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Note – this is the second in a three part series. Part I (relating to Thailand) is available here, Part Il (relating to Indonesia) is available below and Part III (relating to Malaysia) is here.

Welcome to Indonesia.

Like Thais, Indonesians are also fond of adding a phrase at the end of a sentence, although this time it is “ya”. “Ya” and “na” sound very similar of course, but there are subtle differences in their use.

Firstly, “ya” isn’t quite the marker of polite civility that “na” represents. It has a much more flexible range of uses, from a quick “ya” to a much more definite “yaaaaaa”, which can (depending on the circumstances) translate to something between a reassuring “absolutely” and a slightly irritated “yes, of course”.

Secondly, the Thai “na” retains an inherent reverence and dignity that “ya” never attains. A Thai “na” sits uncomfortably with being shouted loudly, a fate that would doom most words in Indonesia, especially in Java. That point will be elaborated on in an upcoming post.

Thirdly, again unlike “na”, “ya” appears to be slightly more egalitarian. The difference is sometimes nuanced, but “na” is for those Thai speakers emphasising their elite grace while “ya” is the language of proud and loud affinity for the Indonesian nation state.

And there is nothing more Indonesian than that, ya.

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