How to Speak Indonesian Like a Native Speaker

how to speak indonesian like a native

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We all know that communication can only happen when everybody in the conversation can understand each other. As a language learner, you may know perfect Indonesian grammar and have a vast range of Indonesian vocabulary words, but if people can’t understand what you said because of your pronunciation, well, quite frankly, it’ll make your communication effort becomes ineffective. Hence, improving pronunciation should be in all language learners’ agenda.

Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia) has some sounds that your native language might not. And just like learning any other language, this can pose as a challenge. When you try to converse in Indonesian with a native speaker and find him or her ask you this question: “What?” or “Can you say that again?” can dampen your spirit. It can make you incredibly insecure about your language competence. It feels like it’d be easier to just resort back to talk in English. But remember, practice makes perfect. These following strategies we are going to tell you are incredibly simple and practical. Let’s get started.

6 Strategies to Get You Speaking Indonesian Like a Native Speaker

Learn to Listen

Before you learn how to speak, you need to learn how to listen. Some words sound really similar if you don’t pay attention: “muda” (young) and “mudah” (easy). This is the very reason why listening practice is an important component of your language learning. If you can train yourself to hear the difference, it will be easier to speak the difference. The concept is: the better you get at hearing words, the better you will become at pronouncing them.

There are many ways to practice and improve your listening skills. You can learn to listen from listening movies, songs and music. You can also find Indonesian listening exercises online for authentic Indonesian.

We wrote another article discussing in depth on how to improve your listening skill, in which you can click below:

How to Improve Your Indonesian Listening Skills

Notice How Your Mouth and Lips Move When Speaking

Do you realize that HOW you move your mouth affects how you pronounce a word? When you look at videos of native speakers speaking Indonesian, also pay attention on how they move their mouth and lips to pronounce words. This aspect is subtle but makes a difference when you want to enunciate the words correctly. The next step after you observed HOW native speakers move their mouth and lips when they say some Indonesian words, look at yourself in the mirror and try to do the same thing, saying whatever it is they said, and try to notice if you have sounded more similar to them (the native speakers).

Try following along with your favourite TV show or movie. After you hear a sentence, press a pause, and try to repeat the sentence and mimicking how the native speaker is saying the sentence simultaneously. Make the faces and sounds that the hosts / actors are making.

Break Down Words into Sounds

Words are made up of syllables, or parts. the word “saya,” for example, has two syllables: sa-ya. Turning words into parts can make them easier to pronounce.

To check how many syllables as words has, place your hand flat just under your chin. Say the word slowly. Each time your chin touches your hand, that’s a syllable.

You can even write the word down in parts. Leave a space or draw a line between each syllable (every syllable should have at least one vowel: a, e, i, o, u, y). Now try saying the word. Say it slowly and pause after each syllable. Isn’t that easier?

If this all sounds too complicated, don’t worry about memorizing all these— the best way to learn is still by listening and practicing. Remember that most native Indonesian speakers don’t know try to consciously enunciate all the time either, they just say the words. With enough practice, you can get what sounds right too.

Use Pronunciation Videos

There are some excellent videos on Indonesian pronunciations that you can use to improve. Think Bahasa has videos that show how to make different sounds in Indonesian. We also have videos on how to speak and pronounce Indonesian words in everyday conversations. Check out our Youtube channel:

If none of these are what you’re looking for, find the one that’s right for you. While watching the pronunciation video, we highly recommend you to mimic and practice pronunciation right away as you’re watching it so you’ll remember which part of the word you must stress when saying it.

Record Yourself

One way to tell if all your practice is working is to record yourself with a camera. Use a camera and not just a sound recorder because it’s important to see how you speak, not only hear it.

You certainly don’t need any fancy app for this. Use your computer camera or phone camera to capture your video.

Compare your recording to someone else saying the same words or sounds. Find a video of your favorite part from a movie or a TV show. Choose one or two sentences and record yourself trying to match the stress, tone and pronunciation of the video. Then you can compare the two and see what you did differently, and try again.

Ask a friend or watch a video to check – this friend could be Indonesian native speaker or not. Doesn’t matter. What you need is just an objective second opinion. If your pronunciation doesn’t sound the same, ask yourself some questions: Are you moving your mouth the right way? Are you stressing the right part of the word when you broke it down into syllables?

Practice with Someone Else

It’s great if you have Indonesian friend you can practice with, if not, any other Indonesian language learner friend will also do. As always, practice makes perfect. It’s easier and more fun to practice with someone else as it will give you a chance to try everything you learned. You can find someone to practice pronunciation with, either in person or through online communities like Think Bahasa’s Indonesian Learning Club.

Pronunciation is as important to learning Indonesian as vocabulary and grammar. Apply these simple strategies and you’ll soon be on your way to pronouncing Indonesian like a native! Help to share this article to a friend who is also learning Indonesian. He or she will thank you!

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