About Learning Indonesian with Berlitz
Indonesian is the national language of Indonesia. When independence was declared in 1945, bahasa Indonesia (“Indonesian language”) was decreed as the country’s official language. It is actually the same language as Malay, spoken in Malaysia. Although Indonesian is the mother tongue of only about
25 million people out of a population of 225 million, it is estimated that as much as three-fourths of the population now understands it.
At independence the spelling systems of the two countries differed somewhat, as the Malay system was developed by the British, and the Indonesian by the Dutch. In 1972 the two were unified, with the Malay variant adopted in most cases. Indonesian j gave way to Malay y (kayu – wood), and dj to Malay j (gajah – elephant). The ch sound, which was ch in Malay but tj in Indonesian, is now rendered by the letter c (kucing – cat), while the sh sound, sh in Malay but sj in Indonesian, is now sy (syarat – condition).
A number of Indonesian words, however, have been adopted from Javanese, the country’s most widely spoken language, in preference to the Malay. For “city” Malay bandar is kota in Indonesian, “room” is bilik in Malay but kamar in Indonesian, and “shop” is kedai in Malay but toko in Indonesian. The Indonesian plural, like the Malay, is formed by merely repeating the word, as in angan-angan in the poem above, which means “fantasies.”