Saturday, October 09, 2010

#1 Bahasa Indonesia Pronunciation Mistake

Recently I was asked to assist some Indonesian language students with their reading, with a focus on pronunciation and fluency. As I listened to how they were pronouncing their words both in their speaking and reading, it was screamingly clear to me what the #1 trap 99% of the students were falling into... despite the fact that there ARE plenty of native Indonesian speakers here for them to learn from.

Can you guess what it is?

It's the "ng" combination when it's found in the middle of a word. For example, here are some of the most common everyday words where the 'ng' diphthong (letter combination that makes a single sound) shows up:

mengerti (to understand)
dengan (with)
ingin (wish / want)
jangan (don't)
tangan (hand)
mengingat (to remember)

Really, there are many, many words that have the 'ng' combo in the middle.

So what's the trap?

It's pronouncing the 'g' as a hard letter 'g' rather than the combo sound of 'ng' together. The correct sound is the same as in English when we say sung, or lung.

In Indonesian, the 'ng' combination is just that sound that you make at the back of your throat like you do at the end of the word sung. A hard 'g' sound should not be heard at the beginning of the next syllable.

Here's a short sound clip of each of the above words, first pronounced the wrong way, and then the correct way. Can you hear the difference?

It can be a little tricky to get it right at first, but once you've got it, you will start to break that bad habit of pronouncing the hard 'g' sound when it is not called for in a word.

Of course, the exception to this is when there is a double 'g' in the word, such as with...

tinggal (stay)
sungguh (really)
hingga (until)
Inggris (English)

In these words you do still have the 'ng' combo, but it's the second 'g' that gets the hard sound.

Here's a sound clip of how each of these words should be pronounced.

If you can learn to make this slight differentiation in how you pronounce Indonesian words with the diphthong 'ng' (where no second 'g' follows it) you will go a long way to losing your English accent! :-)

Have you mastered the 'ng' sound in bahasa Indonesia yet?

What has been your experience?

Let's get a discussion going on this tricky bit of Indonesian pronunciation. Just leave a comment below.


Labels: ,