I'm looking for a ...
The various forms of the language (or
languages) and their respective uses are cat-
egorised as follows:
Basa Alus is used among educated people,
and is derived from the Hindu-Javanese
court languages of the 10th century.
Basa Lumrah (also called Biasa or Ketah)
is used when talking to people of the
same caste or level, and between friends
and family. It is an old language of mixed
origin, with words drawn from Malayan,
Polynesian and Australasian sources.
Basa Madia (also called Midah), a mix-
ture of Basa Lumrah and Basa Alus, is
used as a polite language for speaking to
or about strangers, or people to whom
one wishes to show respect.
language that isn't so closely linked to
easier and more natural when you do it in
Written Indonesian can be idiosyncratic,
however, and there are often inconsistent
spellings of place names. Compound names
are written as one word or two, eg Airsanih
or Air Sanih, Padangbai or Padang Bai.
Words starting with 'Ker' sometimes lose
the 'e', as in Kerobokan/Krobokan.
In addition, some Dutch variant spell-
ings remain in common use. These tend to
occur in business names, with 'tj' instead of
the modern c (as in Tjampuhan/Campuan),
and 'oe' instead of the u (as in Soekarno/
Most letters have a pronunciation more or
less the same as their English counterparts.
Nearly all the syllables carry equal empha-
sis, but a good approximation is to stress
the second to last syllable. The main excep-
tion to the rule is the unstressed e in words
such as besar (big), pronounced 'be-sarr'.
Saya mencari ...
High Balinese (Ida), a mixture of Basa
Alus and Basa Singgih, is used to indicate
respect for the person being addressed or
the person being spoken about.
rumah yang disewakan
The polite and high forms of the language
frequently use the same word, while the low
form often uses the same word as Bahasa
Indonesia. The polite form, Basa Madia or
Midah, is being used as a more egalitarian
language, often combined with Bahasa In-
donesia to avoid the risk of embarrassment
in case the correct caste distinctions aren't
So how does one Balinese know at which
level to address another? Initially, a conver-
sation between two strangers would com-
mence in the high language. At some point
the question of caste would be asked and
then the level adjusted accordingly. Among
friends, however, a conversation is likely to
be carried on in low Balinese, no matter
what the caste of the speakers may be.
Bahasa Bali uses very few greetings and
civilities on an everyday basis. There are no
equivalents for 'please' and 'thank you'. Nor
is there a usage that translates as 'good
morning' or 'good evening', although the
low Balinese kenken kebara? (how are you?/
how's it going?) is sometimes used. More
common is lunga kija?, which literally
means 'where are you going?' (in low, polite
and high Balinese).
MAKING A RESERVATION
(for written and phone inquiries)
I'd like to book ...
Saya mau pesan ...
in the name of ...
atas nama ...
from ... (date)
to ... (date)
Basa Singgih, virtually a separate lan-
guage, is used to address persons of high
caste, particularly in formal and religious
contexts. Even the Balinese are not al-
ways fluent in this language. It is based
on the ancient Hindu Kawi language,
and can be written using a script that
resembles Sanskrit, as seen in the lon-
tar (palm) books where it's inscribed on
strips of leaf (see the boxed text on p45).
Written Basa Singgih is also seen on the
signs that welcome you to, and farewell
you from, most villages in Bali.
masa berlakunya sampai
Tolong dikonfirmasi mengenai
ketersediaan kamar dan
Where is a cheap hotel?
Hotel yang murah di mana?
What is the address?
Alamatnya di mana?
Could you write it down, please?
Anda bisa tolong tuliskan?
Do you have any rooms available?
as in 'father'
as in 'bet' when unstressed, although
sometimes it's hardly pronounced at
all, as in the greeting selamat , which
sounds like 'slamat' if said quickly.
When stressed, e is like the 'a' in
'may', as in becak (rickshaw), pro-
nounced 'baycha'. There's no set rule
as to when e is stressed or unstressed.
Basa Sor (also called Rendah) is used
when talking with people of a lower
caste, or to people who are noncaste.
Ada kamar kosong?
How much is it ... ?
Berapa harganya ... ?
The different vocabularies only exist for
about 1000 basic words, mostly relating to
people and their actions. Other words (in
fact, an increasing proportion of the mod-
ern vocabulary), are the same regardless of
relative caste levels.
Usage is also changing with the decline
of the traditional caste system and modern
tendencies towards democratisation and
social equality. It is now common practice
to describe the language in terms of only
as in 'unique'
as in 'hot'
Like most languages, Indonesian has a sim-
plified colloquial form and a more devel-
oped literary form. It's among the easiest of
all spoken languages to learn - there are no
tenses, plurals or genders and, even better,
it's easy to pronounce.
Apart from ease of learning, there's an-
other very good reason for trying to pick up
at least a handful of Indonesian words and
phrases: few people are as delighted with
visitors learning their language as Indones-
ians. They won't criticise you if you mangle
your pronunciation or tangle your gram-
as in 'put'
as in 'Thai'
as the 'ow' in 'cow'
as 'w' when at the start of a word, eg
uang (money), pronounced 'wong'
as the 'ch' in 'chair'
as in 'get'
I'd like a ...
Saya cari ...
as the 'ng' in 'sing'
as the 'ng' in 'anger'
kamar untuk seorang
tempat tidur besar satu
as in 'jet'
Low Balinese (Ia), equivalent to Basa
Lumrah, is used between friends and
family, and also when speaking with
persons of equal or lower caste, or about
a little stronger than the 'h' in 'her';
almost silent at the end of a word
room with two
kamar dengan dua
like English 'k', except at the end of
room with a
kamar dengan kamar mandi