Languages in Bali - Common Phrases to Help You in the Island

You've planned your itinerary down to the last minute, you've made a list of the do's and don'ts, your transportation is taken care of - you've made sure your trip to Bali will be amazing. And it most definitely will be- but it doesn't hurt to read up on the languages in Bali. The official languages of Bali are Balinese and Indonesian, of which Balinese is the native language of Bali and the Indonesian unites the whole of Indonesia. Since tourism has been one of the major sources of income in Bali, a large portion of the region speak a decent level of English. Apart from these three major languages, you are most likely to hear some Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, German, Russian, etc. in the Marketplaces. This linguistic culmination has occurred due to the travellers settling down in Bali after being enthralled by its beauty. It would deem useful to know some basic phrases in Balinese, at least to get friendly with the local vendors who might even give you a discount if you can impress them.

Balinese

Balinese Script, Language in Bali
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Bali or Balinese is the native language of Bali, also used in the neighbouring areas of Nusa Penida and parts of Lombok and Java. Spoken by approximately 3.3 million people, Balinese now remains limited to oral usage and informal communication between families only. The written script has become uncommon, and most children in urban areas end up learning only Indonesian This language of Bali borrows from Javanese and Brahmi from India; for religious purposes, a derivative of Javanese and Sanskrit called Kawi is used. Balinese has three registers, which were used mostly depending on the formality of the situation.

Basa Ketah: Casual register
Basa Madia: Formal register
Basa Singgih: Artificial register

Balinese Script, Language in Bali
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The use of the different registers has diminished with time and almost everyone in Bali communicates in the Casual Register of Basa Ketah.

Common Balinese Phrases

  • Hello - Swastiastu
  • How are you - Engken Kabare
  • Fine, Thank you - Iyang Becik Becik Suksma
  • Please - Tempat
  • Thank You - Suksma
  • I'm Sorry - Ampura
  • Do you speak English -  Bapa Bisa Basa Inggris
  • Where is the toilet - Ring Dija WC
  • Yes - Nyak
  • No - Sing
  • I want to go to airport - Tiang Lakar Ka Airport
  • How much is this/that - Ajikuda Niki/Naka
  • Too Expensive - Mahal Sekali
  • Help - Nulungin Tiang
  • Good Morning - Rahajeng Semeng
  • Good Evening - Rahajeng Peteng
  • Good Night - Rahajeng Wengi

Indonesian

The official language of Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia or simply Indonesian is the lingua franca that unites the vast archipelago. Used across the country, Indonesian is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Most Indonesians are fluent in it along with their native language, and all official communication i.e. education, science, technology, mass media and governance makes use of this language. It's the second language to a staggering 154.9 million people and is often viewed as the symbol of common identity and pride. This language in Bali has loanwords from a number of languages such as Dutch, English, and Arabic and has considerably expanded over the years. Indonesian is widespread in Urban Bali while rural villages make use of Balinese. If you're looking to explore offbeat areas, Balinese might come in handy.
Indonesian, Language in Bali
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Foreign Languages

For a few decades now Bali has witnessed an influx of tourists, which has led to English becoming quite commonplace. If you're staying in the more popular areas of Ubud, Sanur and Seminyak, you'll get along just fine on knowing only English. Hotels and most restaurants can communicate in the language, and locals can usually speak broken English. Since most Balinese are trilingual or at least bilingual (Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Bali and English are spoken widely), you will even find signboards and menus with translations which may be quirky but will get the meaning across. The huge number of Australians who come to Bali every year has also given an impetus to this trend.

Within recent years, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, French and German have also become known in the province. This is largely due to the budding community of expatriates and foreigners residing in Bali, who have established their own businesses. The increased number of tourists who speak these languages in Bali has also increased, and you'll have a much easier time finding guides that cater to them than you would have twenty years ago. However, these guides are likely to charge you extra for knowing more than 'just English'. You can now even find small newspapers and magazines in French and German in some of the supermarkets. Some restaurants in the more touristy areas of Kuta, Nusa Dua and Legian also have menus in Chinese and Russian available upon request.

Bali has a lot to offer to every tourist, with its scenic beauty and rich culture and heritage captivating visitors every year. Communication often ends up being overlooked while planning your holiday, but remember that it can help smooth over any rough edges that may arise and help you out in times of distress. Reading up on the basics of the language in Bali will have you well-equipped to explore every obscure corner of the beautiful island. Interacting with the locals will help you have a much more authentic experience of the Balinese lifestyle, and prevent any linguistic barriers from spoiling your holiday.

This post was published by Rutvi Saxena

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