Most people in Bali speak Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) and many speak some English. All Balinese however, speak Balinese (Bahasa Bali). In villages and towns across the island, kids are brought up in the family home speaking Balinese, later learing Indonesian, the national language in school, or while mixing with friends. It is still possible to meet older Balinese people, who do not speak Indonesian.
Balinese has 3 main forms and many variations. The 3 main forms are Ida / Basa alus (high), Ipun / Basa Bali Madia (Middle / Polite and Ia / Basa kasar (low). When addressing another Balinese person, the speaker soon finds out there caste, by the name of the person. If a high caste Balinese encounters a low caste person, the will speak to them in low Balinese (speaking downward), the other person responding in High Balinese (speaking upward). In this day and age, the strict lingusitic observations are confined to the village and the temple. In everyday life people will generally use the rule that they will speak low Balinese to family and fiends, Middle Balinese to strangers, and in the work place, Indonesian is the common language.
The language, Basa Bali (in Balinese), is a member of the Malayo-Austronesian language family. Many visitors to Bali can speak some Indonesian, but few speak Balinese. If you know a few words it will impress the locals for sure.
Balinese words place the stress on the last syllable, whereas in Indonesian, its often on the second last syllable. So ‘Bali’doesn’t sound like ‘Baa-li'(the way I say it), it sounds more like ‘ba-LEE’. Interacting with street vendors and Kuta lcoals, you’ll soon pick up that stress on the last vowel, even when speaking English (‘CanNOT, ticKET no GOOOD, must come back tommoRROW.’).
As a general rule for us Anglos is Asia, vowel sounds out here across the board tend to go as follows: A=ah E=egh I=igh O=oh U=oo.
Balinese doesn’t have f,q,v,z, or th. Special pronounciations include b or d in the middle of a word, after another consonant are very faint, eg gambelan (gamelan). Letter C is pronounced as a ch eg. ‘that’s a bencong'(benchong). Letter G is always hard, like ‘g”in girl. H is silent at the beginning of a word eg. ‘halus'(alus). Letter H sounds strongly in between 2 vowels, eg.’kesugihan'(property) and makes a dead stop at the end of a word, eg. ‘mudah'(cheap). Letter J is like the English pronounciation, except when at the beggining of a word. eg. jagi (will happen), where it sounds like a ‘dy’. Letter K is pronounced as you would expect when located at the front and middle of a word. When located at the end it makes a dead stop eg. nampek (near), almost missing the ‘K’ sound. Letter R is rolled as in latin languages. Ng is pronounced softly eg. Ningrum. In situations where the ‘g’ is followed by a second ‘g’, the second one is pronounced as a hard ‘g’, eg. genggong (Jew’s harp). Ny can be prononced like ‘ny’ in lanyard, eg. nyuh (coconut).
Phew! glad that’s over. Now for some chit-chat.
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The original Balinese language, as it was when foreigners first arrived, was wrriten in aksara text, which vagely resembles hindi. The writings were preserved on lontars, dried palmleaves, like the ones on sale in Tenganen. Signs around the island will offer the phrase ‘Matur suksma’ (thank you) in aksara and in romanized text.
People visiting Bali cannot be expected to understand all the linguistic rules regarding Basa Bali and th appropriate time to use kasar (low Balinese) and Alus (high Balinese). For a visitor you’ll probalby go with the kasar, popping in the occasion alus word. That will mean people will understand you. Bear in mind that Balinese themselves may not be so familiar with Alus.
Thank you. Matur suksma.
What’s your name? Sira pesengen ragane?
Where are you going? Lunga kija?
Where have you been? Kija busan?
How are you? Kenken kabare?
How are things? Napa orti?
I’m / everythings fine. Becik becik kemantan.
I am sick. Tiang gele.
What is that? Napi punika?
Child. Putra (boy), putri (girl).
To come. Rauh, dateng
To eat. Ngajeng, nunas
Family. Panyanman, pasa metonan
Food. Ajeng-ajengan, tetedan
To go. Lunga
No. Tan, nente.
Rice. Pantu, beras, ajengan
To sleep. Sirep sare.
Yes. Inggih, patut.
Here are numbers in Basa Bali from 1 to 10.
1 – Siki, diri
2 – Kalih
3 – Tiga
4 – Pat
5 – Lima
6 – Nem, enem
7 – Pitu
8 – Kutus
9 – Sia
10 – Dasa
Here are some sentences in Basa Bali.
Bapa bisa basa Bali? Do you know the Balinese language?
Sira wasten jerone? What’s your name?
Adan titiange madan Nick-inggih. Sira wasten bapane? My name is Nick, indeed. What is your name?
Tiang Barrie. I (am) Barrie.
Nick uli negara dija? Nick is from which country?
Tiang uli negara England, inggih. I (am)from England, indeed.
Mara teka uli dija? (You) just came from where?
Tiang mara teka uli Ubud. I just came from Ubud.
Bapa suba makurenan? Are you already married?
Inggih. Tiang suba nganten. Yes. I am already married.
Kurenan bapane dija jani? Where is your wife now?
Ia jani di Ubud, di losman. She is now in Ubud, in the guestthouse.
Akuda bapa ngelah pianak? How many children do you have?
Dadua-abesik luh, abesik muani. Two-one female and one male.
Bapa/Meme lakar lunga kija? Where do you want to go?
Tiang lakar ka airport. I want to go to airport.
Ada ajengan Bali ane tulen? Do you have native Balinese dishes?
Wemten-inggih! We have, indeed!
Ajengan napi sane wenten? Which dishes are they?
Wenten be guling miwah bebek betutu. There is roast pork and steamed duck.
Barrie sering sering ring Bali? Barrie are you oftten in Bali?
Titiang suba ping telu di Bali. This is my third time in Bali.
Nuju dina Pekenan di Ubud. Today its market day in Ubud.
Wenten manas? Do you have pineapple?
Aksama tiang-tusing wenten. Jero kayun biu? Kayun markisa? Pardon me-there are none. Do you want bananas, passion fruit?
Questions & Requests
1. For most questions you can simply raise your voice towards the end of the sentence. eg. Bapa bisa basa Bali. Do you know the Balinese language?
2. You may add the suffix -ke to the frist word in the sentence, which is its ‘topic’or main idea.
eg. Bapake bisa basa Bali? Are you the one who knows Balinese?
3. You may use a question word.
Apa (kasar) napi (alus) what (English)
Nyen – sira – who
Engken – encen – what / which / which one
Ane encen – sane encen – which one
Kuda – adi kuda – how much / how many
Dija – ring dija – where
Kija – lunga kija – where to
Uli dija – saking napi – where from
Nguda – ngudiang – why
Apakrama – punapi awinan – why
Kenken – sapunapi – how
Pidan – ring pidan – when (past)
Bulin pidan – malih pidan – when (future)
Nyen adane – Sira wastane – what’s (your, his, her) name.
Apa orta – napi gatrane – what’s new
Kuda – aji kuda – how much
Apa ento – napi punika – what’s that
Pukul kuda jani – pukul kuda mangkin – what time
Lakar nguda – pacang ngudiang merikat – Why do you want to go there also.
More grammar rules for Basa Bali.
Balinese sentences follow a regular word order, similar to English – subject-verb-object.
eg. Bapa ruah sakeng Kuta. Bapa teka uli Tabanan. (Father comes to Kuta. Father comes from Tabanan).
The pronoun or noun after its subject indicates possession. eg Warung tiang (my stall), Barang pak (Your package).
Adjectives follow a noun. eg. Ada kopi panes? (Do you have hot coffee?) (Lit: There is coffee hot?)
One could go one for ever detailing grammar rules and exceptions. I think this will give you a insight anyway, into how the Balinese language sounds and works. I’ll tell about a thing that happened as I was writing this. Down at La Cabana in Kuta the sun was setting and I was typing away. Paying my bill I let slip a couple of Balinese words, and it was like magic. The wait staff and chefs all stopped what they were doing, looked my way and grinned. One of them continued the conversation, myself trying to remember more Balinese words. It doesn’t take long to get into the local’s consiousness.
Periplus does a handy little pocket guide to Basa Bali (Balinese), entitled ‘Practical Balinese’. Mine cost 29,000rp at Bintang supermarket, has 138 pages and is written by Gunter Spitzing.