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More PronounsEdit

For a laid back country such as Indonesia, the people can seem surprisingly status conscious to the new arrival. One of the ways in which this social order is established and maintained is through the language one uses in conversation.

Unlike some other languages in the archipelago (notably Sundanese and Javanese) modern Indonesian does not have well defined language levels which indicate the status of each party in conversation, although there are certainly words one would not use in a discussion with one's boss, one's friend's parent and so on.

As a general rule, it is easier and safer to err on the side of politeness and always use saya for a first person pronoun and Bapak or Ibu for a second person pronoun, but to do so would exclude you from most everyday speech.

Master the phrases below and be prepared to receive compliments aplenty.

TitlesEdit

In Indonesian instead of referring to the person you are talking to as you and yourself as I/me, people often use their name, or term of address. Using someone's title instead of a second person pronoun (you, your etc.) is normally considered the most polite way of addressing someone, as long as you don't use the incorrect title... Referring to yourself by name sounds a little childish if you are the person with lower social standing, and patronising if the reverse is true. In most cases unless speaking with small children, or unless you are a small child, it's safer to stick with saya.

the most popular form to address brother and sister in West Java and Banten is Aa and Teteh.
Word OriginContext
own nameStandard IndonesianAlmost exclusively used in conversation between adults and small children. One's title is also often used. This can also be used to hint at your preferred form of address.

e.g. Pak Bambang: "Selamat pagi, Tuan John"

John: "Selamat pagi Pak, Mas John minta kopi biasa"
Bapak (m), Ibu (f)Standard IndonesianMr, Mrs. Most respectful, used when the addressee is above the age of 20 or so in a formal setting. Note: unless used in conjunction with a name Pak is not considered a second person pronoun, that is, Pak Bambang, or Bapak can be used in place of kamu but Pak by itself can not.
Tuan (m), Nyonya (f)MalaySir, Madam. Very formal, used almost exclusively for white expatriates, Tuan and Nyonya were used during colonial times and to many ears sound a little too colonial for contemporary society, although are still used in legal documents.
Mas (m), Mbak( f)JavaneseAn English equivalent would be buddy, bro, or mate (or miss for the feminine), but can also be used as a title (e.g. Mas John, Mbak Vanessa). More formal than using the person's name directly, but still too informal to use unless the person is younger or you know them very well and they are around the same age.
Akang/Kang; Aang; Aa(m), Teteh; Ceuceu(f)SundanesePractically identical to Mas or "Mbak" respectively but only really heard in Sundanese speaking areas; i.e. Bandung, and other places in West Java and Banten. Extended form is Akang.

How to use. "where to go, brother?"="pergi kemana,A -or- Kang -or- Ang?" "where to go, sister?"="pergi kemana, Teh -or- Ceu?" Brother John = Akang/Aa/Aang John Sister Mary = Teh/Ceu Mary

Bang, Bung (m)MelayuPractically identical to Mas heard in Jakarta and most of Sumatra. Extended form is Abang
Bli (m), Gek (f)BalinesePractically identical to Mas'/"Mbak"' but only used in Bali.
Oom (m), Tante (f)DutchEquals to calling someone uncle or aunt. May be used to call an older man/woman but usually only used by Indonesian of Chinese or Dutch ancestry.
Kak (m/f)Standard IndonesianFrom "Kakak" which means older sibling.
Koko (m), Cece (f)ChineseMeans older brother or sister. Used by Indonesian of Chinese ancestry, although becoming more mainstream and may be heard used by salesperson.

First PersonEdit

Word OriginContext
sayaStandard IndonesianSafest option for most conversations, though may seem overly formal if one is speaking with a child
akuStandard Indonesian, also JavaneseMore familiar, used when the speaker is of a lower or similar social status and wants to be respectful, yet familiar. e.g. in discussions with one's friend's parents and so on. Used more commonly by the Javanese where it is slightly closer to saya
gua, gueChinese via BetawiVery familiar, used between people of a similar social standing and only in informal situations. While coming from Jakarta, it is now common among the youth throughout the archipelago and adults in major cities.
ayeBetawiSimilar to gue, only really heard in Jakarta.
woChineseUsed only by ethnic Chinese in conversation with other ethnic Chinese in some areas of Jakarta, Medan and other areas with high concentrations of ethnic Chinese
IEnglishUsed mainly by Ethnic Chinese in Jakarta and other areas with high concentrations of ethnic Chinese, pronounced as the English I, it functions as all forms of the first person pronoun just as other Indonesian first person pronouns. e.g. ini buku I = this is my book, I mau pulang = I'm going home, tolong jemput I = please pick me up.

Second PersonEdit

As a general rule, Indonesians tend to use a person's title or their given name (often in conjunction with their title) in place of a true second person pronoun in spoken language. This sounds less childish (as the younger person) or patronising (as the older person) than doing so with the first person pronoun and is probably your safest bet in most instances.

Word OriginContext
AndaStandard IndonesianYou. Very formal. While theoretically the most correct form of standard Indonesian, you rarely hear it outside of advertisements and prepared speeches; and even then only rarely.
KamuStandard IndonesianYou. Informal. Used between people of a similar social standing or when the speaker is older or of a higher social standing than the addressee.
LoeChinese via BetawiYou. Very informal, used between people of a similar social standing and only in informal situations. While coming from Jakarta, it is now common among the youth throughout the archipelago and adults in major cities.
EnteArabic via BetawiYou. Informal.


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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