Tulisanya – write/spell—comes from the word tulis, which means write. Tulisanya usually translates to spell, and it makes me think of tulip lasagna – a totally logical mnemonic.
Timon – cucumber – I think of Timon from the Lion King. This is actually logical.
Bagaimana – how – makes me think of Benihanas—a mythical restaurant in my mind since I’ve never been to nor seen one.
Kalau – if – rearrange the last two letters and you get something close to Kahlua. Appropriate? Not in Indonesia.
Muturnuwun – this is actually Javanese for thank you— which rhymes with afternoon. This may not be that random, just rational.
Qajah – elephant, singa – lion, kupu kupu – butterfly, ikan – fish – a song set to the tone of Frère Jacques, each animal is repeated twice. I learned this from my 4-year-old host niece. Useful? I think so.
Nasihat– advice – makes me think of a pile of nasi, or rice, wearing a hat—a little hat of wisdom to dispense advice.
Saya punya sembilan puluh sembilan masalah tapi anjing perempuan tidak satu – This is a translated phrase from Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” It helped ingrain the number sembilan or 9—which was the hardest number for me to remember—and masalah or problem. Now I am perfectly equipped to make it in the streets of Indonesia.
Dengan atau tampa anda – with or without you – I translated the lyrics for With or Without You by U2. What can I say? Lyrics work for me. This actually does equip me to navigate through daily life in Indonesia to indicate whether I want my tea/coffee/corn with or without sugar. Indonesians will add sugar to everything and anything.
Sekarang – now – reminds me of a very old-school (and obnoxious!) reggaeton song—which is probably why I remember the word so well.
Kayu manis – cinnamon – I always forget the word kayu, but I never forget the direct translation which is wood. It helps to point at a wooden furniture item while saying manis – sweet—which gets my point across. Why do I need this? Absolutely no reason. I wish I had opportunities to use this word more often. I would kill for oatmeal raisin cookies bursting with sweet, mouthwatering kayu manis.