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Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia)
Spoken by: ~ 250 million
Spoken in: Indonesia, East Timor
Language family: Austronesian


Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is the official language of the Republic of Indonesia and is spoken by about 227 million people. It is largely mutually intelligible with Malay (the official language of Malaysia), though there are many lexical differences. 

Phonology Edit

Indonesian has eight vowels and 19 consonants.

Grammar Edit

Indonesian is an SVO language with no marking for verb tense or noun case.

Verbs take on different prefixes and suffixes to indicate valency or transitivity.

Many verbs will be understood as transitive if only the root is used, however, adding the affixes allows the speaker to indicate finer shades of meaning.

Aku akan (mem)beli susu. - I will buy milk.

Here the meN- prefix does not add any information to the sentence.

Aku akan membelikan Bapak susu. - I will buy milk for Father.

Here, the meN- transitive prefix and -kan benefactive suffix are mandatory to express the idea of "buying something for somebody."

Nouns can be suffixed with the possessive particles -ku (my), -mu (your), and -nya (his/hers/its). The -nya suffix also functions as a definite article.

Orthography Edit

Indonesian uses the Latin script, occasionally marking vowel changes with an acute accent.

Common difficulties Edit

The Foreign Service Institute has estimated that learning Indonesian to a Professional Working Proficiency in the language (a score of Speaking-3/Reading-3 on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale) will take an average of 36 weeks (900 class hours).[1]

One of the biggest difficulties for most learners is not making themselves understood but understanding others. Many Indonesians speak in a style quite different from the official standard, often shortening words and introducing elements of local languages.

The system of verb suffixes can be learned in a matter of weeks, but mastering it and truly understanding its nuances takes years.

Resources Edit

Sublearning - Indonesian to English movie subtitle flash cards

Pimsleur offers a course in Indonesian.

Duolingo offers a course in Indonesian.

Rosetta Stone offers a course in Indonesian.

References Edit

  1. U.S. Department of State; FSI's Experience with Language Learning; https://www.state.gov/m/fsi/sls/c78549.htm