How to Pronounce Indonesian Correctly

First of all, as a native Indonesian I'd like to say thank you for learning our language! :-D Here are some tips for the pronunciation.

I'm currently on phone and I'll tidy this up later

  1. There is no /v/

The letter V is only used in loanwords, and we pronounce it like an F. So, "variasi" would sound like "fariasi". This is, as far as I know, one of the Malay—Indonesian differences, as Malay retains the V pronunciation.

  1. Final K

The letter K may have two pronunciations at the end of a word: as usual or as glottal stop. Glottal stop is that "stoppy" sound on words like "uh-oh". The letter K is pronounced as glottal stop on mostly "native" words, such as "tidak", and as usual K on some loanwords, like "klik" (from of course, Dutch klik(Thanks to JulesF. for pointing out!)

  1. The Three E-s (From RanzoG's post)

E can have three different pronunciations, as the e in "let", as the a in "late" (minus diphthong), or a schwa as in the a in "about".

  1. The Letter O (From RanzoG's post)

O is usually spelt like oh, but pronounced like the o in "on".

  1. Sy (Thanks to mitchellbh!)

Sy is exactly the same as English sh.

  1. C (Thanks to mitchellbh and AHj4LK8Mbn!)

Indonesian-Malay c is always like English ch.

  1. Kh

The actual pronunciation of kh is like the ch in "loch", but many people pronounce it simply like h.

I guess that's all for now, I'll add more tips later. Tetap semangat!

August 16, 2018


“Sy” functions similarly to “sh” in English. Most trailing consonants aren’t enunciated much. The “c” is always ch, like “channel” or “much.” Repeated vowels in words don’t fuse together. “Pedesaan” (meaning rural and derived from desa, village) sounds kinda like puh-day-suh-ahn (I’m not good at writing things out phonetically). Ng is tough for English speakers sometimes but it’s the same as the ng in many of our words, like singer.

August 16, 2018

Also "c" in Bahasa Indonesia is always pronounced like "ch" like "Cheese" or "Chess".

August 16, 2018

I found that if you can read transliterated Russian, you can read Indonesian as well.

Some sounds, however needs to be taught. Like "au" or "ng" for example.

August 16, 2018

Yeah, it is quite ez for slavic natives (Czech)

August 16, 2018

What about the "Si" sound like in "Siang"? The initial consonant does not sound like an "s" in English, it sounds more like "sh". Is this sound the same as "sy" or is it subtly different?

To me this sound sounds like the point of articulation is a little farther forward, closer to the teeth, than in the English "sh", but not as far forward as in the Mandarin Chinese "xi".

And, compared to the English "sh" the position of the tongue sounds a little closer to the Russian "щ" i.e. more palatalized (tongue raised more like you would to make an "i" sound), more so than in the English "sh".

Is this correct?

August 17, 2018

The 'si' in 'siang' is an 's' sound, not an 'sy' sound. Bare in mind, sometimes Indonesian speakers subtly pronounce a 'si' sound as 'sy', but its proper pronunciation is 'si'.

The 'sy' sound is identical to the 'sh' sound in English.

August 17, 2018

The speaker has a slight Javanese accent (it is the largest language by native speaker in Indonesia). There are a lot of variations on how to pronounce "s" and "sh" and people will not correct you because we hardly notice that. In colloquial Indonesian, both "s" and "sh" are almost always pronounced like an /s/, they are not distinguishable.

And you are correct that "sy" in Indonesian is more of a palatalized /s/ than a proper English "sh". Some even pronounce that as a /sj/ to the point that syukur "gratitude" is pronounced /sjukur/. More often than not, though, we will pronounce it as an /s/, so you will hear it as /sukur/ in daily Indonesian.

February 3, 2019

klik derived from klik (Dutch) ;)

Thank you very much for explaining! Have a lingot!

August 16, 2018

klik derived from klik (Dutch) ;)

If you're Dutch, then this might be a nice puzzle for you.
This word is only used in colloquial speech out on the street.
It's derived from a Dutch word.


Do you recognize the Dutch word ?


August 18, 2018

I honestly don't have any idea! I used my dictionary, but I really don't know... Please tell me!

August 19, 2018



Here is the official definition of the word :

ateret (v) (cak) mundur:
tukang parkir berteriak, ateret! ateret!

"The parking attendant shouts : Ateret ! Ateret !

You've probably recognised another Dutch loanword in the official definition.

August 19, 2018

"Spoorwegen" became "Se-pur" in Javanese, "Sinterklaas" became "Sinterklas", "Te laat" became "Telat", etc (

Even our old spelling more like the dutch like "Tj" pronounced as "C", "J" pronounced as "Y", "Oe" pronounced as "U"

August 26, 2018

Thanks very much for the tips. It's a beautiful, musical language and I'd like to do it justice.

August 16, 2018

Hoping for more tips on "r" I find it's often, but not always, trilled.

Also, I have never come across (or never realised I'd come across) the "e as in late" before. What's a word that uses it?

August 17, 2018

Also, I have never come across (or never realised I'd come across) the "e as in late" before. What's a word that uses it?

Sate ayam, sate kambing, sate babi.

August 19, 2018

I guess I hear those more as in between the "e" in let and the a in late.

August 19, 2018

Like the letter "e" in the English word "eight".
Sate, kue, onde-onde.

Like the letter "e" in the English word "after".
empat, enam, lemper.

Like the letter "e" in the English word "end".
enak, bebek, benteng.

August 19, 2018

Ahh, so that looks like word final -e has a bit of a dipthong twist to it. I (hopefully) get it now thanks.

August 19, 2018

We spell the letter E like that, and it is usually used in spoken Indonesian as shortened "ai" diphthong.

August 17, 2018

You are welcome HasanThalib!

August 19, 2018
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