How to learn Bahasa Indonesia

how to learn bahasa indonesia

If you plan to learn Bahasa Indonesia, you are heading in the right direction. Indonesians are very welcoming of foreigners who make efforts to learn Bahasa Indonesia and make friends with them. For both business and personal, here’s a guideline to everything you need to know to learn Indonesia

Introduction to Bahasa Indonesia

Indonesian language is the official and national language. Historically, the Indonesian language is deeply rooted in the Malay language influence and enriched with other global influences including Dutch, Javanese, Arabic, and more.

When the country rose to independence in 1945, a part of the national decree was to commit to speaking the Indonesian language – then the second language to the commonly spoken Malay language or Javanese. This signified the importance thus cannot be mistaken for the Malay language, especially since the Indonesian language is the standardized version with considerable differences between the two.

As the world’s largest archipelagic country, Indonesia is home to several local languages with different dialects. But it’s safe to say that the majority of Indonesian, particularly in big cities use Indonesians in their daily conversation. With the country growing in population, economics, and global significance, the sooner you learn Bahasa Indonesia the better your chances of you blending in with the Indonesian people. 

Note: The word “Bahasa” is translated to “language” and is commonly used to represent the Indonesian language, thus the term “ learn Bahasa Indonesia”. 

How To Learn Bahasa Indonesia: Step by Step

To learn Bahasa Indonesia, it’s essential to get your foundations right. Here are some of the basics of how to learn Bahasa Indonesia:

1. Understanding the Indonesian Alphabet

One of the reasons why it’s pretty easy to learn Bahasa Indonesia is that the language uses the Latin alphabet. Unlike the Japanese or Korean language, there’s no symbolic alphabet to memorize and you can immediately get to learn Bahasa Indonesia by the alphabet sound. Still, it’s essential to get each sound correctly since it’s the foundation in how to learn Bahasa Indonesia as a whole. The better your grasp, the easier it would be for you to learn Bahasa Indonesia.

Here is a table of how to learn the Bahasa Indonesia alphabet and its pronunciation. 

Indonesian alphabets Pronunciation Note
a a (like father) Short pronunciation 
b bé (like bay)
c cé (pronounced “chay”)
d dé (like day)
e é

There are 3 ways of pronunciation: 

  1. Common: like learn
  2. Short: like bed, red, pen 
  3. Long: /ei/ like came, blame

The sound adaptation depends on each vocabulary/word

f éf
g gé (“GAY”)
h ha
i i (pronounced “EE”) Long pronunciation 
j jé (“JAY”)
k ka
l él
m ém
n én
o o
p pé (“PAY”) Do not aspirate ( not followed with ‘h’)
q kí (“KEE”)  
r ér (like English air) Follow with trilling “rr”
s és  
t té (“TAY”) Do not aspirate ( not followed with ‘h’)
u u (“OO”) Long pronunciation, like the oo in soon, boot
v vé (“VAY”)
w wé (“WAY”)
x éks
y yé (“YAY”) – 
z zét
ng ng Joined consonants, either pronounced like ng in swimming or enunciated like in bingo
ny nye, like in mañana Joined consonants
kh kh, like in Bach Joined consonants
sy sy, like in shield Joined consonants

2. Mastering basic conversations

The goal for most people who learn Bahasa Indonesia is ultimately to be able to communicate and connect with other people in a daily setting. A big part of mastering basic conversations in Bahasa Indonesia is to start putting yourself out there and learn as you go. 

You also want to learn Bahasa Indonesia in both formal and informal settings based on your needs. Here’s an example for your reference:

  • Introduction 


“ Hello, good morning. My name’s John and I’m from America. It’s very nice to meet you all. Looking forward to all your help”.

“ Halo, selamat pagi. Nama saya John dan saya berasal dari Amerika. Senang sekali bisa berkenalan dengan Anda semua. Mohon bantuan teman-teman semua yah” 


“ Hi, what’s up? I’m John from America. Nice to meet you!”

“Hi, gimana? Saya John dari Amerika. Salam kenal!”

Like in most languages, the informal vocabulary and tones are casual, friendly and easy going. There are a lot of slang and modern influences as you learn Bahasa Indonesia in actual conversation. 

3. Building your Indonesian vocabulary

When you’re figuring out how to learn Bahasa Indonesia, it’s a good idea to continually build your vocabulary bank. As a vital part of any language, each word helps express your ideas and you’ll go far with your Indonesian skills as you grow your vocabulary skills. 

Several tools that would be helpful when you learn Bahasa Indonesia would be a dictionary, either a physical or mobile application that you can tap into every time. It’s also recommended that you build a system of how to learn Bahasa Indonesia daily, for example memorizing and practicing Indonesian words of the day and then consolidating them in your notebook, etc. 

It’s also recommended that you focus on a few keywords or practical words when you learn Bahasa Indonesia. You can adjust your vocabulary bank on your daily needs, for example learning more words that are commonly used in your profession or day-to-day situations. 

4. Utilizing all sources to learn Bahasa Indonesia

Last but not least, make it interesting! Put your efforts to learn Bahasa Indonesia in various ways- not just limited in the conventional sense of learning. A big part of being fluent in Bahasa Indonesia is by immersing yourself in real situations, so be friendly and network to polish your listening and speaking skills. Worry not because Indonesians are known as one of the most friendly people out there!

You can also find learning sources that are entertaining, such as songs, podcasts, movies, books, and other leisurely contexts. Nowadays, it’s super easy for those who are eager to learn Bahasa Indonesia, especially with the online sources, viral content, and other interesting forms. Simply said, when you want to learn how to learn Bahasa Indonesia, do it wholeheartedly but don’t forget to have fun. 

Learn Bahasa Indonesia with Cakap

As the pioneer of a two-way language learning platform in Indonesia, Cakap is ready to provide high-quality and credible Indonesian language online courses. We are proud to be your partner in getting to learn Bahasa Indonesia most authentically. With Cakap, your Indonesian teacher will encourage a rich learning experience most interactively- without the hassle of time or distance. 

Our Indonesian class is also designed to be relatively short to fit into your daily schedule. You can improve your Indonesian speaking skills via face-to-face mentoring in just 50 minutes/class to reap all the benefits of mastering Bahasa Indonesia. Learn more about our Indonesian Language Class today, click here!

Saya adalah pencinta sastra dan gemar menyelami tulisan-tulisan lama. Saya percaya bahwa “Menulis, menciptakan ide/gagasan, dan berbagi pengetahuan adalah cara untuk tetap ada dalam pusaran sejarah”.

Exclusive E-Book Bahasa Indonesia Specially For You!

Bahasa Indonesia is easy and fun to learn. Here are the basics that you need to tackle. Fill the form below to learn more!

    Saya bersedia menerima informasi & promosi seputar Cakap

      Saya bersedia menerima informasi & promosi seputar Cakap