“I” in Indonesian

I In Indonesian

In the previous posts, I mentioned the intricacy of “you” in Indonesian (here), as well as the two Indonesian words for “we” (here). After talking (writing :p) about these pronouns, I’m going to talk about “I” in Indonesian. Is it going to be as intricate as “you” or “we”?

Saya and Aku

Unfortunately, yes. Even though translating or using “I” in Indonesian is not as difficult as it is with you, this is still important to know that there is definitely more than one word for “I” in Indonesian.

“I” is commonly translated as saya and aku. Saya is a bit formal. I say a bit because you can actually use this word in many situations, not only in formal ones, unlike Anda, which sounds very formal; however, this can indeed sound quite distant when a person uses it with his family members. Aku on the other hand sounds less formal. Some Indonesians avoid using this with their family members due to it being very direct, especially when it is used to talk to older people. They have other alternatives.

Other Indonesian words for I

In Jakarta, many young people use the indonesianized Hokkien word “gue” (or “gua”). In the Moluccas (especially in Ambon) they use their own Ambonese Malay dialect word “beta”. In West Sumatera Province, they have the Minang word “awak”. Other areas have their own version of I and, as you might guess, many ethnic groups will likely not use these words exclusively without conversing wholly in the local languages.

Despite these words, some Indonesians also use salutations to address themselves. Look at this example:

Mother : “Ibu mau pergi ke pasar. Kamu mau ikut?”

Anak : “Iya, bu. Ibu mau beli apa?”

In this example, the word “ibu” is used by the mother to address herself and the child use it too to address her mother. The same thing happen with other salutation words, like bapak, mas, mbak, kakak, etc.

As it is with Indonesian “you”, some people also address themselves by using their names. Don’t be surprised when you find an Indonesian addressing herself using her name; she’s not talking about another person with the same name!


Richard Ariefiandy

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