One day, you have read or heard somewhere that is better to come prepared when you are about to travel to foreign countries. So, you have done your research, learnt the language of the countries you’ll visit, and are ready to drag your luggage to the airport. Once you arrived, you were just about to use the language that you learned, but, alas, what they speak is totally different than what you learned. It is not definite, but the chance is big for to happen as you step into Jakarta City.
Instead of hearing “saya”, “tidak”, “nanti”, and etc as a standard Indonesian formal language, you will hear a tad foreign term like “gue”, “ngga”, “ntar, etc. These words are derived from Betawi language, a dialect that is often used by native Jakartans. So, don’t be surprised if it is different than formal Indonesian that you learned. Aside from that, there are also many new popular terms that are made from abbreviations. For example, “mantul” that is formed from “mantap betul”, or literally means “really excellent”.
As a country with more than 1.300 ethnicities, Indonesian that live throughout the country speaks in dialect in their hometown, so they are relatively easy to adapt and absorb new languages. Not only they can speak in dialects, but they are also capable of speaking in Indonesian standard language or relatively known as “bahasa baku”. In Central or East Java for example, you will hear most people speak in Javanese. Even other than Java Island, people from different ethnicities most probably speak in their own dialects in their respective hometown.
So, if you hear Indonesian speaks most in dialects but you are going to ask for directions and you have only learned the Indonesian language, don’t be afraid, while they are speaking in dialects for daily conversations, most will understand if you speak in formal Indonesian standard language.
Or, if you are not convinced enough, just use English to be safe. Citizens who work in service industries most probably undergone training for English language and some locals are excited to speak to foreigners to practice their English. So, don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with locals!