Enseignement de l'indonésien/Acquérir du vocabulaire par association de mots

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Here are some effective mnemonic (memory) techniques to help you remember vocabulary. They take some work, but you'll be rewarded with a fast-growing vocabulary.

Further down are some even easier words -

Word associationModifier

Any kind of word association can help you in the early stages of remembering a word. The most effective associations are ones that are vivid, emotional, funny and/or shocking.

Note: this section is under construction, and formatting decisions haven't been finalised. Feel free to add your suggestions. If you don't understand the table formatting, just try your best; otherwise, add your suggestion below the table.

English Indonesian Suggested association
white putih The putih cat is white.
seven tujuh Everyone sings "Happy birthday tujuh!" on your seventh birthday
sweet manis Having moneys is sweet.
(government) minister menteri Mandarin (which also refers to a type of government official, in China)
(soy) sauce kecap ketchup
hat/cap topi your hat goes on top
factory pabrik fabric, fabricate
super powers Adidaya Adidas
priest/minister pendeta pundit
account rekening reckoning
cinema bioskop (sounds like bio-scope - something for watching life)
late telat (informal) too late
season musim muslim
intellect, reason budi Buddha
newspaper koran Quran
skills ketrampilan tramps have skills
oral, verbal lisan listen
add more here Indonesian here association here
Advanced vocabulary
English Indonesian Suggested association
exhaust (on a car) knalpot (or kenalpot) gnarled pot

Sometimes there is no exact association that comes to mind. If you're keen to use the technique, you might find an association that's rather distant or twisted, but close enough to help:

English Indonesian Suggested association
Less obvious associations
hitam black The black man did nothing wrong, but the policeman hitam (hit him).
to like mangoes the teacher like mangoes

Similar words to EnglishModifier

Note: This section needs to be arranged in sections - perhaps topics and word types will be more useful than "Words spelt the same as English" and "Nearly the same." It is suggested, however, that "Less common words" be kept separate, as an advanced vocabulary list.

Words spelt the same as EnglishModifier

Remember, just because it's spelt the same, doesn't mean it's pronounced in exactly the same way. Indonesians pronounce things far more phonetically (pronouncing each letter in the standard way with few exceptions). If you use English pronunciation, people may or may not understand you, so it's far better to follow the rules of Indonesian pronunciation, according to how the word is spelt.

Note also that although the words may look like English, they still follow Indonesian rules of word order (blue radio = radio biru) and construction (to carry on a dialogue = berdialog).

  • abnormal
  • normal
  • alias
  • gratis
  • hanger (= clothes hanger)
  • radio
  • organ
  • hotel
  • menu
  • target
  • formal
  • regional
  • AC (ah-seh) (air-conditioning)
  • WC (weh-seh) (water closet)
  • toilet (but WC is the more common term)

Modern technologyModifier

There are several abbreviations which are not pronounced in standard Indonesian form, but rather mimic English pronunciation:

  • TV (pronounced as tivi, i.e. almost the same as English)
  • DVD (dividi)
  • CD (sidi)
  • GPS (jipies)

Nearly the sameModifier

  • dosis (dose)
  • dialog
  • musik
  • es (ice)
  • es krim (ice cream)
  • piyama
  • sama (same)
  • nama (name)
  • kartu (card)
  • buku (book)
  • bir (beer)
  • truk
  • bis (or more rarely, bus)
  • taksi
  • handphone (pr. henpon (or henfon?)) please help with common/correct pronunciation
  • telepon
  • nasional
  • internasional
  • dosin (dozen)
  • aktif (active)
  • dwi- (di-, i.e. prefix meaning two)
  • solusi (solution - to a problem)
  • migrasi
  • kasus (e.g. police or legal case)
  • menit (minute)
  • nomor (number)
  • paspor (passport)
  • kode pos (post code)
  • gelas (glass)
  • kampanye (campaign)
  • transparen?
  • fail (meaning file, pr file; also berkas)
  • introspeksi diri (to be introspective; self-examination)
  • manajemen
  • direksi (management)
  • strategis
  • riil (real)
  • aktual
  • faktual
  • fakta
  • steril
  • drama
  • dramatik (dramatic)
  • dramatis (dramatic?)
  • stabil
  • kultur (culture; more commonly //budaya//)
  • kultural (cultural)

Concrete nounsModifier

  • tatu (tatoo - in either sense: a picture on the skin or a military music event)
  • sponsor (advertisement; more commonly iklan)
  • artikel
  • kios
  • brosir
  • coklat (chocolate; also means brown)
  • apel (apple)
  • pir (pear)
  • mangga (mango)
  • manggis (mangosteen)
  • sop (soup)
  • gosip
  • pensil
  • lampu


  • dram
  • band
  • grup
  • pop

Note, major musical terms in English, such as jazz and rock, are widely recognized.


These words need to be confirmed before being added above - are these words commonly used in Indonesian?

  • melodrama?

The same word with slightly different meaningsModifier

  • Mister (term of address for white male, unofficial but very common)
  • Blacksweet (pr. blekswit, in imitation of English) - dark and attractive, used of an attractive dark-skinned woman. (The Indonesian term is hitam manis, but the literal translation "black sweet" is widely known.)

moderately common...Modifier

  • tempo (time period)

Scientific & academic termsModifier

Note, major scientific & academic terms are often very similar to English, including fields of study such as biology, geology. planet names (apart from bumi = earth). Remember that the pronunciation follows Indonesian rules - don't relax and think you know the word, and read the word as if it were English!

  • hortikultura (horticulture)
  • planet

Less common words (advanced vocab)Modifier

  • sensus (census)
  • kudeta (coup d'etat)
  • otomotif
  • ambivalen (ambivalent)
  • anarki (anarchy)
  • sinonim
  • antonim
  • arsitektur (architecture)
  • stasiun (station, as in train station)
  • stroberi (strawberry)
  • universitas
  • kampus
  • akta (act, as in written legal document)

Many technical and philosophical words are also the same, or are formed in predictable ways. E.g. -ization becomes -isasi, so globalization becomes globalisasi.

Closely related meaningsModifier

  • guru (teacher)
  • mobil (car i.e. automobile)
  • gubernur (governor c.f. gubernatorial)
  • apotek (pharmacy, c.f. apothecary; farmasi is also used)

Slightly similarModifier

  • archive (arsip)
  • bishop (uskup)
  • biru (blue)

Guide to guessingModifier

Try in your usual pronunciation of the English word, with an Indonesian accent as best you can, and see if it's recognized (then take note how //they// pronounce it). If that doesn't work, try pronouncing the word if read with Indonesian pronunciation rules.

Why do so many words sound the same?Modifier

Just for your interest:

You may be wondering why many words sound similar in Indonesian and English. Most or all of these words have come to Indonesian as loan-words from other languages, especially European languages, and most especially Dutch. (See Loan words in Indonesian on Wikipedia) Realising the connection might sometimes makes it easier to remember the words.

Words that appear to have similar origins (lacking confirmation - please supply references if possible)

For example:

Portuguese: tenda

Sanskrit and Hindi: Sanskrit is an Indo-European language and shares a common origin with Latin and most other European languages. There is an additional influence from Hindi on English due to the British colonization of India. E.g. The English word pundit derives from the Hindi word for a priest (and Sanskrit before that) and probably has a common origin with pendeta. (reference needed)

Menteri (government minister) derives from Sanskrit, and the Malay word menteri is in turn the origin of the English word "Mandarin" (official)

Words derived from Indonesian or Malay:

Indonesian English
teh tea
sarung sarong
amuk/amok amok/amuck

See alsoModifier