(Tuesday Reflection) : Chinese influences in our languages


I think there have already been many articles or posts about this topic, but sometimes I still want to talk about it more, at least in my point of view. Since hundred years, Chinese have spread to around the world, through trading and immigration. Its culture and terminologies also followed especially in South East Asia and surely its Sinosphere regions in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Chinese terminologies are very abundant. Its languages also influence our languages (in this case I focused on Indonesia, which eventhough share huge many similar things with Malaysian, Singaporean, Filipinos and Brunei particularly in peranakan culture, but In Indonesia peranakan has developed some unique features).

As in other South East Asian countries, most of Chinese descendants in Indonesia are from Hokkien, Hakka, and Teochiew extractions. While the Cantonese is far less than others, Mandarin? the least. Even though Mandarin started to get its ground among Indonesian Chinese education in the early 20th century. Most of Chinese words we know are from Hokkien words (while Hokkien, Hakka and Teochiew are still widely spoken in Sumatera, Bangka-Belitung and Kalimantan). During 19th century and early 20th century, Chinese Malay literature was growing and many works were written in Low Malay by Chinese. They translated Chinese stories in Malay (particularly the low one) for getting more readers from Non-Chinese and Chinese who couldn’t longer speak Chinese. Many Chinese words found in those books and some still used particularly in colloquial speech among particular Indonesians.


Most of Indonesian Chinese terminologies are from Hokkien origins (either used widely or exclusively among Indonesian Chinese), usually related to gastronomy and spiritual such as :
Ceng beng, Hoki, Shio, Hio, Bok Coi, Cakwe, Kwetiau, Hong Shui, Cap Go Meh, Pekak, Angciu, Siomay, Angkak, Cap Jay, Lo Mie, Bakmie, Bakpia, Bakpao, Bakso, Bocengli, Cukong, Tauke, Tahu, Tauge, Pangsit, Jiong, Tauco, Hunkwee, Congfan, Co Kong Tik, Lobak, Kelontong, Jitu, Tiongkok, Tionghoa, Lihai, Imlek, Suhu, Meimei, Bongpai  and so on.

In our colloquial speech, particularly among Jakartans, Chinese words are so prevalent in counting, particularly for telling the cost such as.

Goceng (lima ribu= 5,000),  noban (duapuluh ribu= 20,000),  seceng (seribu= 1,000), cepek (seratus= 100), pek go (seratus limapuluh = 150), cetiao (sejuta = 1 million). etc.

For pronouns, the word lu (you) is found in Betawian Malay as well as Kupangese Malay in East Nusa Tenggara. In Betawian, it can be pronounced as lu, elo, loh, or lo. In Kupangese, it’s solely pronounced lu. But beware, never use it to speak with the elders, as in Betawian they will say the name or title of the elders, while in Kupang, say bapa, ibupapa, mama etc. Lu is only used for friends or to the youngers. In Betawi, the word Engkong (Grandpa), Encing (parental younger siblings), Encang (parental elder siblings) could be rooted from Chinese (especially Hokkien).

While for family systems, Chinese words are exclusively used among themselves like : Cici (or Cece), Koko, Dede, Kongco, Makco, Gong gong etc.


This is a bland article based on my experiences and needs to be improved. But this is part of distinct development particularly among Chinese in Indonesia and as part of Indonesia itself. Oh yes, my Taiwanese colleagues were surprised when they go to the marketplace, they could recognize many Chinese words spoken, particularly for the Hokkien one. Whatever your culture, knowing others are fun. Neither are the best or the worst as culture develops from human’s values and from wisdoms.

Tangerang, 9 February 2016



Photo credit : self collection though are unrelated.
(taken from early 20th centuries Indonesian advertisements)


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