When Westerners begin to search for a second language to master, it is perhaps fair to assume that Indonesian may not be the most obvious choice. On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that speaking Indonesian is an extremely useful skill.
Perhaps one of the main reasons that more people do not consider the language when making their choice is that the range of dialects spoken in Indonesia can appear confusing at first glance. What is referred to as Indonesian in the Western world is typically what is known as Bahasa Indonesia. A close linguistic relative of Malay, it has become a unifying language across Indonesia, and is spoken by a large majority of the country’s 238 million people. Whilst only 23 million of those are native speakers, most of those people who speak other dialects such as Javanese or Sundanese are fluent in Bahasa as a second language. When this background is understood, the benefits of speaking Bahasa rapidly become clear.
As the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia is increasingly attracting both commercial and tourist attention. The advantages of learning Bahasa for anyone in the business world should be obvious. Given the relative rarity of fluent Western speakers of the language, anyone who is able to converse with Indonesians on their own terms will experience a significant commercial advantage. Tourists will also benefit from speaking Indonesian, even if their understanding is limited to a few phrases. In common with people anywhere in the world, Indonesians respond well to those who have taken the time to understand their culture, and a tourist’s experience is likely to be enhanced by being able to enter into a real dialogue with local people.
Crucially, for those seeking to learn Bahasa, the language is widely recognised as one of the easiest to master in the world. With no tenses and simple word formation, the basic grammar and vocabulary is simple to pick up. What is more, due to its close relation to Malay, those who learn Indonesian are essentially learning two languages for the price of one. Bahasa is a form of Malay which was standardised in 1945 and adopted in the constitution of the newly independent Indonesia, and it has always been open to the many linguistic traditions of the country. As a result, it has adopted words from many of the other Indonesian dialects, as well as Dutch, Arabic and English.
Of course, the best method for learning a language is always to find a native speaker who is able to give one-on-one tuition, and is trained in language teaching. This may not be easy, however, and those who want to be speaking Indonesian quickly may wish to search the various online language sites for courses. One such site is Babbel, which provides intuitive and fun techniques for learning new languages. Such websites have the advantage of being able to draw on the interactive possibilities of online learning, and can be an excellent way to master a new language quickly and cheaply.