Learn the Local Lingo

Submitted by mumunmumun on 17 November 2011   •  Tips

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I’ve met a few foreign travelers while roaming Indonesia and from these encounters I’ve realize the importance of travelers knowing a few local words. Not only does it help communication of information, it also helps bridge emotional connection with the locals. To the least, your effort in trying to spreken the lingo (learn the local language) will bring a smile to the native. “Nice try, buster!” they’ll think.

So, here are some important words for you to learn, to survive the crazy happy people of Indonesia.

But before we start, let me introduce you to the pronounciation of our vocal letters. Everyone, meet the Indonesian ‘a e i o u’ and a few other consonants:

a = a, as in mark

e = e, as in fern. But some ‘e’ are read as in cafe, we’ll put é to distinguish it.  

i = ee, as in see

u = oo, as in noon

o = o, as in ‘Oh no, he’s abducted by aliens!”

r = is a rolled like the Latin ‘r’

h = we read our ‘h’ as in hair

g = g, as in Google

c = ch, as in chain

travel Indonesia - Tana Toraja  

Now, let’s get to the important stuff.

Halo = Hello. You can basically say hello, people will understand.

Apa kabar? = How are you?

Baik  = good / fine. But it also means nice, as in a nice person.

Terima kasih = thank you

Maaf  = sorry / pardon

Nama saya … = My name is …

Ya  & tidak = yes & no

Kamar mandi = bathroom / toilet

Makan & minum  = eat & drink

Tambah  = add more

Kasih murah = give it to me cheaper

Kanan / kiri = right / left

Lurus = go straight

Mantap = OK

This is actually slanged. It literally means steady or stable, but in the daily conversation, ‘mantap’ is used as ‘satisfied’ or a good strong ‘yes’. For example, it your coffee is good or if your chili paste is burning you till you bathe in your own sweat, then it’s ‘mantap’; or if someone asks you if you’re going to a party and you’re definitely going, you can say ‘mantap’. People like it when you use ‘mantap’ because it has personality. 

Kamu cantik / cakep = you’re beautiful / handsome

Indah = beautiful

Bagus = good

Saya bule miskin  =  I’m a poor Caucasian

Take it humourously! Indonesians love people that ridicule themselves. So if you’re a budget traveler and say you’re looking for a budget accommodation or transportation or in the middle of haggling, have a go with this. People will probably laugh at you and give you the discount you want or won’t give you a discount but give you a candy for your effort J To the very worst they will leave you alone, only complain under their breath.

Saya cinta kamu = I love you. Use it wisely, people!

A-B-G (a-bé-gé) = teenager

                  It’s an abbreviation of Anak Baru Gede (Kid that just grew up) but it’s a friendlier term meaning more to a teenage with all their antics. Just keep this in mind. It might be funny in between conversations with an Indonesian.

 And as a bonus, I’ll add two polite swear words for you.

Sial! / sialan : Damn! Literally it means bad luck or unfortunate, but is equivalent to ‘Curses!’

Setan = Devil!

These words imply cursing but are relatively acceptable. I’m sure you’ll learn ruder ones on the road. So are we good here? Mantap! 


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