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).