Adapted from materials by Michel Bordt and Liswati Seram
Face it--whether you are in Indonesia for one week or for 10 years, it is not only polite and useful to know a little of the language, in many cases, it is outright necessary. If you don't want to be trapped at the Hotel Borobudur or restricted to traveling with a translator, you need to be able to communicate with that cheerful, friendly, curious populace out there. This booklet provides one approach to learning a very basic level of the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia, with no strain.
I have yet to encounter a structured, functional approach to learning Bahasa Indonesia [Note from SEASite: The text used in NIU's Indonesian classes, Bahasa Tetanggaku by Ian J. White (Longman: Melbourne, Australia), is "a notional-functional course" in Indonesian; another well-known text is Beginning Indonesian through Self-Instruction by John U. Wolff (SEAP, Cornell University: Ithaca, NY)]. Phrase books confront the linguistic novice with a barrage of special purpose phrases ("Is the play a comedy or a tragedy?"). They are often badly organized into social situations (going to the market, at customs) where you are likely to have neither the time nor the inclination to be fumbling around with a silly little phrase book even if you did bring it with you, which is highly improbable. With these books, you can either memorize several hundred phrases that may or may not have an application. Or you can keep the book in your pocket and hope that your fingers are fast enough to find the phrase for "turn left here" before the taxi takes you completely out of town in a straight line.
Grammar books and dictionaries, although fine for a long-term study of the language, are even more of a hindrance in taxis and at the supermarket checkout. Language tapes also have their place in learning to communicate but this approach requires time and effort to achieve practical results.
What is required for the short-term visitor and even for the newly arrived longer-term expatriates is a list of common, useful and necessary words and phrases grouped into bite-sized quantities so the most important ones can be learned and used first.
The most useful phrase book I have found is Indonesian Words and Phrases by the American Women's Association. It provides some very important basic concepts and I recommend it highly but no one wants to memorize an entire book the first day in a new country. The following lists of words, organized by day, should help you to get through your first week while you are making plans for more extensive language training.
Optional words in the following vocabulary tables are provided in square brackets and correspond between columns (for example, [pagi | siang | sore | malam] = [morning | day | afternoon | evening]; pagi is morning, etc.). Fill-in-the-blank words (...) may be substituted from any handy phrase book.
The appendices include a guide to pronunciation, help with finding words in the dictionary and a short essential word list.