22 Jalan Kayu Aya
Seminyak, Bali.

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Language Lesson No. 1

Category - Travel Tips

I have recently started teaching english to the kids at the orphanage and have stumbled across some rather interesting facts about the indonesian language. Here are 4 morsels of trivia for your Monday morning:

  • “To be, or not to be: that is the question”. Well, in Indonesia, the answer is most definitely “not to be”. There is no verb ‘to be’ in the indonesian language; a fact that i have only just found out. Clearly my linguistic skills aren’t as refined as i thought! I couldn’t understand why the verb was causing such difficulties in class. Imagine trying to learn a language where you have no concept of the main verb. Tricky.
  • Also missing from indonesian are tenses. To indicate the past you just say the present tense with a time indicator – like ‘yesterday’. For example, ‘I eat at sea circus yesterday’.
  • In bali everyone is named either: Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. These monikers refer to the birth order, so wayan is first born, made is second born, nyoman is third born and ketut is fourth born. If there is a fifth child they are called wayan kecil [or little wayan]. Needless to say, if you shout out ‘wayan’ on a balinese beach a lot of heads turn around.
  • Plurals in indonesian are not indicated by changing a word ending. In english we add the letter ‘s’ to make a plural. Here, they say the word twice. So to get ‘dogs’ they say ‘anjing anjing’ or dog dog. To get children they say ‘anak anak’ or child child. Hang on, why don’t we say childs in english? ‘ren’ is an archaic germanic ending.

Seriously, english is a hotchpotch language, created by a horder who has borrowed words, spelling and grammar from every country of the planet. It is quite charming in an exotic nomadic kind of way, but it would be a nightmare to learn. There are more exceptions than rules.

So go easy on your Indonesian waitresses when you’re in bali; english is probably their 3rd language, and really a rather challenging one to master.

Category - Travel Tips