Learn Indonesian or Bahasa for your trip to Bali

Looking to learn Indonesian for your trip to Bali or even Indonesia? Then you’ve come to the right place! If you are thinking of heading to Bali for a trip or a holiday, you’ll want to get familiar with the basic phrases in the local language, which you may know as Indonesian or Bahasa Indonesia,  which simply means ‘language Indonesia’.

Just from this translation alone you might be able to see that Bahasa Indonesia is a very direct language and is much more straightforward than English, which is good for anyone who wants to learn Indonesian.  


I can tell you, I am an English teacher and I speak several languages, but Indonesian is very different to any of the European languages I had learnt previously before coming to Bali,  which I’ll explain below for everyone who wants to learn Indonesian!

To clarify, Bahasa is the language of Indonesia but each of the islands and ethnic groups in Indonesia has its own language making for an interesting myriad of languages and cultures.  The Indonesian language was created as a common language, or lingua franca, to unite the new country after the declaration of independence in 1945.  it was hoped that the Indonesian nation could come together under the flag and the common ground of this language which actually has more routes in Malay from Malaysia than it does in Indonesia as the administration at the time with very keen to avoid placing a Javanese language as the language of Indonesia so therefore they work for what they felt was more of a neutral language and Bahasa Indonesia was derived mainly from the Malaysian language,  which is handy as it means that if you learn Indonesian you can actually understand a lot of the Malaysian language as well so it’s 2 for the price of 1! Now, you might be thinking “Well, if I am going to Bali and Bali has its own language,  perhaps I should learn Balinese?” –  let me be frank, don’t learn Balinese! Balinese is an ancient language, which is thoroughly intertwined with the Hindu culture and history of Bali and Indonesia making it largely inaccessible to learners outside of the island/culture.  Now, that is not to say it is impossible but it is certainly one of the more difficult languages you could learn.  Added to that is the fact that Bali is only a very small island in Indonesia comma it seems far more logical to learn Bahasa Indonesia as you can travel throughout the country with the one language.



Learn Indonesian

Can you read this sign? If not, you need to learn Indonesian!

Photo Credit: Stephen Bugno

So my strong advice is to learn Indonesian instead! Now for some tips on language learning:

  • A lot of the language books available teach you the most formal version of the language,  which is not the most helpful as it is not how the vast majority of the people you will meet speak. It may help you to understand the Indonesian president but it won’t really help you to communicate with somebody in a shop selling a sarong that you might want to buy!
  • Spoken, informal Indonesian often leaves out or omits who is doing the action, the subject pronoun meaning, ‘I’, ‘You’, ‘We’, etc. is often not included in a sentence, so ‘I like’ in English is often just said ‘Like’ in Indonesian.
  • In a similar way to the above,  the verbs do not change no matter who said them known as conjugation, so the verb ‘do’ is the same  for he, she, we, they, you etc.! So ‘He likes’ in English would just be ‘He like’ or ‘Like’ when said in Indonesian (can you see the pattern?)
  • The Indonesian  language has no verb tenses like English: to express when something happened you simply put the time or day in the sentence, like “Yesterday go” or kemarin.
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bensin indonesia bali

Any guesses on ‘bensin’? It is not Vodka!

Photo Credit: wytze

[/one_half_last] Check out the flashcards below from the fantastic website, Quizlet – which I would strongly recommend you join to keep a record of all the words you learn on your quest to learn Indonesian! I would, however, recommend that you learn words as you hear them not in groups as this set has them since this is known to cause more confusion since getting Saturday and Sunday permanently confused can play havoc with your travel plans!

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