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6 Best Practices for English to Indonesian Translation Services

Posted by Anne Q. on November 09, 2021.

Lying in a strategic location in relation to the giant economies of China and India, Indonesia is an emerging market that brings about major opportunities for foreign businesses investing in the ASEAN region. To succeed in this market, make sure to use professional English to Indonesian translation services to reach your target Indonesian audiences.

The reasons are simple. First, Indonesians have low English proficiency which was ranked at only 74 out of 100 surveyed countries by EF EPI 2020. Using Indonesian is a must to get closer to your target audiences in this market. Second, Indonesian is a rich and complex language. There are many traps you face when handling English to Indonesian translation projects. To make sure your translated content contains as few mistakes as possible, we recommend you only work with professionals and be aware of some great tips to achieve excellent quality English to Indonesian translations.

Indonesian colours

Having a production office in Indonesia, GTE Localize has had more opportunities to work on Indonesian localization projects and deepen our knowledge about this market. With the consultancy of our experienced linguist – Cecilia Sonya, we have listed 6 best practices for English to Indonesian translation that will help you avoid regretful mistakes when localizing your content from English into Indonesian.

1. Use Indonesian Pronouns Correctly

Indonesian personal pronouns were a heritage of Malay and have been enriched by a great number of local languages in Indonesia. The personal pronouns in Indonesian are used to show the social rank and relationship between the addressee and the speaker.

In general, these pronouns can be divided into two groups – formal and informal tones.

English Indonesian – Formal Indonesian – Informal
I Saya Aku
You Anda Kamu
He/She/It Beliau Dia
We (inclusive) Kita Kita
We (exclusive) Kami Kami
You (Plural) Anda sekalian Kalian
They Mereka Mereka

The diversity of Indonesian personal pronouns in Indonesian might give translators a hard time as the misuse of personal pronouns can be considered rude or offensive to the addressee which companies cannot risk doing.

Indonesian Personal Nouns

According to Cecilia, the translation of the pronoun “I” sometimes become an issue, even for experienced Indonesian translators. Normally, when having a conversation with close friends, Indonesian people use “aku-kamu” – the informal tone and when talking to people of higher status or ages, or acquaintances, they use “saya-anda” – the formal tone. However, it’s common for people who live in the capital city (Jakarta) to use the informal tone “aku-kamu”, even towards older people. It’s especially used by teenagers.  This can be seen as impolite in other areas (due to the cultural differences among these areas).

When handling English to Indonesian translation projects, we suggest you do not make any consumptions and always consult a native Indonesian localizer for a suitable pronoun choice. Also, remember to notify your translators of the pronouns you would like them to use for your English to Indonesian translations. Because for those translators who live in the capitals or some big cities, the use of informal tone “aku-kumu” has become a habit and they might accidentally use this tone when working on your content.


2. Be Careful When Using Numbers

Both Arabic numerals and Roman numerals are commonly used by Indonesian people:

    • Arabic numerals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    • Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, L (50), C (100), D (500), M (1,000), V̄ (5,000), M̄ (1,000,000)

To avoid confusion for local people when reading the numbers in your English into Indonesian translations, there are a few rules that you should pay extra attention to:

    • Numbers that can be represented by one or two words are written in letters unless they are used in sequence as in detail.

For example:

Indonesian English
Mereka menonton drama itu sampai tiga kali. They watched the drama three times.
Di antara 72 anggota yang hadir, 52 orang setuju, 15 orang tidak setuju, dan 5 orang abstain. Among the 72 members present, 52 agreed, 15 disagreed, and 5 abstained.
    • Numbers at the beginning of sentences are written with letters.

For example:

Indonesian English
Lima puluh siswa teladan mendapat beasiswa dari pemerintah daerah. Fifty exemplary students receive scholarships from the local government.
    • If the number at the beginning of the sentence cannot be expressed in one or two words, the sentence structure is changed.

For example:

Avoid Recommended
250 orang peserta diundang panitia. Panitia mengundang 250 orang peserta.


3. Don’t Misuse Conjunctions

Cecilia informed us that a lot of Indonesian people repeatedly use conjunction in sentences wrong. They have so gotten familiar with the wrong usage of conjunction that they sometimes get confused and forget the correct usage.

For example:

In Indonesian, “and” (dan) is only being used as a connector between words, phrases, and clauses. It can’t be used as a connector between sentences nor placed in front of a sentence.

However, most Indonesia would write:

    • Dia suka mengikuti kelas memasak. Dan dia juga suka bermain piano.

(She likes to join cooking class. And she also likes to play the piano.)

The correct ways to write this sentence are:

    • Dia suka mengikuti kelas memasak. Dia juga suka bermain piano.
    • Dia suka mengikuti kelas memasak dan bermain piano.

(She likes to join cooking class and she also likes to play the piano.)

Another example is the usage of “tetapi”. It also can’t be used to start a sentence, please use “Akan tetapi” or “Namun” instead.

To avoid such mistakes, translators when working on an English to Indonesian translation project usually need to double-check the standard rules of conjunction and punctuation marks usage. A useful page you can use is PUEI Online which provide all the basic rules on the use of punctuation.


4. Understand Indonesian’s Preferred Payment Methods

According to a report by Oxford Business Group in 2020, Indonesia has the fourth-largest unbanked population worldwide, at 83.1m people as of November 2019. That means a lot of people in Indonesia do not engage in online transactions.

If your company relies heavily on credit card transactions in your home market, your payment strategy in the Indonesian market needs to change to adapt to the habit of Indonesian people. Enabling a variety of payment methods, including cash on delivery and ATM transfers would make it easier for clients to proceed with the payment.

In e-commerce, during the pandemic, the proportion of people using digital or mobile wallets in Indonesia has increased significantly. However, 23% and 15% of payments were still made through bank transfers and cash respectively. If you are running your business on e-commerce platforms, these figures will help you set the right default payment option for your customers.

E-commerce payment method in Indonesia

Image credit:


5. Acknowledge Indonesian Localization Details and Locale Specifics

Below is the checklist of localization details for the Indonesian market you should consider:

    • Smartphones in Indonesia are popular. Indonesia has become one of Asia’s foremost mobile-first nations. The smartphone penetration rate in Indonesia in 2020 is over 70%.
    • Indonesian people use the metric system of measurement (kilogram, meter, etc.)
    • The date format is date-month-year.
    • There are three time zones in Indonesia (Western, Central, and Eastern Indonesian Time). In spoken Indonesian, the 12-hour format is preferred to use and adding the time indicator after it. The 24-hour time format is likely to be used in written texts.
    • The address format is the street name and house number, subdistrict, city, district, province, and postal code.
    • Colours are intertwined with traditions, customs, and beliefs in Indonesia. As the world’s most culturally and ethnically diverse countries, colours have a unique interpretation for different groups of people. However, they still share some common understanding of colours. For example, red and white, the colours of the Indonesian flag, are considered sacred colours. The colours of red and white stand for courageous and spiritual life, or pure.

Indonesian Greeting & Traditional Clothes - English to Indonesian Translation Services


6. Work with Professionals

The list of practices for English and Indonesian translation projects does not stop at just 5 as we mentioned above. There are many more common and unexpected traps you will face when working on this language pair. That’s why we highly recommend you only work with professional English to Indonesian translators who understand the Indonesian language and culture as well as the challenges of English to Indonesian translations.

Being one of the best Indonesian translation services in Indonesia, GTE Localize proudly brings you premium quality translations from English to Indonesian for a wide range of content, from life science to legal, business, software and engineering. We guarantee to bring you English to Indonesian translation services that are worth every penny you pay.

What do we offer your projects?

    • Native Indonesian translators with 5+ years of experience in translating English to Indonesian;
    • The latest technologies applied for all projects including CAT Tools, Localization Management Platforms, QA Tools, Self-built ERP, etc.;
    • Responsive and dedicated sales and PM teams;
    • Hundreds of English to Indonesian translation projects completed – See the list;
    • Budget-saving rate, starting from $0.06/word.

English to Indonesian translation services

Contact our team for more information on English to Indonesian translation services or receive a free consultancy from our Indonesian localization experts.