The official Standard Indonesian Language that is used for formal communication throughout the Indonesian Archipelago is called “Bahasa Indonesia” which means the language of Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia, like Bahasa Malaysia, has its roots from Bahasa Melayu which is based on the dialect of Johor-Riau Melayu originally spoken in Johor, Riau, Malacca and Singapore and in the court of the Malacca Sultans during Sri Vijaya Empire. However, there are differences between Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia as we shall see under “Difference between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia” section below.
As for the future of Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian government has strongly maintained Bahasa Indonesia as the official as well as the national language by promoting it through usage in the public media and institutions such as schools, government departments, commercial offices and the judicial courts. Despite recent years of liberal education policy to include international schools using English as a media of instruction, Bahasa Indonesia still remains as important as ever. According to a recent article published on July 25, 2010 by The New York Times, Asia Pacific section; “The government recently announced that it would require all private schools to teach the nation’s official language to its Indonesian students by 2013.”
Efforts to standardize the Malay language at the regional level were made:
- with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei agreeing to keep the basis of their official Malay language as Bahasa Melayu (Bahasa Riau) of the Riau Archipelago.
- between Malaysia and Indonesia. However, this regional standardisation has yet to be successful. Bahasa Indonesia continues to carry heavy influence and usage of Dutch words, for example in the word “kantor” which means office, Likewise the prominent footprints of British influence remains in Bahasa Malaysia for example in the word “Prosedur” which means Procedure. Hence, interpreters and translators from Indonesia and Malaysia will find that Dutch borrowed words often replace English borrowed words found in Bahasa Malaysia.
Difference between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia
Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia may seem almost identical, but for native speakers, the differences can lead to miscommunication in spoken or written communication. For broadcasters and entertainers hoping to reach a wider sensitive audience in screenings of movies, sale of entertainment media and documentaries, it is considered to be more sensible to use both Indonesian and Malay subtitles, alongside with other language subtitles. An Indonesian translator or Indonesian interpreter from the Indonesian Archipelago would be able to distinguish and deliver the Indonesian translation and interpretation appropriately and in the right context. The following are some examples of the differences.
- Bahasa Indonesia users speak in abrupt, sharp, clear-cut, crisp manner; their "r"s are notably trilled, and all words are pronounced exactly as they are spelt. Standard Bahasa Malaysia users speak at a more flowing pace; and words that end with the letter "a" is often spoken with an unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound.
- Indonesian and Malay were under different colonial masters for centuries. Hence, each country underwent different vocabulary development. Strong Dutch vocabulary influence in the case of Indonesia, formerly the Dutch East Indies and English vocabulary influence in the case of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, which were formerly under British rule.
- Indonesia is also influenced by various Malayan and Indonesian language varieties spoken by a multiethnic Indonesia of over 230 million inhabitants. Indonesia has about 1000 disparate ethnic and religious groups, thereby bringing a host of contrasting cultures. The population consists of mainly Javanese (approx. 41%), Sundanese (approx. 15%) with the rest consisting of small ethnic groups.
Standard Indonesia Writing System
Presently, the official script that is used in formal communication in Indonesia is the Latin or Roman alphabets.
Unlike Malaysia, Jawi was not an official script in Indonesia. Prior to the Dutch colonial days, the Javanese script was predominantly used, before it was gradually replaced by the Dutch influenced Romanised alphabets with a lot of “oe” spellings. The Dutch influenced Romanised writing system underwent more official changes till 1972 and finally brought about the present day Bahasa Indonesia writing system. The following old vowel and consonant combinations were changed as follows:
“oe” is replaced by “u” or “o”,
“j” is replaced by “y”,
“dj” is replaced by “j”,
“tj” is replaced by “c”,
“ch” is replaced by “kh”,
“sj” is replaced by “sy”
The current modified Latin or Roman alphabets that Bahasa Indonesia uses are the 26 Roman alphabets and combinations of consonants and vowels for representing additional sounds that are similar to Bahasa Malaysia. These are ai, au, oi, kh, ny, ng, ngg, and sy. The special sounds evolved from a history of Indian, Chinese, Dutch and Arabic influence; and Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist influence, apart from scientific discoveries. For example, the consonant “q” is influenced by Arabic loan words and “x” is influenced by scientific loan words.
Bahasa Indonesia Pronunciation – Basics
One way to go about learning Bahasa Indonesia language or the Indonesian language is to start verbalising the Romanised Indonesian language.
For Bahasa Indonesia, the pronunciation rules are easy to follow as most words are spelled and read as they are written. As for intonation, you have rising intonation for questions and falling intonation for statements. The syllables within each word are stressed equally generally.
An Indonesia language teacher or Indonesian tutor (or even an Indonesian translator or Indonesian interpreter) would advise the following present Bahasa Indonesia rules:
a as in art;
u as in pull or similar to “o” as in toll
e as in pen with an acute accent “é”; or similar to “er” in “teacher”
i as in fin; long as in seen
o as in nor; long as in slow
The consonants pronunciations are similar to English except for:
C is pronounced with a “ch” as in charge
G is pronounced with a hard “g” as in goal
H is aspirated as in in the Mexican name “Juanita”
K is pronounced with an abrupt stop
R is trilled or rolled as in “hundred” said from Spanish speakers
Dipithongs in Bahasa Indonesia
ai is pronounced similar to ay or “y” in by
au is pronounced similar to “ow” in owl
oi is pronounced similar to “oy” in “boy”
Consonant Combinations in Bahasa Indonesia
kh is pronounced similar to “k” in English as in kangaroo
ng is pronounced similar to “ng” in young
ny is pronounced similar to “ni” in Bosnia
ngg is pronounced as “ng” plus “g”. For example in the Indonesian word “panggil” which means “call”
sy is pronounced similar to “sh” in shower
Bahasa Indonesian Grammar - Basics
An Indonesian language teacher or Bahasa Indonesia language teacher would indicate that Bahasa Indonesia (or loosely termed Bahasa Melayu) uses affixes to show change in meaning or grammar, by attaching or inserting these affixes:
- to the beginning; for example in “membuka” which means “to open” from the root word “buka” which means “open” or
- to the end of a word; for example in “lepaskan” which means “to release” from the root word ”lepas” which means “escaped”
- within the word; for example in “kemahuan” which means “desire” from the root word, “mahu” which means “want”
and by doubling; for example in “barang-barang” which means “things”.
Therefore, there are no definite or indefinite articles. Verbs are not conjugated according to the present perfect, past or future tense, rather the timing is interpreted by adding words such as "kelmarin" (yesterday), "sudah" (already), "besok" or “esok”(tomorrow), etc.
As you get to hear more Bahasa Indonesia, you may come across a few words that may seem inconsistent with general pronunciation rules. A Bahasa Indonesia translator or a Bahasa Indonesia interpreter may advise that these peculiarities are unique to Bahasa Indonesia and not in Bahasa Malaysia. In Indonesia, for example:
- the “e” syllable usually replaces the final syllable “ai”. For example, “ramai” meaning crowded becomes “rame”.
- the “o” syllable usually replaces the final syllable “au”. For example, “pulau” meaning island becomes “pulo”.
Other pecularities in pronunciation found in Bahasa Indonesia that is similar to Bahasa Malaysia are, for example:
- the “a” syllable may sometimes replace the first syllable “e”. For example, “enam” meaning six becomes “anam”.
- sometimes, the vowels “i” and “e” are interchanged. For example, “sempang” meaning crossroad becomes “simpang”.
- sometimes, the vowels “o” and “u” are interchanged. For example, “ubat” meaning medicine becomes “obat”.
- sometimes, the final “h” is ommitted. For example, “masih” meaning still becomes “masi”.
Origin of Indonesian Language
Bahasa Indonesia, like Bahasa Malaysia, has its roots from Bahasa Melayu or Old Malay. The Old Malay language or Classical Malay language belongs to the language family of Malayo-Polynesian languages which is also a subgroup of the Austronesian language family. The Malayo-Polynesian language includes the Indonesian and the Philippine languages. Therefore, a Bahasa Indonesia translator (or loosely a Bahasa Melayu translator or Malay Translator) and Bahasa Indonesia interpreter (or Bahasa Melayu interpreter or Malay interpreter) from Indonesia can, with sufficient time, make a few guesses as to certain Bahasa Malaysia vocabulary words that are not present in the Bahasa Indonesia language, before translating the Bahasa Malaysia document.
The status of a language, in this case Standard Indonesian Language, is determined by a) the population size of users, b) their economic and c) political power and d) historical factors, that is, whether the language is the dominant language of the nation or region.
Global Status of Indonesian Language
a) Size of users of Indonesian Language
Bahasa Indonesia translations (or Malay translations) by Bahasa Indonesia translators (or Malay translators) of more detail statistical reports have often help companies to better understand the market in Indonesia before launching their products. For example, in the area of population distribution, purchasing power and buying patterns of the target state in Indonesia.
According to Badan Pusat Statistik (Statistics Board of Indonesia), it is estimated that by 2010 the population of Indonesia will reach 231.9 million people. During this period the working population (15-64 years) will increase from 64.6 per cent to 68.8 per cent. The number of elderly people will increase from 4.65 per cent to 5.22 per cent. Dependency ratio will decrease from 54.7 per cent to 45.26 per cent.
b) Indonesian Economy
During President Suharto’s period, Indonesia had forged strong relations with the United States and less with China. Indonesia is a member of the both ASEAN (Association of South East Asian) and the East Asia Summit. Since the 1980s, Indonesia has worked to develop close political and economic ties with other South East Asian nations, and is involved in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Since 2001, the government of Indonesia has worked with the U.S. in removing radical and fundamental Islamic elements and terrorist groups within the Indonesian Archipelago.
Very often market surveys are conducted to assess the timing of entry of investments or introduction of new products into a country. A well translated survey by an Indonesian translator (or loosely termed a Malay translator or Bahasa Melayu translator) can provide more useful information such as the awareness of the consumers with regards to the product.
It is interesting to note that from the article on “Indonesia’s language of unity” by “The star on line” Tuesday August 10, 2010, that “as Indonesia transforms itself into an economic powerhouse, its language will become increasingly important globally”.
The Indonesian Economy is the largest economy in South East Asia. Indonesia is currently the third fastest growing economy in the Group of Twenty (G20) industrialized and developing economies, after India and China. Indonesia recorded a growth of 4.5% in 2009 when most nations were experiencing recession and growth for 2010 is expected to be well above 6% according to the Financial Times, August 5, 2010 article. According to the World Bank, Indonesia’s GDP (nominal) was USD 540, 277 million and GDP (nominal) per capita was USD 2,349 in 2009.
Indonesia’s main industrial sectors are the petroleum and natural gas, textiles, clothing, footwear, mining, cement, chemical and rubber, wood, food and tourism.
Growth during the quarter was due to strong domestic expenditure which accounts for three-quarters of total consumption. Reforms and further elimination of corruption and reduction of bureaucracy are still underway to attract more foreign investments. The main investors comes from India, Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Netherlands, Qatar, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
c) Indonesia Politics
Occasionally, Bahasa Indonesia translators (or loosely termed Malay translators) and Bahasa Indonesia interpreters (or Malay interpreters) are engaged to help assess the long term stability of Malaysia by translations of latest political news or policy changes, for a multinational company that is considering to invest in huge capital outlays, local distribution networks and many branches.
The following is a glimpse of Indonesia’s political and International relations.
d) Historical Factors of Indonesia
Bahasa Indonesia is based on a dialect of Riau Malay which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries and during the Sri Vijaya Empire (2nd – 13th Century); and the Javanese Kingdom (1042-1222), called Kediri.
In terms of religious influence, both kingdoms practised (Mahayana and Vajrayan) Buddhism and Hinduism until the 13th Century when Islam was introduced to Sumatra in the 13th century by the Indian and Arab merchants and traders. The conversion to Islam affects predominantly the West of both kingdoms. Buddhism died out after the 13th Century. The Hindu concept of Devaraja remained a crucial part for forming a strong nation at that time until the Portuguese and Dutch colonisation. (Devaraja was the divine of communication between the kings and the god.). Bali retained a Hindu-practising majority, and the eastern islands remained largely spiritual and adopted Islam and Christianity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In 1945, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands and as part of its independence movement, stated in its constitution that Bahasa Indonesia was its official language. After 4 years, in 1949, the Dutch acknowledged Indonesia’s right to self-rule and the Indonesians abandoned Dutch and began to apply their new official tongue, Bahasa Indonesia, as a common language to unite the country’s 230 million people.
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