Indo-Lesson 2: “Samurai bekerja”

Toshihiko here, and this is the 2nd lesson on the Indonesian language.

Today I’m going to discourse about the usage of the prefix “ber-” and the word “Samurai”.

Let's begin the lesson.

The prefix ber- can be tricky for most learners of Indonesian if they don’t know how to use it.


It’s because there is no specific rule regarding how to attach it into a specific verb. One may even call it an irregular prefix, just like the irregular verbs that exist in English.

For example, the word kerja, which means “to work”, turns into bekerja when added with ber-.

Why not berkerja instead of bekerja?

That’s just the way it is.

As you see, the reason that I name ber- as an irregular prefix is due to the fact that the ber- still retains its original form when applied to other words that begin with letter k, such as kawan into berkawan, kenal(an) into berkenalan, or kurang into berkurang.

Another irregular usage is when it is attached to the verb ajar, it becomes belajar, not berajar, while other verbs that begins with letter a still transform the prefix into ber-, such as beralasan, berakhlak, and berarti.

Believe me, as Indonesians rarely use any affixes in their conversations, the only way to learn the right way of using EYD (Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan – formal Indonesian) is by writing a lot.

Write, write, and write.

The more you write, the more encouraged you become to open your kamus. You may even want to consider blogging in Bahasa Indonesia once in a while. Indcoup has set up a good example in some of his posts, so does Gene Netto (now that’s 100% Indonesian!).

Samurai, as we all know, is a Japanese-derived term that is used to name Japanese warriors who were members of the feudal military aristocracy, the Japanese equivalent for the English term “Knight”.

Nowadays there no longer exists any Samurai anywhere in the world except —of course— in Indonesia.

In Bahasa Indonesia, the term Samurai is commonly used to name all kinds of swords in general. I can assume that its usage is so widely accepted that even Indonesian linguists accept it as a formal term.

It is funny to see how could the derivation went so far you know, as I’ve traced back the etymology to the root of the Japanese word Samurai into:

saburau”, which means “to serve”

Thus, the word “Samurai” originally means “a servant”, a definition that’s indeed far-fetched from the Indonesian definition of “a sword”!

That’s all for today’s lesson.

If you want to send me any questions regarding Bahasa Indonesia or the confusion you may find regarding the close affinity between Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu, you can always comment on this blog post or on the shoutbox in the sidebars. You may also send me suggestions on what I could discuss on future lessons.

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