Indonesian Alphabet and Its Pronunciation Posted by asimonoff on Aug 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
The Indonesian language, officially called Bahasa Indonesia, is written in the Latin alphabet; the spelling is phonetically precise, as the words are spelled as they sound. It is the consistency in the one-on-one relationship between sound and symbol that make reading and writing the language relatively easy and simple.
Indonesian language standardization
The standard Indonesian spelling that is currently used has gone through significant spelling changes since its conception in 1928 and since its official recognition in the 1945 constitution. In 1947, the government’s Ministry of Education changed the Dutch-spelled “oe” into “u.” However, there was a major change made in 1972, when the Indonesian language went through a spelling reform, which is known as Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan/EYD (The Enhanced Indonesian spelling system or Perfected Spelling System). The primary spelling changes in the language included changing:
|Phoneme||Old spelling||Current spelling|
Despite these spelling changes, you still can find some Indonesian names with the old spelling, for example: Soeharto, Djoko Soemarno; Tjandra, and Chaerudin.
Spelling and pronunciation
The influence of Dutch in Indonesian language is very noticeable in spelling and pronunciation of the letters due to the country’s history as a Dutch colony. However, the Arabic also has similarities to the Indonesian language, as it was used for delivering the message during the time of the establishment of Islam, which is the majority religion in the country. Therefore, it is understandable why the Indonesian language uses the term ‘abjad’ for the alphabet and ‘huruf’ for the letter.
|Alphabet letter||Pronunciation||How to pronounce (English like)||Sound|
|A a||a||ah||Like a in father|
|D d||de||day||Like de in deli|
|E e||e||ay||Like e in bel|
|U u||u||oo||Like oo in boot|
|ng||eng||Like the soft ng in English|
|ny||nye||Like ch in Lochness|
|sy||sya||Like sh in shoe or ship. Only appears in words of Arabic origin.|
|kh||kha||Like ny in canyon. Only appears in words of Arabic origin.|
The following YouTube video “How to pronounce initial Ng in Asian languages – Stuart Jay Raj” will help you learn to pronounce the “ng” sound correctly.
Compound vowels or diphthongs
|ai||ai||Like ie in tie; uy in buy e.g.: panda (smart)i, ramai (crowded, busy)|
|au||au||Like ow in how e.g.: pulau (island); kalau (if, unless, when)|
|oi||oi||Like oy in boy e.g.: sepoi|
Tahu and tahu
There is a word that written exactly the same, but it has totally different meaning in use; word that is quite a challenge for those who learn Indonesian the first time.
- Tahu means to know; the h is silent. It is pronounced like Tao.
- Tahu means tofu; it is pronounced as “tah-who.”
Let’s practice with the rhyme: Saya tidak tahu; tapi saya bukan tahu (“I don’t know, but I am not a tofu.”).
Most of Indonesian language vocabulary comes natively from Malay; the language used for trade in the Indonesian archipelago. However, the Indonesian language has also enriched its vocabulary with loan words from local languages and other foreign languages that have been modified into native Indonesian and perceived as the Indonesian words. These include words from Sanskrit; bahasa ‘language’, Satria ‘warrior/brave/soldier’; Arabic: Sabtu ‘Saturday’, Dunia ‘the present world’, alkitab ‘the book’; Portuguese: meja ‘table’, gereja ‘church’, Minggu ‘Sunday’; Dutch: buku ‘book’, gratis ‘free’, and Chinese origin—Hokkien/Mandarin: Pisau ‘knife’, loteng ‘upper/level’, mie ‘noodle’, and teko ‘teapot’.
1. Guide to pronunciation of Indonesian