Manadonese For Beginners

Manadonese for beginners, our staff will teach you a few words.

During your stay here in North Sulawesi, one of the most immediate and lasting impressions is the ubiquitous sound of Iyooooo — Manadonese for “yes”.

The Portuguese and Dutch influence

This impassioned, up- and downward sliding intonation of the word has a slightly familiar Latin-American ring to it. This is not surprising, since Manadonese has strong influences of Portuguese within its vernacular, this is why a lot of loanwords can be traced back to these colonial roots.

For example: a shoe is a sapatu, a hat is a topi (from capéo), and Indonesia’s red & white flag is a bendéra.

A real local language

With under 1 million native speakers, Manado is so unique, even Javanese have a hard time understanding it. This is because it’s just too fast and furious a language. From Wikipedia:

Manado Malay is a creole of the Malay language. It differs from Malay in having a large number of Portuguese and Dutch loan words as a result of colonisation and having traits such as its use of “kita” as a first person singular pronoun, while “kita” is a first person inclusive plural pronoun in Malay. Simple Manado Malay sentences can be understood by speakers of standard Malay, albeit with varying degrees of difficulty.


Another reason why it’s such a tongue twister for Javanese, is because Manadonese love to shorten everything.

For example: dia punya is a possessive pronoun, meaning his or hers in basic Bahasa Indonesia. But in Manado, they simply shorten it to the first two letters: depe. So it’s literally dee-pee or DP if you will.

Here’s another fun one: celana dalam. Celana means “trousers” and dalam means “inside”, so if you put two and two together: underwear. Guess how Manadonese say it.

Right, it’s cede. That it to say: CD. Now, if you put both terms together: his/her underwear would be dia puny celana dalam in Indonesian. But in Manadonese, it becomes depe cede. Isn’t that hilarious?

Dutch loanwords

Due to the colonial history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dutch loanwords are embedded in Bahasa Manado. For example:

BokBochtCurve (road)

There are a ton more examples of this, and if you speak Dutch. Imagine my hilarity when I noticed the following word on a shop sign:


It took me a while to find out, but apparently Klappertaart is simply a local delicacy. Taart is the Dutch word for tart or pie, and Klapper is a bastardization of Indonesian Kelapa, which means coconut. So to summarize: a delicious coconut pie you should really try when you’re here.

Learn some basic Manadonese

Some of our colleagues were happy to provide a few more phrases as well! For a few examples, check out the video.

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Arjen Bokhoven

I'm a PADI Advanced Open Water diver, I do guest relations and resort management at Thalassa Dive Resorts Indonesia. Whether I'm diving the walls of Bunaken to spot schools of fish & turtles, or explore the sandy flats of Lembeh with its fascinating underwater creatures- I love all of it.

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