Pronounciation



Vowels
In Indonesian, there are five phoneme vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/.
Diphtongs are made by combining one with another.
/a/
The Indonesian letter a, is pronounced like the English ‘a’ in ‘far’
Ada                 to exist
Apa                 what
Acara              programme
Bahwa            that
Taman            park

Note : a can combine with i or u to produce the diphthongs ai (as in the English ‘my’ and ‘tie’) and au (as in the English ‘cow’ and ‘bow’).
Air                  water
Cair                liquid
Lain                different
Haus               thirsty
Maut               death
/e/
The Indonesian letter e has two different sounds. Oni is pronounced like the English ‘a’ in ‘ago’ and ‘again’. The second has a sound has a sound the vowel length of which is between ‘make’ and ‘mick.
E (as in ‘ago’)                                                 e (between ‘make’ and ‘mick’)
Emas               gold                                         enak                delicious
Kertas             paper                                       edan                mad
Serbu              attack                                      setan               devil
Entah              don’t know                             elok                 beautiful
Beras              rice                                          elit                   elite


/i/
The Indonesian letter i is pronounced much like the English ‘ee’ in ‘feet’, ‘meet’ and ‘be’.
Itu                   that
Ikan                fish
Kira                guess
Kita                 we
Tadi                just past
Note : i can combine with u or o to produce the diphthongs iu (no English equivalent) and io (as in the English ‘kiosk’).
Iu                                                                    io
Tiup                blow                                        biola                violin
Siul                  whistle                                     kios                 news-stand
Cium               kiss                                          pion                 pawn
Liur                saliva                                       pionner           pioneer
/o/
The Indonesian letter o is different from the English ‘o’ in that generally the English ‘o’ in a open syllable is long, as if being followed by ‘u’ at the and. The Indonesian o is short, the nearest to English being ‘o’ in ‘go’ and ‘so’. In a closed syllable the Indonesian o is very much like the vowel sound in ‘more’, ‘saw, or ‘door’.
            An open syllable has a vowel ending the syllable. A closed syllable has a consonant ending the syllable. For example, in ti/dur (to sleep), the firs syllable ti is open and the second syllable dur is closed.
O as in ‘go’ but short                                      o like the vowel sound in ‘more’, ‘saw’, ‘law’
To/ko              shop                                         kotor               dirty
So/to                soup                                        obrol               chat
Ka/do              gift                                          botol                bottle
Prang/ko        stamp                                       kosong            empty
So/lo                a town in Java                         roti                  bread
Note: If there are two os in a word, both should be pronounced the same. If in a word one ‘o’ is an open syllable and the other is a closed syllable, the ‘o’ in the latter is dominant.
/u/
The Indonesian letter u in an open syllable is pronounced like the English ‘oo’ in ‘tooth’,’boom’, or ‘shoot’. All us below are pronounced in the same way.
Buku               book
Susu                milk
Guru               teacher
Cucu               grandchild
Kuku              nail
Note: u can combine with a to produce the diphthong ua (no English equivalent).
Muat               load
Buah               fruit
Kuat               strong
Kuasa             authority
Suatu              a or an


















Consonants
There are 24 consonants in Indonesian. The following terms are used to describe their pronunciation.
            Aspirated                    - puff of air
            Voiced or voiceless     - with or without vibration of the vocal cords in the Adam’s apple
/t/ and /d/
Unlike the English /t/, the Indonesian /t/ is not aspirated when it occurs in the initial position (no puff of air) like the English sound ‘t’ in ‘time’. /d/ is the counterpart of /t/. /d/ is voiced whereas /t/ is voiceless. Note the contrast in meaning when one replaces the other in the following pair of words.
Initial position
/t/
Tari                 dance
Tahan             endure
Tua                 old
Titik                dot
Talam             tray
Final position
In this position the difference between /d/ and /t/ is hardly noticeable.
Abad               age                               cepat              quick
Murid             pupil                            tempat            place
Ahad               Sunday                        kawat             wire
Abjad              alphabet                       sempit            narrow
/p/ and /b/
As in English /p/ is voiceless and /b/ is voiced. The main feature of the Indonesian /p/ is that unlike the English sound /p/ in ‘pin’, it is never aspirated. As in English, in Indonesian /b/ is the counterpart of /p/. the /b/ is voiced whereas /p/ is voiceless. Note the contrast of meaning in the following pair of words when /p/ is replaced by /b/ or vice-versa:
Initial position
/p/                                                                    /b/
Pagi                 morning                                   bagi                 for
Peras               squeeze                                    beras               rice
Panci               pan                                          banci               transventite
Parang            large knife                               barang            thing
Puluh              teen                                         buluh              bamboo
Final position
In this position the difference between /p/ and /b/ is hardly noticeable.
/p/                                                                    /b/
Tetap              constant                                   biadab            uncivilized
Lengkap         complete                                  sebab              cause
Sikap              attitude                                    jawab              answer            
Atap                roof                                         bab                  chapter
Cukup            sufficient                                 lembab            damped
/k/ and /g/
The Indonesian /k/ when it occurs at the beginning of a words is different from the English /k/ in that it is not aspirated. At the end of at word /k/ serves as a glottal stop. As in English the Indonesian /g/ is counterpart of /k/. the /g/ is voiced whereas /k/ is voiceless. At the beginning of a word the pronunciation of the Indonesian /g/ is similar to the English /g/ in ‘game’. Note the contrast of meaning in the following pairs of words when /k/ is substituted by /g/ or vice-versa:
K
Kelas               class                                         gelas                glass
Kakak             older sibling                             gagak              crow
Kalah              defeated                                   galah               pole
Kosong            empty                                      gosong             burnt
Kukur             scratch                                     gugur              killed honourably
When /k/ is at the end of a syllable it serves as a glottal stop
Anak               child
Adik                younger sibling
Selidik             investigate
Busuk              rotten
Kakek             grandfather
/g/ does not occur in final position.
/c/ and /j/
Indonesian /c/ is pronounced like the English /ch/ in the words ‘chair’, ‘cheat’ or ‘cheese. The Indonesian /j/ is pronounced like the English /j/ in ‘Jack’ or ‘Jill’. The difference between them is that /j/ is voiced whereas /c/ is voiceless. Unlike English, e.g. in ‘itch’ and ‘age’, these two Indonesian consonants never appear at the end of a word. Note the contrast of meaning below when /c/ is replaced by /j/ and vice-versa.
Curi                steal                                         juri                  jury
Cacar              smallpox                                 jajar                parallel
Cari                search                                      jari                  finger
Cucur             a cake                                      jujur               honest
Acar                pickles                                    ajar                 teach
/h/
The Indonesian /h/ is pronounced like the English /h/ in ‘hen’, ‘home’ or ‘hay’. It is found in initial, medial and final position. Attention needs to be drawn to the fact that in the final position, the /h/ must still be pronounced audibly otherwise the meaning changes.
Final position
Guru               teacher                                     guruh              thunder
Buru                chase                                       buruh              labourer
Dara                pigeon                                     darah               blood
Muda              young                                      mudah             easy
Kera                monkey                                   kerah               mobilize
Medial position
Flanked by two different vowels, the /h/ is optionally audible:
Tahu                (written)           or                     tau                   (spoken)                      to know
Lihat               (written)           or                     liat                   (spoken)                      to see
Lahir               (written)           or                     lair                  (spoken)                      to be born
Pahit                (written)           or                     pait                  (spoken)                      bitter
Sahut               (written)           or                     saut                 (spoken)                      to answer
When flanked by the same vowel, the /h/ is clearly pronounced:
Sihir                witchcraft
Luhur              noble
Leher              neck
Mohon             request
Lahan              land
/ng/
These two letters represent one sound. It is pronounced much like the English /ng/ in ‘ring’ or ‘sing’. The /ng/ in the initial and medial position is difficult to pronounce for foreign learnes.
Initial position
Ngeri               terrified
Ngantuk          sleepy
Ngawur           thoughtless
Ngobrol           to chat
Ngotot              persistent
Medial position
Tangan            hand
Bunga              flower
Dengan            with
Bangun            get up
Langit             sky
Final position
Terbang          to fly
Siang               afternoon
Malang            unlucky
Datang            to come
Sayang            love
Combined /ng/ and /g/ - /ngg/
This three-letter combination should be pronounced like the English /ng/ in the word ‘angel’, ‘congress’, and ‘tango’.
Ganggu           disturb
Panggung        stage
Singgah           to drop in
Panggil            to call
Tunggu            wait
/ny/
These two letters represent one phonetic unit. It is pronounced much like the English /ny/ in ‘canyon’ and ‘Kenya’.
Nyonya           madame
Tanya              query
Bunyi               sound
Banyak            plenty
Nyaman          compfortable
/r/
The Indonesian /r/ is so different from the English /r/ that it is difficult to find an English equivalent. It is more akin to the rolled ‘r’ in the Italian  word ‘signora’ or the Spanish ‘seƱora’. Phonetically the Indonesian /r/ is a trill, and to produce it the tip of the tongue taps repeatedly against the alveolar ridge. The best way to learn is by imitating and practicing over again with an Indonesian speaker.
Initial                           Final                            Cluster
Rasa                            kabar                          kraton
Rusak                          kasur                           traktor
Risau                           pasir                            prakarsa
Roda                           tidur                            drama
Reda                            sinar                            Sri
/w/
The Indonesian /w/ differs from the English /w/ in that is pronounced with much less rounded lips.
Warta                                     news
Wajib                          obligatory
Wayang                      puppet
Waktu                                     time
Wanita                        woman
/kh/
These two letters represent one phonetic unit. It is pronounced like /ch/ in the Scottish ‘loch’. It occurs at both the beginning and end of a syllable. Many of the following words come originally from Arabic.
Initial
Khawatir                    worried                        akhir                           end
Khianat                       treacherous                  akhlak                                     character
Khusus                        exclusive                     makhluk                      creature
Khayal                        imaginary                     akhirat                        heaven
Khutbah                      sermon                         takhayul                      superstitious
/m/, /n/, /l/, /s/, /sy/, /f/, /v/ and /y/
The remaining Indonesian consonants are phonetically similar to their counterparts in English, though never quite the same.
/m/ in ‘mother’ (e.g. makan, minum, main, merah)
/n/ in ‘no’ (e.g. nama, nada, niat, nomor, nafas)
/l/ in ‘lip’ (e.g. lupa, lilin, lampu, lepas, logo)
/s/ in ‘cats’ (e.g. saya, siapa, asap, tugas, kupas)
/sy/ in ‘she’ (e.g. syukur, syair, Syarief, syarat)
/f/ in ‘fire’ (e.g. fulus, foedal, firma, arief, tarif)
/v/ is pronounced like the English ‘v’ but closer to /f/ (e.g. valuta, visa, varia, vaksin, veto)
/y/ in ‘yes’ (e.g. yakin, yang, yoga, yunta, yudo)