11 words you have to learn before coming to Indonesia

Whether you’re coming to Indonesia to teach with EF English First, or if you’re passing through on your vacation, here are 12 Bahasa Indonesian words that will make your life easier!


Apa kabar

Hi, how are you! Halo, apa kabar!

Apa kabar simply means ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s up’ – the word apa literally means ‘what’ so if an Indonesian says ‘apa kabar’ to you and you’re not sure what they said you can actually reply ‘apa??’



Is this yours? Iya it’s mine

Iya is Indonesian for yes. So can Iya be used the same it is used in English? Iya



Hello Mr. are you hungry? Enggak, I’m not hungry

While for some reason in Indonesian there are many versions of the word ‘no’, enggak is one of the commonly used, informal ones. Would you like to learn all of the other versions now? “Enggak, its too early to learn all of them now”.



Do you want to eat? Oke!

Oke is the English loanword for Okay. The first syllable “O” is pronounced like the “O” in obstacle and obvious. The second syllable “Ke” is pronounced like the “Ca” in cave and cape. Let’s continue? Okeee


Dimana (AND WC pronounced ‘weh-seh’)

Need to find the toilet? Halo, WC dimana?
In a mall and in need of a coffee? Halo, Starbucks dimana?
In a mall and in need of a new blouse? Halo, Forever 21 dimana?

Dimana is another very useful word meaning ‘where’. To use in question form simply add place/thing + dimana e.g. hospital dimana, McDonald’s dimana?



If you want to talk to a man on the street: Halo pak!
If you want to strike up a conversation with the waitress: Halo mbak!

This one is another simple one. Pak means Mr. or Sir and mbak means Miss. or Madame. I encourage you to use these words when you’re talking to the locals as it’s what the locals do.



If a man is standing in your way: Permisi pak!
If a woman is standing in your way: Permisi mbak!

In a rush and want to remain polite? Excuse me in Indonesian surely has some sort of connection to the English word ‘permission’ and is used the same way as “excuse me” is used in English. Simply say permisi instead of “excuse me”.



If you’re interested in buying something but want to make sure you can afford it: Berapa?

“How much does it cost?” This 5 word question can be asked in Indonesian using one word: “Berapa?”



Here/There: an easy way to remember this is the ‘tu’ in disitu sounds like to which means going somewhere and therefore is further away then disini.

Halo Pak, WC dimana? Disini atau disitu?



That/This: same as above, the ‘tu’ in itu sounds like to which is away and therefore further away than ini.

Itu apa? (what is that?)
Ini apa? (what is this?)



If you bump into a man on the street: Maaf pak!
If you forget pay the restaurant lady: Maaf mbak!

Want to say sorry? You can say maaf pronounced with 2 syllables ma/af. The blog title says 11 must learn words but there are actually about 14, maaf!

Good luck with learning the language – once you’re in country I guarantee you’ll be hearing words from this list frequently and very early on.

By: Ignatius Endravian



Teach, travel and train with EF English First