Know Your Slang: Chinese (Hokkien) in Indonesian Language

In major cities of Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, young people are using lu and gua instead of kamu and saya respectively. The words lu and gua are borrowed from Chinese language, and as Indonesia have a significant amount of ethnic Chinese—at least 3 millions—there is a lot of Indonesian words with Chinese origin. While the major speech groups: Hokkien, Hakka, Mandarin, and Cantonese are all exist in Indonesia, most of the loanwords with Chinese origins are in Hokkien with some other Southern Min dialects like Teochew also pitching in there. There are of course loanwords from the other speech groups, but for now we will introduce you the ones from Hokkien. Let's go!

What is curhat?

Curhat is a contraction of Curahan Hati (lit. "Outpouring of the Heart"). This term is a fairly new slang from around middle 2000's. Curahan means "flow", "outpouring", or "output". As you may know, hati means "heart" or "mind". So curhat more or less means telling something from your heart to someone which usually is a deep talk about your problems or your feeling. You can use this word as verb, adjective, or noun. But as a noun, curhatan may sound more natural.

Superstitions of Indonesia

Technology is running rapidly, yet talking about superstition is still somewhat refreshing. In this hi-tech era, we hear superstitions less and less. But if you go to rural or even some suburban Indonesia, you may still hear a lot of them. In the past, elders used superstitions to scare children from doing something disrespectful. Or maybe... they really did happen. Regardless of whether they are true or not, we will try to explain it logically.

Funny? Scary? Absurd? Let's take a look at some of them, and give us comments below!

We: Kami vs Kita

There's 2 ways to say "we" in Bahasa Indonesia: kami and kita. What distinguish them is whether the second person (the addressee) is included or not. This difference is technically called clusivity. Kita is the "inclusive we" which is used if the addressee is included. Kami is the "exclusive we" which is used if the addressee is excluded.

Indonesian Personal Pronouns

Before learning personal pronouns, it should be noted that Indonesian language has T-V distinction. It means that different words are used in different situation. The word choice depends on whether the setting is formal or informal, and the politeness level. The politeness level is based on social distance, age, or familiarity. It means that regardless of formality, polite words should be used when subordinates talk to their superiors, kids talk to their parents, younger men talk to older men, or when students talk to their teacher. In those kind of situations impolite words could only be used when the speaker is familiar enough with the adressee. So, even though we use the term impolite, it doesn't necessarily mean that the speaker is being rude when use the word in the correct setting.

Personal Pronouns
Person Number Indonesian English
1st person Singular

saya (polite or formal)

Plural kami (exclusive)
kita (inclusive)
2nd person Singular

Anda (polite and formal)
kamu, kau
engkau, dikau (archaic)

Plural kalian (impolite)
3rd person Singular beliau (polite)
dia, ia
Plural mereka

Indonesian Numbers

The good news for most of the world, as Bahasa Indonesia is using Latin script, it's also using Arabic numerals to present digits. In fact, the Arabic numerals have been used long before Bahasa Indonesia is created. Inscriptions that as old as around the founding of Srivijaya Empire with Arabic numerals have been found in Indonesia.

It should be noted that Bahasa Indonesia is using a dot (.) as digit grouping mark and a comma (,) as decimal mark (e.g., 1.234.567,89) which probably is inherited from Netherland or Portugal, or both. Nowadays though, this style is usually only used for currency as people tend to use no digit grouping mark at all (e.g., 1234567,89). The latter is more common, and even bank notes are written without digit grouping mark. The digits after comma is read digit by digit.

Now, let's learn how to say the numbers in Indonesian.

Negation: Tidak vs Bukan

In this lesson we will explain the difference between tidak and bukan which are used to negate a word after it. The basic rule is very simple: use bukan to negate a noun and use tidak for everything else (verb, adverb, adjective, etc.). The preposition (e.g., untuk, bagi, kepada) by the rule should be negated by tidak, but using bukan to negate preposition usually sounds more natural because they usually give an implicit contradiction nuance. (More about this "contradiction thing" below!)

For now, let's see how do we use them in sentences:

  • Dia bukan kekasih saya.
    She/He is not my lover.
  • Taufik bukan pemain sepak bola.
    Taufik is not a soccer player.
  • Dia tidak mencintaiku.
    She/He doesn't love me.
  • Taufik tidak bermain sepak bola.
    Taufik does not play soccer.
  • Saya tidak terlalu mengantuk.
    I'm not too sleepy.
  • Para tentara tidak sering makan daging.
    The soldiers do not often eat meat.
  • Nilaiku tidak jelek.
    My score is not bad.

But that's not all! Read on!