Useful phrases and tips for communicating in the Indonesian language

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Believe it or not, there are 583 languages ​​and dialects spoken in Indonesia, including the languages ​​of various ethnic groups in the country. Some of these languages ​​are Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Toraja, Buginese and many more. All of them are divided into dialects.

Even though the Indonesian language is the national language of this country, you can hear English quite often, especially when it comes to tourist areas. You can also listen to some of them German AND Dutch in big cities if you’re lucky enough.

To have successful communication with natives once you find yourself away from tourist hubs, you should have at least basic knowledge of everyday phrases. That’s why we decided to provide you a collection of Indonesian words and phrases which should be sufficient for carrying on typical everyday conversation in the local language. As well as being able to understand you, the locals will appreciate your effort and will usually respond with a smile.

Indonesian is a very practical language to learn because its verbs usually do not have different forms for tenses, plural or grammatical gender. Also, with a little practice, pronunciation shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Hello Indonesia!

As in any other language, there are different ways to greet someone in Indonesian. In addition to greetings that can be used throughout the day, your greeting can also depend on the part of the day. Some of the most common ways to say “hello” in Indonesian are the following sentences:

Indonesian English
Good morning Good morning (until 10:30)
Happy Siamese Have a nice day (until 2.30pm)
Good afternoon Good Afternoon (after 2.30pm)
Good night Good evening
Welcome Welcome
Until we meet again Hello (if it’s you who’s leaving)
Until we meet again Hello (if you stay)

Let me introduce myself…

Below are some of the phrases that will help you in the basic introduction process when it comes to knowing the language and understanding.

Indonesian English
What is your name? What is your name?
Pleased to meet you. Nice to meet you.
How are you? How are you?
Okay thanks! I’m very well thanks.
And you? And how are you?
Can you speak (English/Indonesian)? Do you speak (English/Indonesian)?
Just a little. Just a little.
What do you mean? What do you want to know?
I do not understand! I don’t understand you.
I do not know! I do not know.
Excuse me. Excuse me.
Is it in Indonesian? How do you say this in Indonesian?
What does this word mean in English? What does this word mean in English?
Happy to talk to you! It has been nice talking to you.

Speaking of professions and origins

If you want to have a more personal conversation and get to know a person you are talking to better, you should check the sentences from the table below.

Indonesian English
Where do you come from? Where do you come from?
I come from the United States. I come from the United States.
I’m American. i’m american.
Where do you live Where do you live?
I live in the US. I live in the USA.
What is your job? Where do you work?
I am a student. I am a student.

Looking for directions

Asking for directions in Indonesian isn’t too difficult either. You can ask for help or give directions using the sentences in the table below.

Indonesian English
I can help? Can I help you?
Can you please help me? You can help me?
Where is the airport? Where is the airport?
Straight. Go straight.
Turn left. Turn left.
Turn right. Turn right.


If you want to say something nice to people who are celebrating some of the important events in Indonesia, you might find the next table very useful, especially since they really appreciate the effort foreigners make to speak to them in their own language.

Indonesian English
Happy birthday! Happy birthday!
Happy New Year! Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
Good luck! Good luck!
Congratulations! Congratulations!

In addition to these phrases, we recommend that you get a good pocket dictionary that you can have with you whenever you need it. Another useful option is to download a mobile dictionary application that you can consult without needing Internet access.

How to behave in Indonesia?

While knowing the language plays a big part in communicating abroad, it’s good to know which one gestures you should avoid when talking to native Indonesians.

When you meet someone, shaking hands it is a usual gesture, and is often followed by a slight bow or a hand brought to the heart. Apart from these, you should also keep in mind that he is polite first introduce older people it’s at use their title while they do, if they have any, from the Indonesian people appreciate the formality.

Many Indonesians have only one name which can be very long, so it is not uncommon for them to use a nickname. Another important thing to remember is that it is rude to point your finger at people or objects. You should be using the thumb with the other fingers curled underneath.

It is considered polite Verbally reject a gift given to you before accepting it. You should do this to show the gift givers that you aren’t greedy. You should never give a sharp object such as scissors or knife to anyone because it means you want to end the relationship between you. You should never give alcohol or non-halal food to Muslims. Never give your skin to Hindus, as they regard cows as sacred animals.

A gift should be given and received with the right hand only and should never be opened in front of the person who gave it to you. When wrapping gifts for Indonesians, make sure you don’t use dark colored gift wrapping, especially not black. Bright colors are believed to bring good luck to people, so it’s best to wrap gifts in red, yellow, or green.

Once you have some of these phrases and routines in place, you’ll be ready to enjoy your Indonesian experience to the fullest. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to stay there longer and improve your Indonesian skills to a professional level.

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