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0.01 Introduction
0.02 Learning Indonesian
0.03 The Alphabet
0.04 Pronunciation
0.05 Greetings
0.06 Formal Speech
0.07 How are you?
0.08 Numbers
0.09 Dates
0.10 Telling Time
Review Test
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Learning the Indonesian Language  •  Downloadable and Print Versions

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^ Indonesian ^ | << How to use this Indonesian Wikibook | Lesson 0: The Alphabet | Lesson 1: Greetings >>

Go to Exercise: Rhyme Game

There are only 21 native consonants and 5 vowels in Indonesian.

Indonesian is made up of syllables

There are 4 types of syllables, and they each require at least one vowel.

The 1st type of syllable consists of a consonant, followed by a vowel. For Example..."Nasi." It means Steamed Rice. /na/ and /si/. Each one is made up of a consonant and a vowel.

The 2nd kind of syllable consists of a consonant, a vowel, and then a final consonant. For Example..."Habis." It means "Finished". This one is made up of two syllables as well, but this time, Each one is made up of a consonant-vowel syllable, /ha/ and it is followed by a consonant-vowel-consonant syllable /bis/.

The 3rd kind only contains a vowel. For Example "Anak." It means "Child." In this word, we have the vowel /a/ It is followed by a consonant-vowel-consonant syllable /nak/.

The 4th kind is the vowel plus consonant syllable. For Example "Anjing," which means "Dog." In this word, the first syllable /an/ has a vowel, /a/ and a consonant, /n/. The second syllable is yet another consonant-vowel-consonant syllable, with the consonant j, /dʒ/ the vowel /i/ and the sound written as two letters, ng, /ŋ/

Examples nearest English equivalent Examples nearest English equivalent Examples nearest English equivalent Examples nearest English equivalent
bola ball cari check dari do ganti gain
hari hat jari job kalah sky lari clean
mari moon nama note patah spy rasa trilled r
sari sick tari time waduk we ya yell

The alphabet and its pronunciation


Indonesian letters are the same as those used in English. Historically, the languages of Indonesia had been written in Indian alphabets or the Arabic alphabet. All of the letters A through Z are used, as in English, though some of the letters are pronounced differently. However, unlike English, Indonesian spelling is very consistent: letters are largely pronounced as they are spelled and no letters are silent. You will find that some of the sounds are similar to Spanish.

Below is a table of the Indonesian alphabet. The pronunciation column shows how each letter is pronounced in Indonesian. The sound column shows how it sounds in English. Where the sound isn't spelled out, it is roughly the same as in English.

Listen to how Indonesians pronounce the alphabet: ; N-Z

Letter Pronunciation IPA English Approximation
a a (like a in father) [a] always the a in father, Dalai Lama but shorter, never the "a" in catch
b bé (like bay) [b]  
c cé (pronounced "chay") [ʨ] (versus English [ʧ])

Almost always like the ch in church, chest, and in some borrowed words or proper nouns like the French c'est (nearly like English say)

d dé (like da in day) [d] like de in deli
e é [ə], [ɛ], [e] (not [eɪ]) there are three ways of pronouncing e in Indonesian:
  1. one (and by far the more common) is the schwa sound, as in e in stern, learn.
  2. second one is like the e in bed, red.
  3. and third is like in a in foray and came

Normally, there is no distinction between [ə] and [e]/[ɛ] in the orthography, but as in dictionaries, e and é is used, respectively

f éf [f] like the English standalone f, though often substituted with p and vice versa
g gé ("GAY") [ɡ] always the hard g in English: gas, guard except in conjunction with an n
h ha [h] as in the English have except when occurring at the end of a word when it is pronounced but unvoiced
i i (pronounced "EE") [i] Like the long "e" sound in "bee", "see", but shorter
j jé ("JAY") [ʥ] (versus English [ʤ]) like the j in joke, some accents make it sound much heavier making dj a closer transliteration
k ka [k] (versus English [kʰ]) like the k in kite except when at the end of the word when it functions more like a glottal stop
l él [l]  
m ém [m]  
n én [n]  
o o [o] (not [oʊ] or British [əʊ]), [ɔ] there are two ways of pronouncing o in Indonesian:
  1. like the o in post, rope, but don't pronounce the u sound.
  2. more open, like the o in boss, stop.
p pé ("PAY") [p] (versus [pʰ]) (Do not aspirate)
q kí ("KEE") [k]  
r ér (like English "AIR") [r] always trilled as in the r in Spanish.
s és [s]  
t té ("TAY") [t] (versus [tʰ]) always the hard t in English: test, top (Do not aspirate)
u u ("OO") [u] like the oo in soon, boot
v fé ("FAY") [f] pronounced like f
w wé ("WAY") [w]  
x éks [ks]  
y yé ("YAY") [j]  
z zét [z]  

^ Indonesian ^ | << How to use this Indonesian Wikibook | Lesson 0: The Alphabet | Lesson 1: Greetings >>

Introductory Lessons  

0.01 Introduction  0.02 Learning Indonesian  0.03 The Alphabet  0.04 Pronunciation  0.05 Greetings  0.06 Formal Speech  0.07 How are you?  0.08 Numbers  0.09 Dates  0.10 Telling Time  Review  Test  

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