Bahasa Indonesia Alphabet: Chart, Consonants and Vowels

Bahasa Indonesia Alphabet Chart, Consonants and Vowels

Learning a new language can sometimes feel like solving a puzzle, but don’t worry. We’re here to help keep it simple.

In this article, we’ll talk about learning the Indonesian alphabet. We’ll break the main lessons down into bite-sized pieces and include some examples.

Fair warning: learning the Indonesian alphabet might seem hard at first, but unlike many other languages that twist your tongue like a pretzel, Indonesian spelling and pronunciation are pretty straightforward. Indonesian letters are mostly pronounced like their English counterparts, although several letters and syllables have different spellings.

This is why it is relatively easier for English speakers to learn. In addition, each Indonesian letter or letter combination makes just one sound, except for ‘e’, which has varying sounds. In this guide, we’ll give you a proper introduction to all the sounds that you need to know, as well as resources and tips to learn the Indonesian alphabet easily and effectively.

Indonesian Alphabet Overview

The Indonesian alphabet consists of 26 letters, which align with the standard Latin alphabet used in many Western languages. These letters include 21 consonants: B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, and Z, alongside five vowels: A, E, I, O, and U, and a few diphthongs and consonant clusters.

In Indonesian, the alphabet is known for its consistent letter-to-sound correspondence. This means each letter generally represents a single sound, making pronunciation easy to learn for beginners. This feature simplifies the process of reading and speaking Indonesian, as learners can rely on consistent phonetic rules.

The following table shows the 21 consonants in Indonesian, their pronunciation, example words that contain each sound, and notes that provide additional information for learners.

Consonants

LetterPronunciationEnglish EquivalentExample WordsListenNotes
B/bLike the English voiced stop ‘b’ in bite Bintang (star), Bulan (moon)
C/cLike the English ‘ch’ sound in words like ‘chime,’ ‘cheque,’ but with less emphasis Cantik (beautiful), Cukup (enough)
D/dLike the English voice stops ‘d’ in ‘doll’ Daun (leaf), Madu (honey)
F/féfLike the English ‘f’ (e.g., fun) and in some cases, ‘p’ in the case of loanwords Fajar (dawn), Filsa, fat (philosophy), Maaf (sorry)
G/gLike the English hard ‘g’ in guard Gajah (elephant), Ragu (doubt)
H/hhaThe “h” sound in Indonesian is comparable to the English ‘h’ as in him, but it’s often softer at the start of a word or sometimes not pronounced at all. Hitam (black), Bahan (material), Putih(white) When located at the end of a word, its pronunciation can differ among speakers. Some pronounce it with a strong “h” sound, making it sound like the “ch” in “Bach.” Others pronounce it more softly, similar to a regular “h,” while some speakers omit it entirely, as seen in the variations of “malah” (pronounced as “malach,” “malah,” or “mala”), meaning “even.”
J/jBetween the sound represented by the English letter ‘j’ or ‘dg’ in words like ‘jam’, ‘Jupiter’, ‘badge’, ‘lodge’ Juga (also), Jari (finger), Pajak (tax)
K/kkaLike English ‘k’ as in ‘key’, but lacks aspiration Kerja (work), Pakan (feed), Anak (child) At the end of a word, this consonant stays ‘\unreleased, which means they are formed and briefly held but the air is not let out right away.
L/lélLike English ‘l’, but less heavy as in ‘look’ or ‘alone’ Lubang (hole), Pahlawan (hero), Palu (hammer), Bantal (pillow)
M/mémLike English ‘m’ as in ‘meet’ Mata (eye), Sama (same), Hitam (black)
N/nénLike English ‘n’ as in ‘noon’ Nanti (later), Karena (because), Makan (eat)
P/pLike the English ‘p’ as in ‘pool’ but lacks aspiration Pidato (speech), Kepada (to), Lenyap (vanish) Like ‘k’, ‘p’ also stays unreleased at the end of a word, which means it is formed and briefly held but the air is not let out right away.
Q/qkiLike the English /k/ sound Al-Qur’an (Quran), Qalbu (heart) The letter ‘q’ is present in loanwords from other languages, particularly Arabic, Dutch, and English.
R/rérThere is no English equivalent. Indonesian ‘r’ is just like the ‘r’ in Spanish or Italian. It’s pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the hard area just behind the upper teeth called the alveolar ridge. Rasa (taste), Kura-kura (turtle), Kabar (news)
S/sésLike English ‘s’ as in ‘sip’ and ‘seem’ Suka (like), Masalah (problem), Kupas (peel)
T/tLike English ‘t’ as in ‘time’, but lacks aspiration Taman (park), Mata (eye), Imut (cute) Like ‘k’ and ‘p’, ‘t’ also stays unreleased at the end of a word, which means it is formed and briefly held but the air is not let out right away.
V/vLike the English ‘f’ as in ‘fine’ and sometimes as ‘p’ in the case of loanwords Vonis (verdict), Divisi (division)
W/wLike the English ‘w’ as in ‘win’ Wanita (woman), Tawaran (offer)
X/xéksLike the English ‘s’ when located at the beginning of a word and ‘ks’ when positioned in the middle or the end Xerografi (xerography), Marxisme (Marxisme) The letter ‘x’ is not commonly used in native Indonesian words and is primarily found in loanwords from other languages.
Y/yLike the English ‘y’ as in ‘year’ Yakin (sure), Bayar (pay)
Z/zzétLike the English ‘z’ sound, but this particular sound is found only in foreign words. Sometimes it may be pronounced as ‘j’. Zaman (time), Zat (substance)

Vowels

Now that you’ve learned all the consonants, let’s have a look at the five vowels in Indonesian, how they are pronounced, example words that feature each sound, and notes that provide additional insights for learners like you.

LetterPronunciationEnglish EquivalentExampleListenNotes
A/aThe ‘a’ sound is just like the ‘a’ in “father” or the British pronunciation of “bath,” though it’s pronounced with a slightly wider opening of the mouth. Ayam (chicken), Remaja (invite) In Indonesian, when a vowel is repeated (like ‘aa’ in “maaf”), you usually pause slightly between the two vowels. For example, the word “maaf” is pronounced as “ma’af,” with a quick stop in the middle of the “ah” sound at the back of your throat. Some British speakers are best known to do this pause in words like “bottle” or “better,” making them sound like “bo’el” and “be’er.”
E/eSounds like the schwa sound in English as in ‘across’ or in the last syllable of ‘lemon’ Kenapa (why), Karena (because), Kampanye (campaign) To prevent confusion, some textbooks write the former ‘e’ representing the schwa sound as ê, particularly to distinguish it from the latter ‘e,’ which is usually written as é.
Like ‘e’ in ‘expression’ or ‘pen’ Enak (delicious), Kamera (camera), Kue (Cake)
I/iLike ‘i’ in ‘lip’, ‘ee’ in ‘seem’, or ‘ea’ in ‘reap’ Liar (wild), Pita (ribbon), Peti (casket)
O/oLike the English ‘au’ in ‘caught’ or ‘o’ in ‘open’ Obat (medicine), Kado (gift)
U/uLike ‘oo’ in ‘took’, or the ‘ou’ in ‘soup’ Urusan (affair), Mudah (easy), Kamu (you)

Diphthongs

Diphthongs are special combinations of two vowel sounds pronounced within the same syllable. In other words, when you pronounce a diphthong, your mouth moves from one vowel sound to another without a noticeable pause or break. This blending of sounds creates a unique pronunciation that adds richness and complexity to the way words are spoken. Now, let’s explore four diphthongs that will enhance the way you pronounce Indonesian words.

DiphthongEnglish EquivalentExample WordsListenNotes
aiLike the English diphthong in ‘fly’ or ‘high Air (water), Pandai (smart) The pronunciation of this diphthong has an informal variant. The ‘ai’ may be pronounced as é. For example, you will hear some people pronounce “pantai” (beach) as “panté.”
auLike the English diphthong in ‘loud’ or ‘sound’. Saudara (relative), Harimau (tiger) Similar to ‘ai’, ‘au’ also has an informal variant, namely ‘o’. The word “kacau”, for example, may be pronounced as “kaco.”
oiLike the English diphthong in ‘oil’ or ‘coin’ Boikot (boycott), Koboi (cowboy)
eiLike the English diphthong in ‘cake’ or ‘explain’ Geiser (geyser), Survei (survey)

Consonant Clusters

Consonant clusters are when you have two or more consonant sounds stuck together in a word without any vowels in between. They can be tricky for learners because you have to smoothly switch between the consonant sounds without adding a vowel sound. In Indonesian, there are four main consonant clusters that are important for pronunciation. Let’s look at each one to help you understand and say Indonesian words better.

LetterEnglish EquivalentExample WordsListenNotes
khThere is no English equivalent since this sound is commonly found in loanwords from Arabic. The pronunciation of ‘kh’ in Indonesian is similar to the Arabic sound represented by the letter “خ”. It is a breathy, raspy sound produced by constricting the airflow at the back of the throat. Khusus (special), Akhir (end), Tarikh (date) This cluster has another variant. Sometimes itmay be pronounced as regular ‘k’, so you will also hear native speakers pronounce the word ‘akhir’ as “akir”.
ngLike the ‘ng’ sound in ‘singer’ or ‘ringing’; the only difference is that this cluster also appears at the beginning of a word. Ngilu (it hurts), Bangun (wake up), Orang (person)
nyLike the ‘ny’ sound in ‘Bologna’ or ‘canyon’. Just like ‘ng’, it is also found at the beginning of a word. Nyata (real), Hanya (only)
syLike the English ‘sh’ in ‘push’ or ‘shallow’ Syarat (condition), syarat (sign), Tamasya (outing) This cluster has an informal variant. Some people tend to pronounce it as ‘s’. For example, words like “syarat” may be pronounced as “sarat”, or “asyik” (fun) as “asik”.

Different Types of Syllables

As you may have noticed from the example words provided, various types of syllables are present in Indonesian, which are important to understand when learning Indonesian vocabulary. Here is a little breakdown for you:

  1. Consonant-Vowel
    • Mata (mata) – eye
    • Pagi (pagi) – morning
  2. Consonant-Vowel-Vowel
    • Pandai (pan-dai)
  3. Consonant-Vowel-Consonant
    • Cipta (cip-ta) – to create
    • Kupas (ku-pas) – to peel
  4. Consonant Cluster-Vowel
    • Nyata (Nya-ta) – (it) hurts
  5. Vowel
    • Api (a-pi) – fire
    • Upah (u-pah) – wage
  6. Vowel-Consonant
    • Unta (un-ta) – camel
    • Indah (in-dah) – beautiful
  7. Vowel-Vowel
    • Aula (Au-la) – hall

There are many excellent resources available to help you learn the Indonesian alphabet effectively. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Online language learning platforms: Websites and apps like Duolingo and Babbel offer structured lessons that cover the basics of the Indonesian alphabet along with pronunciation practice.
  • YouTube tutorials: There are countless YouTube channels dedicated to teaching Indonesian language basics, including the alphabet. Look for channels with clear explanations and interactive exercises. Check out Indonesian Alphabet Pronunciation Guide and this Indonesian Alphabet Song.
  • Language learning books: Invest in a good Indonesian language learning book that includes exercises and activities for practicing the alphabet. Books like “Complete Indonesian” by Christopher Byrnes and Eva Nyimas are highly recommended.
  • Flashcards: Create or purchase flashcards specifically designed for learning the Indonesian alphabet. Flashcards are a great way to reinforce your memory and practice recognition of letters and their sounds.
  • Language exchange partners: Find a language exchange partner who is fluent in Indonesian and can help you practice pronunciation and spelling. Websites like Tandem and HelloTalk are great platforms for connecting with language exchange partners.
  • Children’s Books and Materials: Don’t underestimate the power of children’s books and materials for learning the alphabet. Look for Indonesian alphabet books designed for young learners, as they often include colorful illustrations and simple explanations.

Effective Strategies for Mastering Indonesian Alphabet

Now, let’s talk about some fun ways to learn the Indonesian alphabet effectively. One great way is to practice writing each letter while saying its sound out loud. It might feel a bit silly at first, but trust me, it works wonders! You can even make it a game by turning it into a little competition with yourself or a friend. Who can write the alphabet faster while still saying each letter’s sound clearly? Go ahead, give it a try!

Another helpful tip is to surround yourself with the Indonesian language as much as possible. Whether it’s listening to Indonesian music, watching movies with Indonesian subtitles, or chatting with native speakers online, immersing yourself in the language will really boost your learning. Plus, it’s super fun and helps you pick up on those subtle nuances of pronunciation and rhythm.

Additionally, try using flashcards to practice the Indonesian alphabet. Write down each letter on one side and its corresponding sound on the other. Then, shuffle the cards and test yourself or quiz a friend. This interactive approach helps reinforce your memory and makes learning feel more like a game than a chore!

Another useful strategy is to break down the alphabet into smaller chunks and focus on mastering a few letters at a time. Start with the vowels, for example, and once you feel comfortable with those, move on to the consonants. This approach prevents overwhelm and allows you to build confidence gradually.

And hey, don’t forget to celebrate your progress along the way! Learning a new language is a journey, not a race. So, be kind to yourself and take breaks when you need them. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to your goal of mastering the Indonesian alphabet.

Now, on to You

So there you have it – a detailed guide to mastering the Indonesian alphabet! As we finish up, it’s important to know that learning a new language, such as Indonesian, is exciting but also challenging. Regardless, there are many opportunities to learn and grow.

By practising regularly, using the tips and leveraging the resources mentioned, and getting involved in the language, you’ll get better at the Indonesian alphabet. Enjoy the learning process, be proud of your progress, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Whether you’re going to Indonesia, talking with Indonesian friends and family, or just exploring new languages, learning the Indonesian alphabet can open up new experiences. Keep up the good work, and remember, there’s always more to learn!