Learning Indonesian the Google Translate Way

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Blogs
Tags: , , ,

Indonesia

Indonesia (Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

One of the benchmarks I set myself to determine my reading fluency in a foreign language is firstly, being able to read the national newspaper with relative ease and write using the same language, and secondly, using the local colloquial language well enough to communicate with ease. Only then, do I dare claim that I am fluent in the particular language. Additionally, there are current idiomatic expressions to consider, as well, that I would have to master.

I am trying to improve my Bahasa Indonesia; it is the language of the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population, and it is not as difficult as picking up Chinese (which I am learning – very slowly- as well).  I also speak Malay fairly well, short of being fluent though having received a commendable grade in a national exam some 28 years ago.

Where pronunciation in Bahasa Indonesia is concerned, it is a fairly phonetic language, with perhaps a few exceptions, for example (with the pronunciation of ‘e’). Besides that there is intonation and stresses, which differ from Malay.

Indonesians speak really quickly relative to Malaysians. I think in order to do this I would have to be familiar with both formal informal Indonesian vocabulary, and get the intonation right.

The Indonesian language as I perceive it today has Malay as its foundation, which is in turn connected to Indian languages or Sanskrit and Arabic. One peculiarity here is that Indonesians have a way of abbreviating words and phrases. Three words would collapse into each other to form a single word.

Additionally, Bahasa Indonesia has also appropriated Dutch words (a colonial heritage) and English vocabulary, something which is expedient as language itself evolves and succumbs to the pressures of globalisation. The language is also impacted by Javanese, with its variants in different parts of Java, the main Indonesian island.

I am trying to beef up my vocabulary in Bahasa Indonesia. I find linking a new language to the ones I already know or have some inkling of (like Hindi, French, Latin words, prefixes and suffixes) definitely help. Understanding the etymology helps me to internalise what I learn.

So every day, I am going to pick up a few words each day by reading Kompas, a leading newspaper in Bahasa Indonesia. While I pick up new words, I am also educating myself in the politics and culture of this country.

My tools include the following dictionaries, for now:

  • Kompas (A leading Indonesian newspaper.)
  • Google Translate (One way I use it is to contrast English and Indonesian grammar, identify slang, and some approximation of translation of an entire webpage).
  • Kamus.net  (An online Indonesian dictionary. Kamus = dictionary.)
  • Sederet.com (English-Indonesian Translator.)
  • Indonesian Etymology (Pick up some Javanese words along the way.)
  • Seasite Learn Indonesia on the Internet (A great website to learn grammar, vocabulary and about Indonesia. For example, the ter-, ber-, prefixes you see below; suffixes such as -an are explained on the website.)
 Indonesian  English Etymology
 kecup  smack
 tersinggung  offended
 seteru  rival From Sanskrit “ShaTru”:”enemy”
 berseteru (dengan) clash (with) Sanskrit: enemy
 tanggapan  response
 ide, gagasan idea
 beberkan  layout
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