Users Guide & Author Notes
TruAlfa & IndoDic.com
Unfortunately, the materials in the Language Learning section at this time are mostly in English and not fully bilingual. Although much of the basic material is in both languages now, the instructional portions are only in English. We plan to add Indonesian translations at a later date but first want to finalize the materials after receiving feedback from users. You can help by sending e-mailing us your comments, suggestions or corrections. Please feel free to copy, download and print any of the materials in the Language Learning section for private study. We only ask that the materials not be used for commercial purposes.
The materials in the Language Learning section are useful for people studying either language even though everything isn't 100% bilingual yet. It never hurts to brush up on the rules for your native language at the same time as learning a new language, especially when the rules are nearly the same for both languages. For those who are beginning a learning program we suggest concentrating on vocabulary-building exercises at first. Study the lists of most common words and the words that are the same, or almost the same, in both languages. Then study materials on how words are formed by combining root words with affixes (prefixes and suffixes). If you know the meaning of a root word in bahasa Indonesia and know how affixes are used, you will be able to predict the meanings of the words derived from that root word.
There are four basic language skills - reading/writing (written forms) and speaking/listening (verbal forms). The easiest skill to learn is reading. You don't need to know the rules of grammar to read and you don't need to know pronunciation. The writer needs to know grammar to create new text but a reader can understand that text without knowing grammar. The nice thing about reading is that it is perfectly suited for self-study and can be done almost anywhere. All that is needed is a good translation dictionary and reading materials that use simple words which can be all found in the dictionary. Motivation is the only limiting factor.
The next easiest step in a learning program after reading would be to work on listening skills, since knowing grammar is not essential to listening. It might be advisable to defer the study of grammar until later in a learning program. When we learned our native language as children we were already fluent speakers by the time we had our first grammar lesson in school. I call this the Natural Learning Method. Why not use a similar approach when studying a new language later in life? If grammar rules were logical, consistent and without exceptions, it might be advisable to study grammar early in a learning program. But unfortunately, especially in English, grammar rules are illogical, inconsistent and riddled with exceptions that seem to overshadow the rules themselves. Grammar is necessary to write and speak properly but not necessary for reading and listening.
We have a nice feature on this website for those who would like to practice their pronunciation skills for English words. Whenever you do a dictionary search for an English word, you have the option to hear the pronunciation while viewing the translation for that word. Just check the "Speak" box beside the search window. You may have to do a quick download and install of software for this feature. See Help for instructions.
The work of creating new translation dictionaries provides unique perspectives into the languages (English and Indonesian). The language similarities and differences become quite obvious. There was a plan from the beginning to publish a learning booklet. During the ten year process of creating the dictionaries, piles of notes were created, collected and transferred to disc. After the dictionaries were finished, there was a unique opportunity to use the dictionary data bases in electronic form to support language learning materials. Thanks to the "no limits" aspect of e-media, we are now able to throw these things together and put them on the web. We can do many things in e-media that are not practical with print media.
The author is amazed at how similar these two languages are. There are some differences but when all things are considered, there is probably no other major language in the world that is more similar to English than bahasa Indonesia. An English-speaking traveler who arrives in Indonesia after touring other Asian countries will appreciate how nice it is to finally be in a place where the language uses the same alphabet as English. No need to learn a new alphabet. The computer keyboards are exactly the same. English speakers can use translation dictionaries immediately on arrival in Indonesia but the same is not true when they visit Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, China or Japan because they all have different alphabets. Because of the different alphabets, it takes a great deal of effort for English speakers to even begin to be able to use a translation dictionary in these countries.
The Roots of It All
A good example of a dictionary maker's unique language perspective was our mistake in assuming in the beginning that we could use the same format or layout style for both dictionaries. We first completed TruAlfa Indonesian-English Dictionary in 1992 and in the process created Word Formation Diagrams for Indonesian words to show how they were derived from root words. Our dictionary showed nice complete Indonesian root word families. When we started work on the English-Indonesian dictionary in 1993, we soon realized that English is not suited for using Word Formation Diagrams or for showing root word families. English is no longer a simple root-based language. But now we encountered new problems that we didn't face with the first dictionary. We were surprised at how many English words have more that one meaning, each with a different Indonesian translation. Because there were so many, we decided to add clarifying notes for these multiple meanings and usages to help keep things "sorted out'. Another problem was caused by the overlap (same spelling) of many English plural nouns with 3rd person singular verbs. These concepts and problems are totally absent in Indonesian dictionaries.
This website is about words, not about how to form sentences or how to write with style and flair. I still remember the day my Indonesian associate at Lake Toba greeted me with the question - Aren't words fun? I'm still not sure about the answer to that - maybe, sometimes, I guess so. Words are the primary carrier of meaning in these two languages. Most of the materials in our Language Learning section are designed to help people build a vocabulary of words and to understand how words are formed and used in both Indonesian and English.
I want to thank all of the various Indonesian associates who worked with me over the last 10 years, especially Yohanes Manhitu, Mike Wijaya Sinaga, Melpa Samosir and Insanuddin Siregar. Special thanks to Tom Gilson for doing 100% of the work in setting up and managing IndoDic.com and for making this Language Learning section possible.
Wayne B. Krause
10 June 2006