Learning the alphabet is allegedly easy. So easy, people will compare other things to it to say how easy they are. So easy that people learning a new language often skip focusing on the alphabet entirely, especially when it’s a Latin alphabet-based language like Indonesian. True, the Indonesian alphabet looks pretty similar to the English one, but it still requires some attention. Learning a few pronunciation rules early on will make things much easier as you become more acquainted with the language.
To get you started, we put together this brief guide to the Indonesian alphabet. With a focus on some of the letters most likely to trip you up, this should be a quick way to figure out some of the trickiest parts of the language. Like we said, the Indonesian alphabet isn’t too difficult overall, so with just a little practice you should be ready to pronounce pretty much any word you run into.
The Indonesian Alphabet
The Indonesian alphabet is identical to the English alphabet, with all 26 letters being the same. Nevertheless, we’ll include it here.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
In addition, Indonesian doesn’t use any diacritics or accent marks for any reason. The only other thing that might be useful to know is that the letters F, Q, V, X and Z only appear in loanwords, and are less common than the other consonants.
Pronouncing Indonesian Letters And Letter Combinations
For the most part, the pronunciation of Indonesian letters is close to the pronunciation of the equivalent English letters. Even better, most of the letters only have one pronunciation (which is very different from English). There are a few exceptions to this, however. Here, we’ll guide you through the trickiest parts of the Indonesian alphabet.
- The pronunciation of the letter E differs depending on whether it’s in a stressed or unstressed syllable. When it’s stressed, it sounds like the “e” in “let.”
- sore — afternoon
- es — ice
- restoran — restaurant
- When the Indonesian E is in an unstressed syllable, it is much shorter, like the “e” in “taken.” In some situations, it can even vanish all together.
- sepuluh — ten
- berapa — how much
- Selamat pagi! — Good morning!
- Unfortunately, there are no clear rules for where exactly the stress in a word goes. Our best advice is to memorize the stress whenever you learn a new word.
- The Indonesian J should be an easy one for English speakers, as it sounds like the “j” in “jeans.”
- Selamat jalan! — Have a good trip!
- Jakarta — the capital of Indonesia
- Jerman — Germany
- When K is at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it sounds like the “k” in “kiss.”
- kamu — you (informal)
- kabar — news
- Amerika — America
- When the K is at the end of a word, it’s almost silent.
- baik — good
- sirsak — soursop (a type of fruit)
NG and NGG
- The letters NG together are pronounced like the “ng” in “king,” but more nasally.
- mengerti — to understand
- orang — person
- siang — day
- When NG is followed by another G, they are pronounced separately like the “ng” in the word “finger.”
- Inggris — England
- Temanggung — a city in Java
- Selamat tinggal! — Goodbye!
- The R in Indonesian is always rolled, so it creates a sound unlike any that exists in English.
- terima kasih — thank you
- besar — big
- rambutan — name of a fruit
- The letter W is pronounced like the “w” in “water,” so it’s not too complicated. It might appear in places that seem unexpected to an English speaker, though.
- waktu — time
- sawah — rice paddy
- warung — food stall
- Unlike in English, the Indonesian Y is always a consonant. It sounds like the “y” in “yogurt.”
- ya — yes
- saya — I
- Yudayana — a male name