Tag Archives: Language

Indonesians say the darndest things: round two

30 Jan

Here we go with round two….

From a speaking assessment in which students had to ask me one question in English (unfortunately most were rather unimaginative due to the lack of language skills, but I enjoyed these):

“Why are you not yet married?” Do you hear the connotation in that?

“Do you like tomatoes?” Sure, why not?

More fun words uttered in my general direction:

“Are you an actress?” —Teen girl on a bus

“Sexy price” penjual, or salesman, selling clothes and souvenirs at a shop in Bali

“Sunglasses?” penjual selling sunglasses on a bus from Bali at 2 a.m. in the morning. Super necessary.

“What do you think?” — Male teacher walking out of the school’s administration office with his shirt draped over his shoulders and flexing

The following are the translations from what was said in Bahasa Indonesia:

“Do you have milk? I want milk. I want to drink… [gibberish giberish gibberish]”— 99.9% sure this was toddler speak for I want you to breast feed me…

“Do you want to be my husband’s third wife? I don’t mind. You can stay here with me. It’s no problem.”  — Female neighbor

And my favorite from my three-year-old host niece:

“Do you love me?”  How does that not tug at your heart strings?

Some extra fun goodies (Aka Bonus stuff):

Indonesians say the darndest things

23 Aug

Here are a few of my favorite questions and comments so far (in no particular order):

“Where is your husband?”

“Your pimple is bigger….why?” This brought on the following conversation:

Teacher: “Maybe you miss your family.”
Me: “Yeah, that could be it, or maybe stress, or hormones. I don’t know.
Teacher: “Maybe this week is woman’s monthly disease?”
Me: “Umm… excuse me, what? I didn’t hear you.”
Teacher: “The sickness that women get every month.”
Me (lightbulb goes off, we are clearly talking about menstruation.): “Oh yes, that could be one reason. There are many reasons I might get a pimple.”

 “I hope that you want to sleep here, not just with me, but with the other teachers too.” — Male teacher inviting me to the 10th grade retreat at the school

“How is the economy in America?” Of all the questions you could have asked me, dear student, about life in America, you had to hit us where it hurts.

“I think we are couples. Me with my husband, my sister with her boyfriend, and you are lonely.” ‘Oh so very lonely,” is how it echoed in my mind. I’m so glad someone brought this up because I hadn’t noticed that before.

“Justin Bieber hampir sama Michael Jackson.” Translation: “Justin Bieber is almost the same as Michael Jackson.” This was followed by, “Have you met Michael Jackson?”

“How can husbands and wives be equal in America without there being absolute chaos?” — Teenage boy from an English Camp

“Why do Americans just have free sex, do drugs, drink alcohol…(and pretty much indulge in every other imaginable carnal sin, she listed quite a few) … all the time.” — Paraphrased from a sweet and soft-spoken Muslim teen wearing a jilbab and covered from head to toe. I guarantee you she’d been walking too much TV and American movies.  Sad, though, that this may be the only impression some Indonesians get of Americans.

And my personal favorite, from today:

“You look prettier today.”

Followed several minutes later by…

“You look fat[ter].”

It goes without saying that the two don’t go hand-in-hand in America.  What makes this even better is that my response to both, without hesitation, was an enthusiastic “Thank you.

What I love about all of these comments is they were posed with genuine curiosity by people I hardly know and who wouldn’t have thought twice about any of them being slightly out of line or culturally insensitive.  There’s also, I’m sure, some lost in translation as all were (except the one in Indonesian) coming from people trying to speak English. That doesn’t change the fact that they sound a little odd to American ears. So, there’s a little helping of cultural differences for ya. If you live in Indonesia, it helps to have a sense of humor because Indonesians will say the darndest things.

Aaand…. you might ask, what’s with the picture at the top of this post? I thought it was funny. That is all. Mouse over for a description. (P.S. if you haven’t noticed, most photos in my posts have additional captions when moused over.)

Language: A reflection of culture (part one)

1 May

Today marks the end of my third week of training, most of which has been language lessons. I’m proud to say, I’m making progress. I can now hold simple conversations with my host family with the aid of my English-Indonesian dictionary of course! I think it’s also safe to say I’ve gotten a nice, little sampling of the culture as well. Here is what I can tell you about Indonesians: They are friendly and polite. These characteristics are exemplified through their language.

Here’s a few examples:

  • “Mari”- Mari is a word used to politely ask permission to leave/excuse oneself from a conversation. When is the last time you checked to see if it was OK with the other person to leave before ending a conversation?
  • “Bapak,” “Ibu,” “Mas,” “Mbah”- These are courtesy titles much like “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Sir,” and “Miss.” They are used much more often than back in the states whether it’s on the shuttle, in the classroom, the market, etc.
  • “Sama-sama” – This is the response to “Thank you,” and it literally means “same, same” or essentially “No, thank you. Thank you!
  • When using adjectives you would rarely say something is “bad” or “ugly” instead you would say “kurong bagus” or “cukup cantik” which translates to whatever-it- is-you-are-describing is “less good” or “enough pretty.” To American ears this may seem sarcastic and possibly more rude, but here it is actually more polite than saying something is flat-out is “bad” or “ugly.”
  • Furthermore, when making comparisons about two things you would never phrase the sentence in a negative light…

For instance:

“Jarkarta lebih panas daripada Surabaya.” = Jarkarta is more hot than Surabaya.

To say the opposite of this you wouldn’t say that “Jarkarta is less hot than Surabaya” instead you would just rephrase the sentence in a positive light without the word “less”…

“Surabaya lebih dingin daripada Surabaya” = Surabaya is more cold than Surabaya.

Hence you would never say something is “less than” something else.

  • “ Mugkin” – It means “maybe” which is more polite than saying you don’t know something or flat out “no.” (I can tell, I’m going to have to get used to indirect communication.)
  • “Ke mana?” -Lastly, things that seem like personal questions are actually more like small talk here because Indonesians are interested in you and curious — not because they have ill-intentions or a reason behind wanting to know. “Ke mana?” means “Where are you going?” It is more likely to be said than our equivalent of small talk: “Apa Kabar?” or “How are you?” (It would also be absurd to make small-talk about the weather… something I tried to do with my host mother a few days in…)

I have a lot more to say on this topic but feel that your Indonesian lesson for the day is sufficient. So I’m going to break up this topic into a…drum-roll, please… Three Part Series! Get excited.