LANGUAGEs iN BALI
If you are one of those people who like to go a step further in your travels and learn a few words in the language of the place you’re about to visit, you’re in the right place. Learning to speak a minimum of Balinese will help you to manage yourself better on the island. The Balinese always appreciate the effort of the foreigners to speak a few words in their language, and more than one will reply with a smile from ear to ear.
There are two official languages in Bali: Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian, which is spoken in every island in Indonesia, and Balinese, spoken by the locals on the Island of the Gods. Due to the high number of visitors that Bali receives every year (about 4 million tourists), English is also one of the languages spoken on the island, especially in hotels, restaurants and shops. You can also find staff who speak German, Chinese, Spanish or even Russian. In the tourist areas you won’t have problems to communicate, because everybody speaks a minimum of English. Sanskrit is also used by some Hindu priests in Bali and much of the Hindu literature was written in this language.
About 700 different languages and dialects are spoken in Indonesia depending on the area. For this reason most Indonesians are bilingual or even trilingual.
Indonesian or Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia and is a language with Malay origin that has been used for several centuries. Due to the large amount of trading that took place in and around the Indonesian archipelago, a lingua franca was needed to unify the whole country. The Bahasa Indonesia became the official language of Indonesia in 1945 when the country became an independent nation. Despite this fact, Bahasa Indonesia is not the native language of all Indonesians as many of them only start learning it when they go to school, from the age of five.
Indonesia is the fourth most densely populated country in the world and the vast majority of its inhabitants speak Bahasa Indonesia, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. On the other hand, this language is considered to be one of the simplest ones since it has neither gender nor verb tenses which makes learning easier. If you travel to more regions of Indonesia you will be able to learn some basic words in Bahasa Indonesia and then use them in all the places you visit.
Balinese is a language with Malay and Polynesian origins that is spoken mainly on the island of Bali, but also on other nearby islands such as Java or Lombok. The Balinese language is older than Bahasa Indonesia and is spoken by about 3.5 million people. There are several indigenous languages in Bali, but most of its inhabitants use modern common Balinese. In the past, the use of different languages on the island was determined by the Bali caste system, but this tradition is diminishing and everyone speaks the same language. Balinese is a informal language, spoken among locals on the island, and there are very few writings because more Indonesian is learned at school.
In Balinese there are three ways of speaking to a person, depending on the caste they belong to: low (basa ketah), medium (basa madia) and high (basa singgih). Depending on who is speaking and to whom they are addressing, one way or another will be used and one must be careful when speaking as someone could be offended if the wrong register is used.
If you can learn some basic words, the locals will be more confident and you will also be able to bargain at the markets.
So, Indonesian or Balinese?
Regardless of whether you learn a few words in Balinese or Bahasa Indonesia, in Bali you will be able to manage yourself with either of these two languages. If you’re going to travel to different regions of Indonesia, perhaps it would be better to learn more words in Bahasa Indonesia that will serve you wherever you go. Below you will find a list of common words and phrases that will be useful on your trip to Bali.
We hope you find this information useful. By learning some of these words you will be able to move around the island more easily, make many friends and integrate very quickly.