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Check out this guide on how to text like a local with Indonesian. It might even trick people into thinking that you’re a local, that’s if your name doesn’t give it away first!!!

Bahasa Indonesia is said to be one of the easiest languages in the world to learn. In contrast to the 171,000+ word vocabulary of English, the Indonesian language has around 50,000 less words. This may contribute to a perceived ‘easiness,’ but many would say it’s hard to translate word-for-word what we are trying to say in our native tongue. I agree. The language is not as expressive nor as specific as English. It’s beautiful in its own way. Sometimes simpler is better, right?

An open dictionary on a table

Even with the smaller dictionary, there are still some nuances of the language that are difficult for some to grasp even after many years of living here. People will often times a take a couple of private Indonesian lessons only to find that the bahasa Indonesia (simply referred to as ‘bahasa’ by many) that they hear on the street is entirely different from what was taught at their lesson.

Formal Bahasa Indonesia and the bahasa we use in our normal daily activities are vastly different. Sure I can get by in any traditional market, but talking to a government official in their office, for example, is a completely different story. It is TOUGH. I recall asking a local friend for help crafting a formal email to a large corporation, even this intelligent college-educated individual struggled to use proper conjugations and grammar!

For most, learning a conversational level of bahasa is a much better use of time and effort. It can be applied in your daily life and it really goes a long way if you consider how quickly you can get to this level with some good ‘ole fashioned studying- just a little bit each day, but every day.

A group of Indonesian students studying a book together.

So if you’re already chatting on WhatsApp with your tukang, kurir, pembantu, Grab driver…well done. You may have already noticed that Indonesians tend to text as if they are being charged per the letter – leaving out virtually all vowels and as many characters as possible. The result is something that is hard to read for those who are still learning. You can’t use Google Translate because they aren’t actually words, bummer!

Don’t worry because I’ve got you covered, the following is a list of the most common shorthand texts, taken directly from my hundreds of WhatsApp chats….Once you know most of these give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve done well. Eventually you should find yourself effortless figuring out what most of the abbreviated words actually mean!

A

ad- ada – there are, there are

ak, aq, q – aku – me

aj – aja, saja – just, only

B

bs – bisa – can

bpk – bapak – sir, father

blm, lom – belum – not yet

bnyk – banyak – a lot, lots, many

brngkt – berangkat – leave

brp, brpa – berapa – how much, how many

bru – baru – new, just now

bgtu – begitu – like that

bwt – buat – for, make

C

cm, cmn – Cuma, cuman – only

cb, cba – coba – try

cpt – cepat – fast, quickly

D

dmn – dimana – where

dpt – dapat – get

dll – dan lain-lain – and others, etc.

dr – dari – from

dgn – dengan – with

dkt – dekat – near, close

dlu, dl – dulu – first, before

dtfr – di transfer – transfer, send (usually regarding local bank transfer)

E

emg – emang – indeed

F

G

ga – nggak, tidak – no

gmna, gmn – gimana (bagaimana) – how, what if

gtu – gitu – like that

H

hr – hari – day

hub – hubungi – to contact

hp – handphone – cell phone

I

J

jgn – jangan – don’t

jg – juga – also

jd, jdnya – jadi, jadinya – so, happen, so it means

jm – jam – hour

K

kbr – kabar – news or more frequently the news regarding yourself eg. “how are you?”

km, qm – kamu – you

Kk – kak – bro, sis, an informal way of addressing someone of similar age

ksn – kesana or kesini depdning on context – to there, to here

kmn – kemana – to where

klo, kl – kalau – if

kta, kt – kita – we

krj – kerja – work

kmrn – kemarin – yesterday, in the past

knp – kenapa – why

kpn – kapan – when

ktmu – ketemu – meet

kyk, kyknya – kayak, kayaknya – like, it seems like

ksh – kasih – give

L

liat – lihat – look, see

lbh – lebih – more

lg – lagi – again, more

M

mlm – malam – night, goodnight, good evening

msh – masih – still

mrk – mereka – they

mkn – makan – eat

N

ntr – sebenTAR but closer to “nanti” in meaning – later, in a bit

ngpn – ngapain – what are you doing?

O

org – orang – person

P

pk – pak, Bapak – mister, sir

px – pax – people

prnh – pernah – ever

plng, plg – pulang – go home

Q

q – aku – me

qt – kita – we

qm – kamu – you

R

S

sy, sya – saya – me

skrg – sekarang – now

sblm – sebelum – before

sm – sama – same, with

sgtu – segitu – that much

sampe – sampai – until

smua – semua – all

T

tar – sebentar – just a moment

tmpt – tempat – place

tp – tapi – but

tgl – tinggal or tanggal depending on context – (tinggal) stay or live (tanggal) date

td – tadi – earlier

tya – tanya – ask to

trms, tms – terima kasih – thank you, thanks

U

udah , udh, dah, da – sudah – already

utk – untuk – for

V

W

wa – WhatsApp

X

x – kali – times as in “how many times?”

Y

yg – yang – which, that


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