Brian Loo Soon Hua

Can Speakers of Indonesian/Malay and Speakers of Polynesian Languages Understand Each Other?

Bahasa Indonesia and Polynesian languages like Ka ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i and Te Reo Māori are distant relatives spoken in different parts of the vast maritime territory occupied by the Austronesian language family, one of the world’s largest language families. Many of these languages are spoken in isolated areas extremely distant from their genetic relatives and are therefore not in direct contact. For instance, the distance between Sumatra and New Zealand is greater than the distance between Ireland and Western China. If we take Malagasy, spoken on Madagascar off the coast of East Africa into account, the Austronesian languages are (at least in pre-Columbian times) the most widely-dispersed language family on Earth. The question is: Can Indonesians understand speakers of Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian and Maori?
During this talk, Brian will welcome a speaker of Indonesian and a speaker of a Polynesian language to interact on screen and to attempt to communicate with one another in their respective languages. The results might surprise you!

Ask the speaker a question


  • astari says:

    Thank you for the very insightful presentation Brian! Maori and Hawaiian particularly are very interesting for me, happy to have more reasons to learn it now that I know they’re similar to Indonesian.

  • says:

    Great talk, Brian! Kudos!

    Loved it! 🇧🇷

  • Alexander says:

    Great talk, Brian. Bummed I didn’t get to hang out with you this time around, but I’m glad I still got to check out your presentation. One question: you showed a lot of consonant shift as you head east. Are there any sounds that were retained more commonly in the eastern polynesian languages than in the western ones?

  • Selmina says:

    A fascinating presentation, I’ve learnt immensely. Terima kasih banyak. I noticed the word “sucu” and I knew it’s “milk” in Fijian, I’ve been learning simple Fijian phrases from uTalk, so it’s helpful when listening to your presentation.

  • Arisu says:

    Thank you very much for the presentation!

  • That was very insightful, Brian. Thank you! It was like you could hear how the words evolve as they are echoed or taken by winds across the islands. Very cool information!

  • Fascinating as always, Brian, with the unfortunate side effect of making me want to dive back into Indonesian and Malay despite really needing to focus on Mandarin right now. Keep up the great work!

  • teddynee says:

    Very informative presentation. Is there explanation about why Polynesian languages changed so much in their pronunciation? Is there the story behind it?

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