Why should you study Indonesian? Here are various reasons why you should consider learning Indonesian.
1. Explore a Diverse Country
Indonesia is a large country with a population of more than 261 million, which makes it the fourth most populated in the world. It has as many as 17,508 islands and is very diverse culturally. In fact there are more than 300 ethnic groups, and more than 700 languages spoken. Even though there are so many languages in Indonesia, the national language is Indonesian. Learning Indonesian opens the possibility for you to communicate with that many people.
Even if you’re just thinking to visit as a tourist for a short-medium term, it is not a bad idea to learn a little of the language before you come to make the most of your experience in Indonesia. Indonesians really appreciate it when foreigners show enough interest to learn a bit of their language.
2. Business and Career Opportunities
Indonesia is a developing country with good economic growth, abundance of natural resources, large market, cheaper labour cost, and relative political stability. This has attracted many multinational companies seeking to tap into the Indonesian market.
Knowing Indonesian language can be advantageous for your career or business prospects. You will find that there is already a vibrant expat community in Indonesia’s large cities such as Jakarta and Surabaya.
3. Other Reasons
Many foreigners choose to learn Indonesian for more personal reasons. For example, many foreigners are marrying into an Indonesian family. Cross-cultural marriages is becoming more and accepted in Indonesian society.
However, cross-cultural marriages often have unique challenges due to the differences in culture and language. If you are getting married or is married with an Indonesian, you should consider learning Indonesian even if your partner speaks fluent English. Not only does learning Indonesian help you understand and appreciate the culture, you will also be able to build stronger relationships with your Indonesian extended family.
So, are you convinced to start learning Indonesian yet? You can start the learning journey by joining us at our udemy course of beginner Indonesian (to be launched in October 2018).
Let us know in the comments below why you want to learn Indonesian!
The quick answer is ‘no’, Indonesian is not difficult. I don’t just say this because Indonesian is my mother tongue. Of course learning a language is never instant and you still need time and effort to learn Indonesian, but in comparison with most other languages, Indonesian is probably simpler and more straight forward.
Here’s a few reasons why Indonesian is not a difficult language:
1. Same set of alphabets as English
Have you tried learning a foreign language where the script is completely new to you, such as Japanese, or Chinese, or Arabic, or Thai? You’ll be glad to know that Indonesian has exactly the same 26 alphabets as in English, just A to Z. Phewww...
2. Pronunciation is easy
Not only are the alphabets are the same as English, their pronunciations are even easier than English. Have you ever considered how challenging English pronunciation is for non-native speakers? Each letter can be pronounced differently in different contexts. For example, a in ‘Apple’ is different from ain ‘Mars’. G in ‘giraffe’ is pronounced differently from g in ‘gas’. In Indonesian, each letter has a particular pronunciation and do not change with different contexts. (There’s exception for the letter e, which has two different pronunciations.)
One aspect that you might find more challenging in Indonesian pronunciation is how they roll their tongue when pronouncing ‘r’. This might take a bit of time and practice.
3. Grammar is simple
Grammar is relatively simple. The sentence structure of Subject- Verb- Object is familiar to English speakers. Moreover, there are no tenses in Indonesian words. In English the verb ‘eat’ can become ‘ate’ or ‘eaten’ depending on the tense, but in Indonesian the verbs do not have tenses.
Once you are immersed in Indonesian society, you will also find that in spoken Indonesian, grammar and sentence structure is flexible.
4. Many adopted words from English
Indonesian is a language which has many foreign influences from Indian languages, Dutch, Arabic, Chinese, and most obviously, English. Even if you’ve never learnt Indonesian, when you listen to an Indonesian conversation, you will find many words sounding familiar.
So, Indonesian is not a difficult language to start learning, the sooner the better! You can start the learning journey by joining us at our udemy course of beginner Indonesian (to be launched in October 2018).
If you have already started learning the language, let us know in the comments below whether you agree with us or not, and what the difficulties of learning Indonesian are.
Before you visit Indonesia, it is a good idea to know the standard etiquette in Indonesia. While it won’t be entirely different, there are some etiquettes and norms which are different from the west. By familiarizing yourself with these, you can avoid unnecessary miscommunication and make better impression with the locals!
Indonesians in general are very friendly and they are very generous with greetings. You can say ‘Halo’ or ‘Hai’ to greet people in Indonesia, however it is more common to say ‘Selamat pagi/ siang/ sore’, depending on the time of day.
‘Selamat’ is a very common word you will find in many of Indonesian greetings. By itself it means safe. Here are a list of common daily greetings and special occasion greetings.
Left-hand vs Right-hand
In Indonesia, as with several other Southeast Asian countries, the right hand is considered superior to the left hand. It’s considered rude to pass things using the left hand because the left hand is used for personal hygiene, that is, using the toilet paper. So, always use the right hand when passing things to others.
In some situations when it is more convenient to use left hand they would apologize while doing it “Maaf/ Permisi, pakai tangan kiri.”, which means, “Sorry/ Excuse me, I’m using my left hand.” In the case of giving gifts, you should use both hands.
In the past, left-handedness has been discouraged amongst children. Usually left-handed children are encouraged and trained to use their right hand, especially when passing things and eating.
Indonesians are very careful when using pronouns, especially ones that refer to other people such as ‘kamu’ (you), and ‘dia’ (he/she). ‘Kamu’ can only be used when talking to someone inferior than you or has similar social standing and has close relationship with you, for example your children and your friends. You definitely cannot use ‘kamu’ when talking to your boss, your teacher, or your parents. ‘Anda’ is another word for ‘you’, but it is very formal and distant, so it is not appropriate to use with your boss, teacher, or parents either.
You might ask, so how do you say ‘you’ to your parents then? Well, you need to replace the pronoun ‘you’ with the person’s title, most commonly ‘Bapak/ Pak’, or ‘Ibu/ Bu’.Teacher to student: Kamu sudah makan?/ Sudah makan?
Also, adding the person’s title after the end of sentence also has the effect of making the sentence softer and more polite. For example, “terima kasih pak” (thank you sir) is more polite than just plain ‘terima kasih’ (thank you).
Now in the Indonesian modern urban household it is more common to eat using fork and spoon. Spoon on the right, and fork on the left hand. However, traditionally Indonesians eat with their right hand. It is not acceptable to eat from the left hand.
In Indonesian culture, when someone is about to start eating, they would say to the people surrounding them “Mari makan.” or “Makan, bu/pak.” While it literally means “Let’s eat.”, usually it doesn’t mean that the person is inviting you to eat. It is usually a mere gesture of politeness to say “Excuse me, I’m going to start eating”.
If someone says “Mari makan” to you, what you can say in reply is, “Ya bu/ pak” (Yes mam/ sir) or “Silahkan bu/ pak” (Please do mam/ sir). This is merely gesture of politeness.
Women in Indonesia are expected to dress modestly. The more conservative Muslim women would wear headcover (hijab) with long sleeves and long pants or skirt so that only the face, hand and feet are seen. However non-Muslims are expected to dress modestly in public as well. Skimpy clothing such as sleeveless tops and mini shorts or skirts, or low necklines are not commonly seen. While it is not prohibited to wear them, you can be sure that you will attract many gazes.
Ironically though, they seem to have no problem in displaying large advertisements of scantily clothed women in most malls and shopping places.
While in western countries it is still acceptable for male and female to give friendly hugs, in Indonesia it is not the case. Usually handshake between genders are still acceptable although you need to be more careful in more conservative communities.
The Indonesian handshake is slightly different. Firstly, the grip is usually not as tight as the western handshake. When children greet adults, the child would take the adult’s hand and touch his/ her forehead with the back of the person’s hand. This is a show of respect.
The Indonesian kiss is a brush between cheeks, usually they do it twice, the right cheek and then the left. This kiss is just done between women and not men.
As Indonesia is a country with many ethnic groups and religions, it is very important to be careful when talking about these issues. While in general there is a high tolerance between Indonesians, tensions because of religion or race issues can easily be aroused and have in the past caused terrible conflicts. A common conversation starter that people always use usually revolves around food and the traffic, especially if you’re in Jakarta!
Smile and Be Friendly!
Having all said these, don’t let these do’s and don’ts deter you from interacting with the locals. Being a foreigner means you are entitled to more leniency regarding these social rules. They will likely understand if you are not familiar with some of their cultural etiquettes and make minor mistakes without the intention to offend them.
Furthermore, Indonesian people are generally very friendly and like to smile. So, while keeping these etiquettes in mind, put your best smile and enjoy your interaction with the locals.