I Too Speak Language – Learn Indonesian Language

Submitted by mumunmumun on 18 January 2011   •  Blog

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I’m just a bit itchy about a few things to learn Indonesian language. I often encounter this while meeting foreigners, watching travel channels, read travel guides, and features about Indonesia, and can I just say…

Bahasa = Language

People usually say that we (Indonesian and Malaysian) speak Bahasa. Well of course we do, we communicate don’t we? I can’t help but raise an eyebrow or two when I encounter this glitch. Many translate the Malay core language as bahasa. The fact is, bahasa translates to language. So when you ask people if they speak bahasa, your actually asking ‘do you speak language?’. So the answer would be ‘of course, we do!’.  I’m not sure if this is a Malaysian thing or there was some consensus in the past that declared it so, but we certainly don’t use it like this often in Indonesia. Although we would understand what you mean but it’s just odd. I hate correcting it but like any itch, don’t you wanna scratch?

Like any other country, a simple ‘do you speak Indonesian?’ would be appropriate. It would apply the same for English. Amongst the Indonesian, we would ask ‘apa kamu bisa bahasa Inggris?’ translating to ‘can you speak (the language) English?’

And let me just mention the deal in the bathroom.

Mandi = Bath

Now, not meaning to criticise one of the Gods of travel guides, Lonely Planet, but I find it confusing when I read that an accommodation provides a decent mandi. Does the accommodation bathe people? Hmm… that would be an interesting service, wouldn’t it?

In Indonesia, there is only one general term for a bath and that’s mandi. The word mandi can apply from baths, showers, to washing up in the river. The point of the word is you clean yourself. There is even a term called mandi ular or snake bath which means an express bath like dipping a snake in water and that’s about it.

We know that mandi is refered to bathrooms in Indonesia that are not as common for travelers. Just incase you happen to find a bathroom with a big vertical tub filled with water and a dipper of some sort, that means you take a shower by pouring water on you. Yes! We Indonesian even do hard labor for a clean bath and we usually do it twice a day. Oh how we live the hard live 😀

Travel Indonesia: Semarang

The right term would be kamar (room) mandi or a room to take a bath, what ever way it is. You might even find a shower in a kamar mandi. We know there isn’t a specific term for the way Indonesians bathe in English but it still sounds weird when somebody would ask ‘mau mandi?’  and you would interpret it as ‘would you like a bathroom?’

Take a ride in a …

And the last would be bemo. While in some cities in Indonesia, they would term their mini bus public transportation as bemo, I just wanted to say that in Jakarta, a bemo is a specific device for transportation. A bemo is a 3 wheel mini car, I think once imported from India or Japan. No, I don’t mean the Bajaj, it’s the bemo. And although this is not a language mistake, it is an intermezzo just incase you come to Jakarta and find that people would direct you to a different place when you’re asking for a bemo.  It would be a better choice to ask for an angkot rather than a bemo.

Travel Indonesia: Jakarta

We got this cute picture from here

So that was the itchy corrections from us to you. Use it well, guys!

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6 years ago

Yep, agree with that. Especially the mandi thing. I see it like this “mandi-style bathroom”. What they’re talking about (lonely planet) is a bathroom with a bak mandi. But they just say mandi style. Which is really weird.

Indria Sari
5 years ago

Yes! Finally something about Kamar mandi.