A Jar of Minds

Collecting thoughts in a container

Speak Indonesian Like a Sundanese: téh

If you ever learn bahasa (Indonesian) you might have noticed that colloquial Indonesian is very diverse, influenced by local dialects. As a person who was born and grown up in Bandung, I didn’t know what makes Sundanese dialects different from Jakartanese, Medanese, Balinese, Javanese, or other dialects. Yet somehow, hearing non Sundanese tried mimicking Sundanese dialect often sounds funny. So here I want to share some tips on how to speak informal Indonesian like a native Sundanese speaker.

We will begin from the famous particle téh. Probably because of a milk TVC featuring two kids, with one has Sundanese dialect and the other has Javanese dialect.

S: “Ini téh buat saya, Bu?” (Is this for me, Mom?)

J: “Bu, Bu, susu kok dibilang teh?” (Mommy, why did he call milk tea?)

J: “Itu susu ‘kan?” (That’s milk, isn’t it?)

S: “Iya, ini téh susu.” (Yup, it’s milk.)

J: “Mana tehnya?” (Where’s the tea?)

S: “Yey, ini téh susu!” (What? It is milk!)

The word “téh” here doesn’t literally mean “tea”. It is a particle commonly used in Sundanese grammar to indicate a subject in a sentence.

Here is the formula:

Subject + téh + (Verb)

Examples

Formal Informal Sundanese Dialect Meaning
Ini adalah susu. Ini susu. Ini téh susu. It is milk.
Di manakah sepatu saya? Sepatu saya di mana? Sepatu saya téh di mana? Where are my shoes?
Saya membeli lima buah buku. Saya beli buku lima buah. Saya téh beli buku lima biji. I bought five pieces of book.
Dia pergi ke pasar. Dia pergi ke pasar. Dia téh pergi ke pasar. He is going to the market.
Buah dipotong tipis-tipis. Buah dipotong tipis-tipis. Buah téh dipotong tipis-tipis. The fruits are sliced thinly.
Ada apa dengan dia? Kenapa dia? Kenapa dia téh? What happened to her?

See. If you have learned colloquial Indonesian, you could easily put the particle téh right after the subject. That’s it!

Next, we will discuss about another particle with similar functionality: mah. See you next time!