How To Speak Bahasa Indonesia Like a Local: A Crash Course for Filipinos

Bahasa is a Malay word which literally means ‘language’.

Therefore, Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu may be translated as ‘Indonesian Language’ and ‘Malay Language’, respectively.

I took a course on Bahasa Indonesia to comply with the language course of my Master’s Program in Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines. To supplement my language class and to enhance my proficiency in speaking the language, I enlisted at the Bahasa Indonesia Short Course offered by the Indonesian Embassy in Makati. Moreover, to also acquaint myself with Indonesian and Malayan culture, I did not only visit Jakarta and Singapore but also joined an international speech contest in Bahasa Melayu, “Pidato Antara Bangsa Melayu” in 2011 sponsored by the Malaysian Government. The competition was broadcasted live nationwide and in some Southeast Asian countries.

PABM 2011

The Philippines is considered part of the Malay world and Filipinos had strong economic, cultural and political ties with Sumatra, Sabah, Kalimantan and Java centuries before the Spanish colonization. Most of the time, Filipinos are not aware that many local languages and dialects, including Tagalog, are Malay in origin. In fact, many words used in Philippine languages are the same both in spelling and in meaning in Bahasa Melayu. This is the reason why it is quite easy for Filipinos to learn Bahasa Indonesia/Bahasa Melayu. Here are some example of words and common phrases that one can you when traveling to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, East Timur, Papua, and Singapore. They generally pronounced in the same way as they are read in Tagalog. The only exception is “C” is pronounced as “ch.”


Malaysian/ Indonesian

Selamat – congratulations, be safe, be happy

Selamat datang – welcome

Sama-sama – you are welcome

Apa – what

Aku – me                                           Bulan – month

Saya – me                                          Tahun – year

Engkau – you                                    Tanggal – date

Kamu – you                                       Hari – day

Kami – we                                         Pagi – morning

Itu – the, that, those, it                  Tenga hari – midday, noon

Ini – the, this, these                        Minggu- week

Dapat – could                                   Sampai – until

Lagi – again


Alamat – address                             Satu – one

Mahal – expensive                          Dua – two

Mura – cheap                                   Empat – four

Baru – new                                        Lima – five

Sakit– sick                                         Enam – six

Lembut – soft                                   Sepuluh – ten

Kurang – less, lack                           Ribu – thousand

Hitam – black                                   Laksa – ten thousands

Putih – white


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