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This is the last article in our “How NOT to Sound Bule” series tackling Indonesian pronunciation. If you're learning Indonesian and feel you sound like a Bule (foreigner) we're here for you! Audio recordings included! Check out the article of Indonesian vowels and consonants.
Making bad habits is easy and where most people struggle with most is their accent. The following sounds we will tackle here don’t exist in English. You may run into trouble for a bit, but with practice and constant listening you’ll be able to hear the differences.
Difference from English:
Close approximate: singing
Indonesian Example: “Ngerti” : Understand
Sometimes, my friends ask me to teach them a phrase in Indonesian, and once they encounter the “NG” sound, they promptly give up. Stuart Jay Raj, an Australian polyglot living in Thailand has made an insightful video regarding this very problem.
Other example words: Ngantuk, Ngamen, Ngantri
Try practicing the NG digraph with different vowel sounds. Try Nga, Ngé, Ngi, Ngo, Ngu so that your mouth can get accustomed to the new sound.
Difference from English: You may think you’ve never heard this sound before, but if you’ve seen a flying poptart cat with rainbows flying behind it, you know what it is. Nyan Cat.
Indonesian Example: “Nyanyi” : To sing
Other examples: Menyaksikan, Nyawa, Nyewa, Nya
Difference from English: N/A used for words of Arab origin. It is used where the gutteral “French R” would be, but is not pronounced that way.
Indonesian Example: “Terakhir” : Finally/Last
Other examples: Khalik, Khilaf
Difference from English: N/A used for words of Arab origin.
Indonesian Example: “Masyarakat” : Community
Other examples: Syukur, Syafaat
As a fun bonus, just so you can hear what an Indonesian accent would sound like, here’s how an Indonesian (with a very strong accent) would go about pronouncing a few things.
As I said in the article about vowels, we need to be sure to open our ears. If we cannot hear the differences between our mouth and that of a target language speaker, we can’t imitate. We cannot produce what we cannot hear. Keep listening to the recordings of sounds I’ve made, and practice with them. Train your ear, and in turn your mouth will follow.
We hope these articles have been useful to you, and that with constant practice you’ll be on your way to speaking fluent Indonesian. Please be sure to check back here for new articles and tips to learning Indonesian. If you are currently learning Indonesian, we at Polyglot Indonesia would be more than happy to answer any of your questions. You can also shoot me a message at Between3worlds.com If you stumbled here first, check out the article on vowels and consonants!
About the author
Born to a Jakartan Father and a Bandung Mother, Indonesian-American Fiel Sahir is a classical guitar performer, teacher, blogger and language enthusiast hailing from New York City. He is currently pursuing his Master’s under Joaquín Clerch in Düsseldorf, Germany. Being a language lover he speaks English, Indonesian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. He shares his thoughts with the world at Between3worlds.com