Learning Indonesian: Week 2 Installment

Seperti and Sepertinya

Two words that you will often encounter in Indonesia are seperti and sepertinya. Although they have a related meaning, they are not the same. The first means ‘like’ in the the sense of ‘resembling’. Here are a couple of examples I found online:

1) Rumah artis Bollywood itu seperti istana India.

The house of that Bollywood actor is like an Indian palace.

2) Hujung ini, yang menjadi keras dan tegang apabila ikan pari merasa terancam, berbentuk seperti pisau.

This spike, which becomes hard and stiff if the stingray feels threatened, is shaped like a knife.

In contrast, sepertinya is equivalent to English phrases such as “It appears”‘, “It seems like”, or, “It would seem”. While both seperti and sepertinya have something to do with seeming, they are certainly not interchangeable.

Here are some online examples of sepertinya:

1) Sepertinya dia orang gila.

It seems that he’s a crazy person.

2) Sepertinya Jokowi batal melantik Budi Gunawan.

It appears that Jokowi isn’t going to inaugurate Budi Gunawan.

Kayak and Kayaknya

In informal or slangy Indonesian, you may find seperti replaced by kayak and sepertinya replaced by kayaknya.

Here are some examples found on Indonesian social media, along with their appropximate English translations.

1) Perilakunya kayak monyet.

He acts like a monkey. (A serious insult in Indonesia).

2) Iya. Kayak gitu lah.

Yeah. It’s like that.

3) Kayaknya dia meniru gaya aku.

It seems like he/she is imitating my style!

4) Dia kayaknya nggak layak buat kamu.

He doesn’t seem to be right for you.

Pronunciation Note: The final ‘k’ in kayak is not really pronounced, so it sounds almost indistinguishable from the Indonesian word kaya, meaning rich. This is fertile ground for confusion. If you bear in mind that you might be hearing the slangy version of seperti, you will avoid troubles.

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