There is no question whether a learner should be taught authentic Indonesian or not. Yet, many textbooks and Indonesian language Internet sites teach Indonesian phrases that no Indonesian would ever use.
For instance, it is quite common to find textbooks that translate ‘good bye’ as selamat tinggal. Selamat tinggal is the reply to selamat jalan. Selamat is ‘safe’, tinggal is ‘leave behind’, and jalan is ‘journey’. Hence selamat jalan is ‘bon voyage/have a good trip’. And yes, selamat tinggal is ‘good bye’, but only in response to selamat jalan.
The learner gets the impression that he/she can use selamat tinggal whenever an English speaker would use ‘good bye’. That is not the case. If you want to say ‘good bye, see you tomorrow’ then the best way to say ‘good bye’ is just simply mari, and ‘good bye, see you tomorrow’ is mari, sampai besok.
On an Indonesian language learning website I found the sentence semoga hari kamu menyenangkan ‘I hope you have a pleasant day’. This phrase is completely unidiomatic. It is a 100% translation from English, and I have not heard it even once in my life! And the worst is that they teach kamu ‘you’ without mentioning that kamu can only be used in colloquial Indonesian and only to very close friends or towards someone much younger than the speaker. If you use kamu to address anyone who is either considerably older than you, or who is in a superior position, then you insult that person!
So be very careful when choosing a textbook. We at «Indonesian Online» teach Indonesian embedded in its cultural context, and we only teach authentic and idiomatic Indonesian.
So here a few useful phrases for small talk:
When you ask someone “How are you?” you are, in most cases, not inquiring about your interlocutors well-being, but you are just using it as a conversation starter. The Indonesian phrase is apa kabar?, which literally means “What are the news?”. It is answered by either “Baik” (good), “Baik, baik saja” (just fine), or “Biasa-biasa saja” (as always). The latter is slightly sloppy and should only be used among friends. So a conversation goes:
How do you do?
Is there something missing? Don’t you have to ask back “And you?”. The majority of all Indonesian language textbooks teaches their learners how to say “And you?”. But why? Nobody in Indonesia ever asks back “And you?”. It does not exist. So why teaching it? You’re perfectly polite by not asking back.
An alternative answer, appropriate when you bump into someone you know, is to ask where she is going to. Here again, the person does not really want to know where you are going to. Again, it’s simply a conversation starter:
He, Dani. Mau ke mana?
Hey, Dani. Where are you going to?
I am going to town.
You can also answer tidak ke mana-mana (no where in particular), jalan-jalan saja (I’m just going for a stroll), or makan angin (getting some fresh air).
You can, of course, also make the conversation a bit more formal by replacing he (hey) with selamat pagi (good morning), or selamat in combination with the other times of the day: siang (from 10:00 to 14:00), sore (14:00 to 18:00), and malam (after sunset).
And what do you say when parting? The most common is just simply mari, but you can also say sampai bertemu lagi (till we meet again) or the more informal sampai jumpa (see you). Lots of ways to say ‘good-bye’, but never use selamat tinggal unless that person is going on a journey and you will not see him again for some time.