27 April, 2023
Dutch influence in the Indonesian language has its origins in the 17th century. Initially the Dutch were active in Indonesia under the VOC flag (East Indian Trading Company) doing business from trading posts and headquarter Batavia (today known as Jakarta). The VOC in those days had a monopoly in the spice trade. After the collapse of the VOC, Indonesia became under direct Dutch political rule and was exploited as a colony for its lucrative spices.
While the Japanese were able to dismantle much of the Dutch colonial state and economy during WWII, they didn’t manage to wipe out the influence of the Dutch language. After 350 years in the country, the Dutch left behind over 3,000 words which have been adapted to today’s Bahasa Indonesia.
This influence can still be found in the form of borrowings from Dutch for technically themed words. For starters, the modern sailing ships arriving from Holland were called ‘Belanda’ in Indonesian, which is derived from ‘Holland’. A very common modern form of transport today is to take the ‘bis’ (bus), or go with the ‘mobil’ (from mobiel/mobile). Going from one island to another is often done by airplane nowadays, by one of the maskapais (companies, derived from the Dutch word maatschappij). If you go by boat however, make sure to notice words like ‘kapten’ (kapitein), or when this one is used: the ‘anker’. Some words are almost literally taken from Dutch.
Going by a rented car will get you in touch with the ‘sopir’ (chauffeur). Ask him/her to take you to a convenient tempat ‘parkir’ (parkeer/parking place). When you go to a ‘tambal ban’ or ‘benkel’ (car repair shop, the word being derived from winkel/store) in Indonesia, you usually have bad luck that day. You may need your vehicle checked by a ‘montir’ (monteur/mechanic). He may notice a problem with the mesin (machine). A ‘ban’ is derived from ‘band’, a tyre. So, if you need them to ‘tambal’ it, you need it patched/fixed. Or perhaps you need your knalpot or kopling fixed, which respectively means either the knalpot/exhaust, or the clutch/kopling). Don’t forget to wear your ‘helm’ on your head if you decide to go by motorcycle!
After a day of long travelling, one of the first things one wants to do is to get something to eat or drink in a warung makan (litteraly a ‘eating store’). There you bestel (from the Dutch word ‘bestellen’/ordering). There one can get a kopi (perhaps not surprisingly a ‘koffie/coffee’). Perhaps while reading a koran (krant/newspaper). For a main dish, don’t forget to get a bistik (biefstuk/beef stake). Don’t forget to get a nice cokelat dessert (guess or just Google what that one means ;).
After a nice dinner, consider going to the bioskop (bioscoop/cinema) to catch an Indonesian film. Indonesians have a wide variety of categories they watch, from romantic movies, to scary films. After the movie some might like to smoke a ‘rokok’, which means cigarette and comes from Dutch verb ‘roken’. Oh, and kindly put your ashes in the ‘asbak’ which means ashtray and is a literal word again from Dutch. We agreed not to smoke tobacco in the ‘kantor’ which is derived from Dutch ‘kantoor’ (office), or in a ‘kamar’ which is from ‘kamer’ or room.
Did you know that all Indonesian months of the year are also derived from Dutch? Most of the months are spelled like in Dutch apart from March which is ‘Maret’ in Bahasa, ‘Agustus’ close to Dutch ‘augustus’ and ‘Desember’ which has one letter different from Dutch december.
One can go on very long, Indonesian is a language with many nice surprises (in the broad sense of the word). However, you could also decide to do business in Indonesia. We are ready to help arrange any translation work you need sorted! Whether you need technical manuals translated, or legal documents to help arrange your exports we are here to help your business grow. We create the right connection for you, working according to ISO 9001, ISO 18587 and ISO 17100 standards. Request a quote via our website today!
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