More Indonesian Lessons

Lesson: Old Indonesian Spellings

Many years ago, but not that many, Indonesian words were spelled differently. Not all words, but only those that use the following letters:


Many reasons prompted the Indonesian government to make the spelling changes. If you went to school in 1971, you would spell Indonesiaís capital city's as Djakarta, but the next year you would have to spell it as Jakarta. Ok, it's time for a quick survey. Which spelling do you like better?


I like the former; it sounds and looks more exotic, but what do I know? Iím just a bule.

You will encounter old spellings from time to time especially with words that represent a place or personís name. I have a few Indonesian dictionaries and lesson books that use the old spellings. It takes a few minutes to get adjusted, but soon you'll be reading the classics like an old-timer.

One of the changes I donít really understand is the handling of word duplication. Indonesians sometime duplicate a word to emphasize its plurality. For example, anak means child and anak-anak means children. Well, in the old days, they would write anak-anak as anak2. They wouldnít say "anak two" or "anak dua", but they would write it that way. It really saved them a lot of time. Now, we have to write the whole word out twice, plus we have to put a dash in between. That means that when we type, we have to really stretch our right pinkies to reach the Ď-Ď key.

Try out this simple translator below. It translates modern Indonesian spellings into older forms. Type a modern spelling on the "Modern" line below. This program doesn't check if your word is really an Indonesian word, instead, it just looks for the letter(s) to translate.