Guide to Pronunciation of Indonesian

You will need to LISTEN (to your teacher and to the audio for Keren!) to really pronounce Indonesian correctly, but the following guide will give you a rough idea how to sound words out. Unlike English, Indonesian is relatively consistent in matching sounds to spellings, but there are some exceptions to this, and there are several sounds that are tricky for English- speakers.



a like a in father datang, nama
e like u in but  OR* selamat, senang
e between the e in let and the a in late es, sore
i like ee in feet pagi, siang
o between the aw in saw and the oe in toe kopi, orang
u like oo in boot buku, duduk**
ai like ie in tie baik, sampai***
au like ow in how mau, saudara****

*NOTE: There is no rule to know which way to pronounce e in a particular word without hearing it first; your teacher will give you the correct pronunciation as you go along.

**the u in the second syllable of duduk sounds more like the oo in book)

***the ai in sampai is often pronounced ay as in day, especially in Java

****the au in saudara is often pronounced oe as in toe)

In other cases where two vowels are not separated by a consonant, just put the two vowel sounds together: siapa = si apa, etc. When a vowel is repeated, put a glottal stop (= the catch in your throat when you say "uh-oh!") between the vowels: maaf = ma-af.


I. Consonants pronounced very much as in English:

b as in bed bahasa, mobil
d as in dad duduk, saudara
f as in feel foto, maaf
g as in good guru, pagi NEVER as in giant
l as in lap lagi, selamat
m as in man malam, selamat
n as in nap Natal, tahun ALSO SEE ng, ny, below
s as in see siang, kelas NEVER as in boys
w as in well wayang, kawan NEVER as in where
y as in yell yang, Yogyakarta

II. Consonants pronounced somewhat differently than in English:

j like the dy in Goodyear jumpa, saja
k like the k in skate kopi, es krim*
p like the p in spot pagi, apa*
t like the t in stop tas, itu*

*k, p, and t DO NOT have the puff of air they have in such English words as kill, put, and tap.

**NOTE: When k comes at the END of a word, the sound is cut off sharply (like the glottal stop mentioned above): baik, becak

ng like the ng in singer mengerti, senang

**NOTE: ng alone does NOT have the "hard" g, as in finger, which is always written as ngg in Indonesian: tinggal, penggaris

ny like the ny in canyon banyak, artinya

Both ng and ny can be found at the BEGINNINGS of words: ngopi, Nyonya

sy like the s y in pass your plate, close to the sh in show. syukur, asyik

III. Consonants presenting special problems:

c like the t y in get your feet off the table!, close to the c in cello or the ch in chat, NEVER like the c in cat cinta, becak
h as in house, but it can also appear at the ENDS of words: hari, bahasa, sekolah
r like the tt in butter or gotta. It is usually a tap of the tongue behind the teeth, though it sometimes is more of a trill (like the rr in Spanish arriba, especially at the ends of words rumah, saudara, kabar

The letters q, v, x, z are very rare in Indonesian, and are mostly found in words borrowed from English, Dutch or Arabic.

q similar to English k Qur'an
v similar to English v or f veto, Vitri
x like English x xerox
z like English z or j zebra, zaman

Here is how you pronounce the alphabet in Indonesian:

(Hear -->) a = ah b = bay c = chay d = day e = ay f = ef g = gay
(Hear -->) h = ha i = ee j = jay k = kah l = el m = em n = en
(Hear -->) o = oh p = pay q = key r = air s = es t = tay u = oo
(Hear -->) v = fay w = way x = eks y = yay z = zet