Some rants I have on the Indonesian / Malay language

Hello fellow Indonesian learners,

Best wishes on learning the language!

Yes, the language is genderless and does not have tenses, and that's what entices learners to join in this massive club.

I am learning Malay in school, a language that has 80% similarity to Indonesian. That means if you can speak Indonesian fluently, people from Malaysia and Brunei can understand you well too!

I agree, learning a language seems easy at first, but as the days go by you'll start to find yourself stuck in a certain point hard to get out. Here's a look forward at what the Indonesian / Malay language is hard at :

  1. Prefixes and Suffixes, the IMBUHAN

Damn. Di- , di- kan, diper- i, di...kan, the list goes on and on.

Here I show you an example of the root word (akar kata) guna:

guna (v)---use

mengguna (v)---use

penggunaan (n)---usage

dipergunakan (v)---being exploited

berguna (adj) ---useful

pengguna (n)---user . . .

  1. Idioms (Peribahasa)

Idioms are like the sweetener of a dessert. They enhance the sentence , IF being used in a right way. Here are some for example:

i) Indah kabar daripada rupa

Translation: Things are portrayed as better in news than in what it really looks like

ii) Direndam tak basah, dibakar tak hangus

Literal translation: Splashed with water but not wet, burned but not charred

Translation: unbeatable

iii) Melentur rebung biarlah dari rebungnya

Literal translation: If you want to bend a bamboo tree, start when it is a bamboo shoot.

Translation: Educating kids should start when they are young.

Well, this is not a post to scare you guys off from learning Indonesian, but I wish you good luck in your language learning. A good start is halfway to success!! >..

August 17, 2018


I plan on learning Indonesian after Mandarin Chinese and Korean. I can relate to the idioms. Chinese idioms are quite similar.

For example,

  1. 脚踏实地 literally means to step on solid ground. The translation of the idiom is To work hard, focus on fundamentals and proceed ahead.
  2. 九牛一毛 literally means 9 cows and 1 strand of cow hair. This idiom is similar to the English idiom to find a needle in the haystack.


I like this aspect of idioms because they tell a story which makes the idioms easier to remember. At first it might seem challenging but learning idioms get interesting as we get used to them. :)

August 17, 2018

The only thing I've really had trouble with is the particles. Deh, Sih, Lho, Lah, Kok, Saja, Dong, Ya... all have imprecise meanings that no-one has fully succeeded in explaining to me.

August 17, 2018

It's mostly used in spoken speech and are informal.

Deh is used like "Di sini saja deh" (Just do/other actions it here). It's mostly used in circumstances to propose something or to give advice.

Sih is used like "Kenapa gitu sih?" (Why is that so?). Mostly, it's a reaction of shock or disappointment, especially after an event.

Lho is used like "Lho, bukannya mau ke mall?" (Wait, aren't we going to the mall?). It is used frequently for expressing surprise when you just noticed a change of facts/plans. Lho can also be used like "you know", like "Ibuku dokter, lho." (My mother is a doctor, you know?) P.S. Thanks to FalahMs for point that out!

Lah is used similarly like Lho, but lah can also be used in phrases like "Ya begitulah" (Well, that's how it does/works), which denote more affirmation.

Kok is used like "why", in an informal way, like "Kok begitu?" (Why is that so?). It can also act as an affirmation at the end of the sentence (just like lah) for an quite obvious fact, for ex. "Memang begitu kok" (It's always like that).

Saja works like deh, sometimes, they work together, like "Kita duduk situ saja deh" (Let's sit there instead).

Dong works like deh, but usually after a piece of emotional or personal feedback given by the speaker. It's more intimate than deh.

I think that would help. Any feedback from other Indonesians will be appreciated.

August 18, 2018

'Lho' can also be used like "you know", so it's like "Ibuku dokter, lho." (My mother is a doctor, you know?"

September 14, 2018

Thanks for that! I had no idea this aspect of the language existed.

I wonder if the course covers it later on.

August 26, 2018

What confuses me the most in Indonesian is amount of greetings which start with "selamat"! T_T

August 19, 2018

Here are some examples as they would be in Malay:

Selamat pagi - Good morning.

Selamat tengah hari (rarely used) - Good "noon"

Selamat petang - Good afternoon.

Selamat malam - Good night.

Selamat sejahtera - translates to "Good day".

Selamat tinggal - goodbye.

September 18, 2018

"Selamat Siang" is a more natural way to say "Good Noon", Also "Selamat Sore" instead of "Selamat Petang"

October 18, 2018

In Malay? I haven't heard of it before, but yes, in Indonesian.

October 18, 2018

I actually really like the fact it’s always selamat ___ because most of the time the phrases make complete sense. Some languages have such an array of different words to learn for basic phrases and Indonesian is very simple in that respect.

The affixes, local and varied dialectal differences between islands, shortening of words and little particles have been the hardest aspects for me.

I would love to see a skill on particles with the notes if the Indonesian tree doesn’t have one yet.

August 21, 2018

They are so similar! I tried to repeat the Greetings skill several times to get a grip on them.

But the annoying Practice / Test Out algorithm just kept making me repeat the translation for the word "maaf" (meaning sorry) xD. Yet "maaf" was the one word I could remember and didn't want to practice!

August 26, 2018

Here I show you an example of the root word (akar kata) guna:

guna (v)---use

"guna" is not a verb, it's a noun.

August 18, 2018

In Malay, 'guna' is a verb.

August 20, 2018

Yes, you're probably right.
The topic starter is talking about another language.

I am learning Malay in school.....

As far as I know, this is a "Bahasa Indonesia" course.

August 21, 2018

I'm only using this because DL doesn't have a Malay course... And I live in Malaysia.

August 22, 2018

Rick, I check you suggestions for guna and you are correct, so I removed my comment ... but I think I deleted your comment too because it was a reply to mine. Thanks for your help.

August 24, 2018

I think every language has its challenges, and idioms are a quite advanced feature of a language in my opinion.

I was intrigued by the "no conjugation, no declension" announcement, but then I thought: If the language does not have these features, it will have other features that express these facets of what we want to say. And these may be even more challenging than conjugation and declension patterns.

I just find it so fascinating to see the many different ways people all over the world have found to express their thoughts and feelings.

August 17, 2018

This is so relatable! I think the hardest part, for Malay at least, is the grammar. It's so basic but "bahasa baku" is very different from commonly used BM (Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia). Even my teachers at school used to be confused as to which was the most accurate one, or at least struggle to explain why something was correct (or wrong).

We had a really good Malay teacher and he used to encourage us to "beli buku Tatabahasa Dewan terkini yang berwarna biru dan bacalah beberapa muka surat sebelum tidur setiap hari dan bila-bila ada masa..." (buy the Grammar Book, which is by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, the authority for BM, that is blue in colour and read a few pages before bed every day and whenever (you have) some spare time) Needless to say he was slightly obsessive but his lessons were always interesting and he had a great sense of humour so he was our favourite Malay language teacher, hands down.

September 18, 2018

I'm wondering how close is the language Bali uses to Bahasa Indonesia? I feel like the local langauges seem so different to standard taught Indonesian that a learner can feel so deflated when they start hearing Indonesian out in the real world.

August 20, 2018

If you mean Balinese, it's a completely different language. Wikipedia tells me it's much closer to Javanese than Indonesian.

If you mean the dialect of Indonesian spoken in Bali, I don't know, but presumably it would be spoken with a lot of Balinese loan words. I totally get the deflated feeling. I once had an actual shouting match with my then girlfriend that started because I was so distressed that in Makassar they spelt and pronounced "Hijau" as "Ijo" because I felt I would never be able to get my head around all the differences between standard Indonesian and the language as it's actually used.

August 20, 2018

We do need to think of Bahasa baku (the standard Indonesian we are learning) as a sort of lingua franca rather than as the local vernacular of the people which differs from place to place around this diverse archipelago. Don't be disappointed, be interested! These two articles are very interesting if you want to know more:

December 17, 2018
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