Are you one of those travelers that like to prepare for your trip by learning a few words of the local language? It’s a great thing to do to get yourself ready for the cultural immersion, helps you make friends, and also can be a signal to scammers that you aren’t a good tourist to pick on.
What you might not realize before you arrive in Bali is that there are actually 2 languages spoken. Bahasa Indonesia is the universal language used throughout this island nation, but Basa Bali or Balinese is most local’s first language.
Why 2 Languages?
If you’ve been to Indonesia you might already be familiar with a bit of Bahasa Indonesia. This is a language derived from the Malaysian language, which has been used in Indonesia for centuries. This is due to the need for a lingua franca for the huge amount of trade that went on in and around the archipelago. Bahasa Indonesia only became the official language of Indonesia in 1945 when Indonesia became an independent nation.
On the other hand the Balinese language is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken in Bali, and some small communities on Java and Lombok. The language most similar to Balinese is Javanese, although there are many differences in them. There are over 700 distinct languages spoken on the islands of Indonesia. These are generally the first languages of the local people, and are used in everyday life with family, friends and other locals.
Learn Indonesian or Balinese?
If you plan to travel in Indonesia at all, learning a little Indonesian language is a great idea. People are excited to hear visitors making the effort to even say ‘terima kasih’ (thank you), or daily greetings like ‘selamat pagi’ (good morning).
Indonesian is not a difficult language to learn and even if you can only speak on a basic level, people are likely to understand your meaning.
Balinese is a bit of a different story. One reason it can be difficult to learn Balinese is there are 3 distinct levels of Balinese – low (basa ketah), middle (basa madia), and high (basa singgih). The level of language spoken depends on the caste of the person speaking or being spoken to. Although this is not as strictly followed when a foreigner speaks Balinese, it can cause embarrassment if you accidentally call a person from a higher caste by a lower caste pronoun.
However, it is possible to learn a little simple Balinese that you can use while you’re on the island.
Simple Indonesian and Balinese
A few of the basics are fun to learn and locals really appreciate the effort you’ve made to communicate with them. It’s especially nice if you are off the beaten track to be able to make a connection with the people. In Candidasa, where Lotus Bungalows is located, there are lots of chances to speak Bahasa Indonesia and Basa Bali. This is a very low-key area with plenty of traditional villages where you can practice!
Following are some simple words and phrases in English – Indonesian – Balinese:
- Good Morning – Selamat Pagi – Rahajeng Semeng
- Good Afternoon – Selamat Sore – Rahajeng Semeng
- Good Night – Selamat Pagi – Rahajeng Wengi
- Thank You – Terima Kasih – Suksema
- You’re welcome – Sama sama – Suksema mewali
Do you like to learn a little of the language before you travel somewhere new? What do you think it helps most with while you are there? We’d love to hear about your experiences of speaking other languages while traveling in the comments below.