Indonesian an Easy Language?

People will tell you that Bahasa Indonesia is an easy language to learn, and it might be, if it wasn’t always overlapping and intertwined with many other languages that are commonly used in Indonesia.

One of the challenges of living in Indonesia is that, with over 700 living languages, there is a continual struggle to maintain clear communications. As the language of one village overlaps that of another, there’s inevitably going to be a mixing of languages, as well as many spelling variations. There are also 300 ethnic groups, which have many different accents. And, with Islam being the predominate religion, there is always the Arabic language that you will continually come into contact with. Indonesians have accepted this variety as a way of life. For the foreigner that has come to work, and must first learn the national language, it’s a real struggle.

BRONI (Language in Transition)

To give just one small example of how a word can change over time, take a small area in the City of Jambi that is referred to as “Broni.”

Broni was originally a rubber factory which was a joint effort between France and The Netherlands. The name of this business was “Rubber Uni.” In the process of time, according to Indonesian custom, the name was shortened and morphed into “Beruni” (Rubber Uni). After another period of time it reached its current name of “Broni.” That is a very simplistic example, but with many different dialects and the inability of some people to pronounce certain sounds properly, the door for miscommunication, as well as misspellings, is enormous. It’s a nightmare for the foreigner, especially if you frequently speak with people of different ethnic groups.

A Couple More Examples… several ways to say the same word:

ALREADY— 1) sudah; 2) udah; 3) dah

SIX–1) enam; 2) nam; 3) num

EIGHT— 1) delapan; 2) lapan

ELEVEN— 1) sebelas; 2) belas; 3) blas

SICK–1) sakit; 2) sikeet; 3) sahkit; 4) sikit; 5) kit

LITTLE–1) sedikit; 2) dikit

That might not seem like much, but when sentences are thrown at you, and several words in each sentence are altered from the way you learned them, it becomes confusing.

“Selamat Belajar”

(Enjoy Your Studies!)

May 24, 2012