelan-pelanCan you please speak more slowly
Saya mengertiI understand
Saya tidak mengertiI don’t understand
Bagiamana cara…dalam Bahasa Indonesia?How do you say … in Indonesian?
Apa ini?What is this?
Apa itu?What is that?
Berapa harganya?What is the price?
Terlalu mahalToo expensive
BerapaHow much/many?
Jam berapa?What time is it?
AdaIs/are there? There is.
Boleh?May I? You may.When asking to be allowed to do something or being given permission to do something.
Boleh saya minta…May I ask…To which you may receive the response boleh or boleh-boleh – Okay, you may.
Bisa anda…?Can you…?
Expressing Yourself
Saya mau…I want…
Saya tidak mau…I don’t want…
Saya suka…I like…
Saya tidak suka…I don’t like…
Eating & Drinking  
WarungSmall local food stall or shop
Air botolBottled waterPronounced ar’eer
Ada air minum?Is there any drinking water?
Ada meja untuk dua orang?Is there a table for two people?
Selamat makanEnjoy your meal
Getting Around
Sini, disiniHere
Sana, kesanaThere, To there
Saya mau pergi ke…I want to go to…
Bagaimana saya pergi ke sanaHow do I get to…
Kami tinggal di…We are staying at…
Kami tinggal disiniWe are staying here
OjekMotorbike taxi
Mobil sewaHire car
Sepeda motorScooterLiterally motorised bicycle
BusBusPronounced boos
KapalBoat, ship, ferry
JamHour (time)
Hari iniTodayLiterally this day
Place Names  
JalanStreet or lane
CandiTemplePronounced “chandi”
Gunung ApiVolcanoLiterally “fire mountain”
Desa or kampungVillage
Other Useful Words & Phrases  
Saya jalan-jalanI’m just walkingIn response to taxi, ojek or hire car tout.
Di mana kamar mandi? or Di mana WC?Where’s the toilet?
Orang / orang-orangPerson / People
Ada kamar untuk keluarga empat orang satu malam?
Do you have a room for a family of four for one night?
Dua orang dewasa dan dua anak-anakTwo adults and two children