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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.


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


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


klik derived from klik (Dutch) ;)

Thank you very much for explaining! Have a lingot!


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 ?



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




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.


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


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?


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.


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


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.


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


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


You are welcome HasanThalib!

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