Words are just words when they’re written. But when they’re spoken, they become something else. They’re alive, thrown out of the tongue, dancing, jumping, to the ears of the listeners. What makes them (phonologically) alive? Linguistic wise, we call it the suprasegmental. It has nothing to do with supernatural, by the way.
According to wikipedia, the term “segment” refers to “any discrete unit that can be identified either physically or auditorily, in the stream of speech.” In other words, it is the vowel and consonantal sounds. Suprasegmentals, on the other hand, refer to the tone, stress, and vowel length which appear together with the segments. Well, despite the fact that Indonesian language is not a tonal language, tones serve as important guidance on what the speaker wants to say. But in this post, I would like to take “stress” as a discussion.
As a “stress-timed language”, English uses a lot of stresses in its words. Just like the way they read cues from the segments; i.e. how the consonants and vowels are arranged, they are heavily trained in reading stresses in words. Unfortunately, they still carry this habit when pronouncing words from other languages, including Indonesian language.
It is a good thing that native English speakers who learn bahasa Indonesia start realizing that Indonesian people do not stress the syllables in the words. After realizing this, learners should practice. To practice reducing the stress, learners can read aloud some texts and consciously omit the stress when pronouncing the words. It takes a lot of effort to do it at first, but then it becomes easier and easier. Learners are advised to ask for help from native Indonesian speakers for correction. Learners can also record their own pronunciation of bahasa Indonesia sentences.