Module 1
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Module 3
Module 4

Lesson 1

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Getting A Conversation Going With Preliminary Smalltalk

learn Indonesian conversation

Fulan visits Bedu. Bedu tries to hide a piece of bread (roti) from Fulan but the bread is grabbed by his dog (anjing): 1. “Good morning, Bedu” “Oh, it’s Fulan” 2. “C’mon in, take a seat” “Thanks” 3. “How’s it going, Lan? You’re okay, aren’t you?” 4. “I’m okay, but it seems your bread isn’t.” (Adapted from: IniiiS Dagelan Petruk Gareng VI, Semarang, Loka Tjipta, p.23)

Aims of Lesson 1

  • To learn about some of the basic differences between Indonesian and English.
  • Basic conversation: to practice some common greetings and initial smalltalk.

Selamat Datang—Welcome

Welcome to «The Indonesian Way». This is the first of 113 lessons. Learning a new language takes time. Less serious sellers of introductory Indonesian language courses such as Babbel may promise that they will get you “speaking a language in three weeks”. Don’t trust them. They also pretend that their courses are free, but you will end up paying much more than what you pay for «The Indonesian Way». We are also not Rosetta Stone offering dozens of languages following one pattern. We only do one language: Indonesian, and we do it thoroughly.

After finishing this course of 113 lessons you will be familiar with the most prominent features of Indonesian morphology and syntax and you will have mastered approximately 2000 words necessary for communicative competence at the proficiency level B1 of the CEF scale. This is what you will be able to do:

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Some learners may even have reached level B2:

  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialisation.
  • Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
  • Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

And now, without further ado, let’s start Lesson 1:

Indonesian is Different

Indonesian belongs to the Austronesian language family. Many of the basic features of the language are very different to the basic features of English (which belongs to the Indo-European language family). Let’s glance at just a few of these differences.

As a beginning point look at these English sentences.

This is a big farm. It has five barns.

Imagine how you would say these sentences if you were not allowed to use the word “is” (a form of the verb “to be”), or the indefinite article “a”, or the pronoun “it”, or the word “has” (a form of the verb “to have”). Imagine also that “big” must come after “farm”, not before it. Imagine too that “barn” doesn’t have a plural form, that is, you can’t add “-s” to it.

Indonesian doesn’t have a verb “to be”, it doesn’t have articles (words like “a”, “the”, “some” and “any”), and it doesn’t really have a pronoun “it”, at least not in the subject position in a sentence. As for adjectives (words like “fat”, “fast”, “big” etc.), in Indonesian they come after nouns (as they do in French), and nouns are the same in the plural as they are in the singular (like the English noun sheep and nouns in Japanese).

The sounds of Indonesian are different too. Indonesian doesn’t have a /th/ sound, or (for most speakers) a /f/ sound. On the other hand most Indonesians roll or trill the /r/ sound, and they pronounce /t/ without aspiration (without a little hiss or puff of breath) so that it sounds a bit like the English sound /d/. Even the meanings of words in Indonesian are often (in fact usually) somewhat different from their counterparts in English. Take the English word “farm” for example. Strange as it may seem, Indonesian doesn’t have a word that corresponds exactly to the English “farm”. Even common English words, like for example the verb “to have”, are often very difficult to render aptly in Indonesian. In short, if you want to say the two sentences above in authentic Indonesian you have to let go of many basic features of English, and this is not easy to do.

It is very important for you to accept that Indonesian is different, and to work as hard as you can to imitate it accurately, and ultimately to see it as normal. As soon as you can, you must “forget” English: its grammar, its pronunciation, the range of meaning of its words. Remember that what seems (at first) strange to you is perfectly clear, normal and logical to Indonesian speakers.

Already in the very first steps of study you will experience that Indonesian is different. In the dialogue that follows, you will notice that in Indonesian we don’t ask “What is your name?” but “WHO is your name?” Also, in English we say “your name” (your comes in front of name), but in the counterpart Indonesian expression the word order is reversed. You say “name (of) you” (nama Anda). The Indonesian for “please” is also difficult. Indonesian doesn’t have a single exact equivalent for our word “please” but several different words. The word silakan in the dialogue below is just one of three or four different “please-words” in Indonesian. Silakan means something like “feel free to…” or sometimes “help yourself to…” If you want to say “Please open the window” or “Could I have a kilo of rice, please” you have to choose different please-words to make your request polite. (These are studied later in the book.) And when Indonesians want to thank someone they say (translated literally) “receive affection” (terima kasih).

Introducing Yourself

Now read the following short dialogue – a conversation between two Indonesians. Say it out loud several times until the words roll reasonably smoothly off your tongue. Compare the Indonesian with the English translation, and observe how Indonesians say things very differently from English speakers.

When you have finished, click on the “Speak” tab and practice speaking the same dialogue.

Finally complete the Latihan (exercises) L1, L2, and L3 in the tabs.

Note: Latihan translates as “Exercise”. These interactive exercises are an integral part of this course, so make sure to complete all exercises. The exercises are always contained in tabs or spoilers and are ordered as L1, L2 etc. You have to click on the tabs (or the grey spoiler bars) to see the content!
  • Kenalkan, saya Benny. Siapa nama Anda?
    May I introduce myself: I am Benny. What is your name?
    Saya Paulus.
    I am Paulus.
    Silakan masuk, Paulus. Silakan duduk.
    Please come in, Paulus. Please sit down.
    Terima kasih.
    Thank you.
    Silakan minum. Silakan makan.
    Please help yourself to a drink. Please have something to eat.
    Terima kasih.
    Thank you.

Now practice the dialogue without looking at the Indonesian text:

May I introduce myself: I am Benny. What is your name?
I am Paulus.
Please come in, Paulus. Please sit down.
Thank you.
Please help yourself to a drink. Please have something to eat.
Thank you.


This is a dictation exercise. Listen carefully to the sentences and write them down in the spaces provided including punctuation marks. A single beep stands for a comma, a double beep for a full stop or a question mark.

Cara Indonesia

Note: Cara Indonesia translates as “the Indonesian way”. Almost every lesson features a “Cara Indonesia” containing mainly cultural notes. Look out for the two wayang (Indonesian shadow theatre) figures depicted here.

Introducing Yourself

Cara Indonesia conversation

The small ceremony of a formal introduction is quite important in Indonesia. It applies to both men and women. Whether you are introducing yourself or being introduced by a third person, you usually say your name and extend your hand, taking the other person’s hand in a light, bland clasp. A strong grip and vigorous shaking of the hand are considered a bit crass. In some parts of the country, after releasing the other person’s hand, people often raise their hand and touch it to their chest as if they are placing their new acquaintance in their heart.

In most parts of Indonesia it is normal for men and women to shake each others’ hands, but in a few more strict Islamic communities it is regarded as improper for a man and woman to touch each other, even in a handshake, unless they are husband and wife, mother and son etc.

Hand-shaking is also common not only at initial introductions, but also as a kind of greeting between people who already know one another. They will often greet each other with a handshake even if they haven’t been separated long.

Exercise 01-01

Fill in the bubbles in the following conversation with a word or phrase appropriate to the picture. The personal names you choose should be Indonesian names and should be appropriately male or female as indicated in the picture. (You may need to ask around or do a little research to find appropriate Indonesian names. If you can’t immediately think of enough authentic Indonesian names, go to a library or to the internet and copy down some of the personal names you can recognise in Indonesian publications.)

conversation Indonesian Online
Kenalkan, saya Budi. Siapa nama Anda?— …. …. — Nama saya Sri Utami.
Silakan masuk Silakan duduk
Silakan …. Silakan ….
e-learning course
Silakan …. Silakan ….

Morning, Noon and Night

Another difference between Indonesian and English is to be found in the way the two languages divide up reality into somewhat different categories. Indeed, if we look at the meanings of English words and Indonesian words, very few words in the core vocabulary of one language have exactly the same meaning in the other language.

Take, for example, the terms used to refer to times of the day. In English we have “morning”, “afternoon”, “evening”, “night” and a number of other terms. In Indonesian we have pagi (from pre-dawn until around 10 or 11:00), siang (from around 11:00 to around 14–15:00), sore (from around 15:00 to nightfall) and malam (from nightfall to dawn). Even though malam refers to the dark hours, Indonesians get up early and hence may greet you with “Selamat Pagi” at 03:00 in the morning!

Preceded by the word selamat, all the above terms can be used in greetings.

Selamat pagi Good morning (until about 11:00)
Selamat siang Good afternoon (until about 14:00) or perhaps more accurately “Good late morning and/or afternoon”
Selamat sore Good (late) afternoon/Good (early) evening (until about 18:00)
Selamat malam Good evening / Good night (until about midnight)

IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to complete the Latihan (exercises) L4 and L5 in the tabs!

Click on => to move to the next question. Click on the i-button for instructions.


Note: Fonetik translates as “Phonetics”, which is the study of the sounds of human speech. Pay good attention to the “Fonetik” column as it teaches you good pronunciation!

The Schwa in Indonesian


The letter /e/ in Indonesian is often pronounced as a neutral vowel sound that occurs in unstressed position and which is known as the schwa (denoted by the IPA symbol ə). Even though the schwa is a common sound in English, there is no single grapheme (“letter”) that represents it. Instead it can be represented by any vowel. The schwa is represented by ‘a’ in adept, by ‘e’ in synthesis, by ‘i’ in decimal, by ‘o’ in harmony, by ‘u’ in medium, and by ‘y’ in syringe!

Now listen carefully to the following greetings. Notice that the schwa is so weak that you can hardly hear it.

Selamat pagi
Selamat siang
Selamat sore
Selamat malam

For the pronunciation of all other vowels and consonants consult the Wikipedia entry (scroll down to ‘phonology’), and especially the ‘orthographic note’. Indonesian has a very phonetic alphabet. In fact, the pronunciation is usually much simpler as indicated in the Wikipedia entry. Both f and v are pronounced /f/, but many Indonesians substitute it with /p/ as /f/ is not a native sound. The letter combination sy can be pronounced /ʃ/, but many Indonesian simply pronounce it /s/. The letter z is almost always pronounced like the letter j in Jakarta. Kh is almost never pronounced /x/ but simply as /k/. It only occurs in Arabic loan words. Final -k is a glottal stop. The pronunciation is just like /k/, but without the aspiration.

Bu & Pak

When you are greeting someone in Indonesia it is polite to acknowledge that person’s status and use a title. For example, you would greet your own father, or any man who is mature in years with the title Pak. Similarly you would greet your own mother, or any woman who is mature in years, with the title Bu. If you are greeting someone your own age whom you know very well, or if you are greeting a child whom you know well, you can just say that person’s name.


Bu and Pak are derived from the long forms ibu (mother, Lady) and bapak (father, Sir). The short forms Pak and Bu are used in the vocative (when calling someone as in the pictures below) and in combination with proper names: Bu Titin (Mrs or Miss Titin), Pak Wahid (Mr. Wahid) etc.

Here are a couple of examples of this from a primary school textbook showing how children and adults greet each other.

textbook selamat sore


When two adults who know each other, but not particularly well, meet each other they might greet each other and exchange a few words as in the following conversation.

Study the following two conversations by heart. In the first conversation the two individuals use Pak and Bu to address the other, and they use the standard formula baik-baik saja as a reply to apa kabar?. Therefore the conversation is more formal than the second conversation, a dialogue between Nur and Irwan. They already know each other’s name, and address the other by using the person’s name. Irwan also replies to apa kabar? with biasa saja, literally ‘as usual’, but it can also mean ‘I’m hanging in there’ – indicating that this is a less formal conversation (Check the vocabulary cards for this lesson if you don’t recognise a word).

Dialogue 1Dialogue 2L6

Hint: Click on Transkripsi to display a transcription of the sound file.


Selamat pagi, Bu indonesia bahasa Selamat pagi, Pak
Apa kabar? laki-laki bahasa Baik-baik saja.
Selamat sore, Iwan. bahasa laki-laki Selamat sore, Nur
Apa kabar? bahasa laki-laki Biasa saja.


Word Stress in Indonesian


In English there are stressed and unstressed syllables. For example, if you say the phrase “a car park” it has three beats, the first is weak (unstressed) and the second and third are strong (stressed).

Indonesian also has stressed and unstressed syllables, though the patterns of stress are somewhat different to those of English. In Indonesian there is roughly even stress on each syllable with – in most, but far from all cases – a slightly stronger stress on the second-to-last syllable in a word. (An important exception to this general rule is given in Lesson Two.)

So apa is pronounced /Ā.pā/, malam is pronounced /MĀ.lām/, siapa is pronounced /see.YĀ.pā/ and so on.

Try pronouncing these words and phrases. Each syllable should be roughly equal in length, and there should be slightly stronger stress on the second-to-last syllable in each word.

Apa kabar Maman?
Siapa nama Anda?

Awas !!

Note: Awas! translates as “Watch Out!” and Perhatian (in the icon) as “Attention”. Pay good attention to the “Awas!” column as it is here where we try to protect you against the mishaps of language and cross-cultural misunderstanding!

Word Stress

Indonesian Grammar

Some English-speaking learners of Indonesian tend to put stress on the final syllable of a word. Except for certain words of foreign origin and words that are being given special emphasis, this is almost always wrong. So Apa kabar, for example, is not /ā.pā.k’BĀR/ but /Ā.pā.KĀ.bār/.

There is a tendency for foreigners to mispronounce certain place names in Indonesia.

Denpasar is often mispronounced /DÈN.p’SĀR/ but it should be /DÈN.PĀ.sār/
Medan is often mispronounced /m’DĀN/ but it should be /MAY.dān/
Semarang is often mispronounced /simmer.RĀNG/ but it should be /s’MĀ.rāng/

Apa kabar

Stress does not play a very prominent role in Indonesian. It usually falls on the penultimate (second to last) syllable of a word: malam, selamat. However, this does not happen if a word has a schwa in this syllable, or has only one syllable to begin with; in such cases, stress falls on the last (or only) syllable; for example, kenal ‘acquainted’, dan ‘and’.
If a word obtains one of the suffixes -i, -an or -kan, stress moves to the next syllable. When the suffix -kan is attached to sila, for example, the stress will shift from si to la: silakan ‘please’.

You trash your credibility as a speaker of Indonesian if you don’t pronounce common place names as Indonesians do. You put yourself in danger of sounding like a goofy foreign tourist, or worse, a Fox News journalist.


The following is a listening exercise. There are 12 words and phrases. Listen to them. Do you recognise them? Write them down in the space provided.


IMPORTANT: Click on => to listen to the next word or phrase. Alternatively, you can also click on “Show All Questions” to show all 12 questions at the same time!
Click on the i-button for instructions. Click on the L7 tag to start the exercise.

Don’t forget to follow the instructions by clicking on the i-button !

New Vocabulary for this Lesson

Wordlist (Daftar Kata)FlashcardsL8-Cari KataL9-Cari KataL10-Teka-Teki Silang
  • Please note that all vocabulary items printed in bold may appear in an exam!
Anda you
apa what
apa kabar? how are you?
baik-baik saja fine/good (when answering the question “How are you?”)
biasa usual, ordinary, normal
duduk to sit, to sit down
kenalkan (•kenal) this is… (when you are introducing someone); allow me to introduce…
makan to eat
malam night, good night
masuk to go in, to come in, to enter
minum to drink
nama (someone’s) name; the name (of something)
pagi; selamat pagi morning, good morning
Pak Mr., Sir
saya I, me
saja just, only
selamat safe from trouble; Also: congratulations!
siapa who; Also: “what” in the sentence “What is your name?”
siang; selamat siang afternoon, late morning to mid afternoon; Good day
silakan please (go ahead and…)
soré; selamat sore late afternoon, late afternoon to early evening; Good afternoon
terima kasih thank you

Use the following flashcards to memorise the newly learned words.

After having finished each lesson, you will find a flashcard quiz. Familiarise yourself with its functions.

  1. Look at the Indonesian word and try to remember its meaning.
  2. Click on “flip”. Did you correctly remember its meaning? Then click on “got it!”
  3. If not, click on “need more practice”.
  4. The game will continue until you have successfully memorised all words.
[qdeck align=”center”] [q]





apa kabar?


How are you?






baik-baik saja


fine, good (when answering the question ‘How are you?’)




usual, ordinary, normal




to sit, to sit down




This is … (when you are introducing someone)




to eat








to go in, to come in, to enter




to drink




(someone’s) name, the name (of something)








just, only




I, me




safe (from trouble), Also: Congratulations!




late morning to mid afternoon








please (go ahead and…)




mid afternoon to early evening


terima kasih


thank you


Find the following hidden words:

Find the following hidden words:

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