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If you have always wanted to learn Indonesian, you’re nowhere near alone; tens of thousands of people study the language every day around the world. And it’s no wonder! Indonesian is a language that captures a rich culture and history. The language can take you all around the beautiful archipelago of Indonesia and elsewhere in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.
But you might have a lot of questions about why you should learn Indonesian or what it takes to get started — or why it’s even worthwhile at all. The good news is you can rest assured that learning the Indonesian language is an effort worth undertaking. With the right tools and technology to guide you in your journey, you’ll see your efforts pay off in so many ways.
Why Learn Indonesian?
Learning any new tongue is a challenge that can open up your mind to new perspectives and help you connect with all types of people across boundaries of land and language. When it comes to learning Indonesian, these reasons are especially true.
To start, if you know the Indonesian language, you open yourself up to a whole population of Indonesian speakers. There are an estimated 42 million people on Earth who speak Indonesian as a first language, but if you count the number outside of that who use the language to some degree, you’ll find almost 200 million speakers!
Almost all of the world’s Indonesian speakers are concentrated in — you guessed it — Indonesia. It’s the only country on Earth where Indonesian is the official language, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find other speakers scattered throughout pockets of Southeast Asia, in places like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. There are even some tens of thousands of speakers in the Netherlands, a reflection of the two countries’ interwoven historical narratives.
That’s right; you might not know that Indonesian is tied up with a complex legacy, one of colonization and a united national identity.
Old Malay was the language used centuries ago to facilitate inter-island trading, and when Dutch colonizers arrived in the 1600s, their attempts to force the native population to use Dutch were largely unsuccessful. In the aftermath of World War II, when the nation established its independence, Indonesian was formalized as the country’s lingua franca, a rebellion against the foreign colonizers and a symbol of national unity.
Today, the Indonesian language, also known as Bahasa Indonesia, is the standardized version of Malay, a language which captures a wide range of dialects and variations across the country. That means almost everyone living in Indonesia speaks it to some degree, making the archipelago one of the world’s only to establish an indigenous national language that actually took root and today sees major usage countrywide. Learning Indonesian gives you a window into history!
You might want to learn Indonesian for its links to other world languages. Indonesian, an Austronesian language, is closely related to all of the other languages in the same family, like Māori, Samoan, Hawaiian and Tagalog.
Native speakers of English will be relieved to learn that Indonesian is considered one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn because of Indonesian’s relatively simple grammar and vocabulary and its use of the Latin alphabet, unlike many other Asian languages.
Whether it helps you master other Austronesian languages faster, connect with millions of speakers in Southeast Asia or immerse yourself in a rich history, there’s no doubt that learning Indonesian is worth the effort.
Benefits Of Learning Indonesian
Picking up a new skill can help you express your creativity, stimulate your mind, and discover new sides of yourself along the way. Learning a new language like Indonesian is no exception! Here are just a few of the many ways you can make a positive impact on your life if you learn Indonesian.
Learn Indonesian For Travel — When the spirit of adventure strikes, don’t let language barriers hold you back. When you have Indonesian in your back pocket, you have a passport to many new corners of the world. Learning Indonesian not only means you’ll be able to navigate new cities by reading road signs, menus, and train tickets; it also lets you connect with the new people you meet there. It’s often said that the best way to explore a new place is through the eyes of a local, and learning Indonesian lets you branch out of tourist hotspots and into the real world as the native speakers see it. Whether it’s the busy streets of Jakarta or the beaches of Bali, you’ll be more equipped to venture off the beaten path and explore all the Indonesian-speaking world has to offer when you have Indonesian in your linguistic repertoire.
Live The Indonesian Language Abroad — Whether you’re looking to enroll at a foreign university and have a more alternative college experience, find a job at a hostel that lets you hit the tourist hotspots by day and work at night, or retire in a place with a slower pace of life, living abroad is hands down the best hands-on approach to getting the most immersive language experience possible. By placing yourself in an environment where you’re obligated to speak Indonesian, you’ll fast-track your journey to fluency. Your life can take on new twists and turns when you move to an unfamiliar place, and there’s so much of the Indonesian-speaking world to explore. When you learn Indonesian, you open up a gateway to a robust, colorful, and novel life adventure!
Build Your Business Indonesian Skills — Today the world is more connected economically than ever before. The sweeping tides of globalization mean that companies and organizations today are operating across international borders and boundaries. If you’re a professional looking for ways to stay competitive and current in the global market, learning Indonesian is a no-brainer for success. Southeast Asia is an emerging market full of opportunity for businesses. Learning the Indonesian language is a fantastic way to connect with colleagues in other countries, score new clients, build strong relationships with Indonesian-speaking partners and investors, and to show off the multicultural, international, and inclusive nature of your brand.
Use Language To Train Your Brain — Building any new skill is a surefire way to expand your intellectual horizons. Learning Indonesian is an especially sound way to keep your brain flexible and nimble, especially as you grow older. Picking up a new language involves making connections between words and what they represent, taking apart and putting together grammatical structures, spontaneously speaking and thinking on your feet, sticking with a challenge when it’s frustrating and confusing, and a whole lot of active listening. There are few better ways to exercise your mental muscles than by learning Indonesian.
Immerse Yourself In Indonesian Culture, Unfiltered — Learning Indonesian opens you up not only to a better understanding of the language itself but also of the arts and culture of the world that speaks it. To read the literature of decorated Indonesian-speaking writers like Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dewi “Dee” Lestari and Andrea Hirata is to engage with the language in some of its most beautiful and colorful expressions. Through the lens of Indonesian you get a more active immersion in more contemporary Indonesian-language media like podcasts, radio shows, audiobooks, and TV shows. The stories and recipes of world-renowned culinary creations like nasi goreng and beef rendang*, the dialogue of famous Indonesian films, and the lyrics of classic Indonesian gamelan and kroncong music all become accessible to you when you learn the Indonesian language. And if you’re from a family with Indonesian-speaking elders and ancestors but you don’t know the language yourself, learning Indonesian is an excellent way to connect with your heritage.
Learn Indonesian Basics: Indonesian Lesson For Beginners
Learning Indonesian Pronunciation, The Indonesian Alphabet And Indonesian Accents
Luckily for English speakers, Indonesian is a very phonetic language, meaning words are pronounced pretty much how they’re spelled. And unlike most Asian languages, Indonesian uses the Latin alphabet, meaning there aren’t any new letters, symbols or characters for English speakers to learn.
Because Indonesian is a standardized form of many dialects, there are often multiple ways to pronounce the same words, so there’s often not one “perfect” pronunciation or Indonesian accent.
Don’t worry if you can’t master sounding like a native Indonesian speaker right away; it takes time and practice! The best way to remember these rules is just to practice over and over, especially by reading texts out loud. Watching Indonesian TV and movies or listening to Indonesian-language podcasts, radio and film can certainly help you master Indonesian pronunciation.
Though there isn’t much overlap between English words and Indonesian words, learning Indonesian vocabulary isn’t as hard as you might think. It takes time and practice, of course, but because Indonesian has a pretty simple lexicon, you’re not going to be overwhelmed with the task of learning thousands and thousands of unfamiliar terms.
Indonesian is a language that has borrowed many words from other languages, too, like English, Dutch, Arabic and Sanskrit. You might recognize some of these words of English origin right off the bat, like gosip, stroberi and elektronik.
The Indonesian language is known for having a relatively simple grammar, which makes learning it more stress-free than learning a language like German, for example, which has three grammatical genders and a system of case marking that can be a nightmare for beginner learners.
There’s no case marking system in Indonesian, which is a welcome relief for many language learners. So the first-person singular pronouns “I” and “me” are actually no different from one another in Indonesian. And you won’t find complex verb conjugations and verb tenses in Indonesian, either.
For the most part, Indonesian doesn’t differentiate between or among grammatical genders, so there’s no masculine or feminine categorization of nouns that is common in many of the world’s languages. That means that nouns don’t have an inherent gender classification, which is the same as in English. But Indonesian goes a step further, removing gender categorization from pronouns, too. That means the words for “he” and “she” aren’t distinguishable from each other! Pronouns in Indonesian can be a little tricky, however, because there are so many — in most cases there are both formal and informal variations of a single pronoun — but you’ll get the hang of them with a little practice!
Indonesian uses a pretty similar syntax, or sentence structure and word order, to English, so it can be pretty straightforward to translate an Indonesian sentence into English word for word.
All of these elements make learning Indonesian grammar a fairly smooth process compared to that of other world languages!
Basic Indonesian Phrases And Indonesian Greetings
To speak like a native Indonesian speaker, there are certain must-know Indonesian phrases and expressions that will help you navigate your way through a conversation.
The best place to start, of course, is with “hello”! There are many common greetings in Indonesian to choose from, the most popular of which is Halo!, used casually with friends and relatives. To be a bit more formal and time-sensitive, you can also choose among Selamat pagi! (“good morning”) if it’s before noon, Selamat siang! or Selamat sore! (“good day” or “good afternoon”) between about noon and 6pm, and if it’s later, Selamat malam! (“good evening” or “good night”).
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’ll want to talk about who you are. To say your name, you can say Nama saya X (“My name is X”). You can also say Saya X, or “I am X.” To find out other people’s names, you can ask Siapa namamu? (“What is your name?”).
To say goodbye in Indonesian, a classic go-to is Sampai jumpa!, a shortened form of Sampai jumpa lagi! (“Until we meet again!”). There are plenty of other great options like the casual Sampai nanti! (“See you soon!”) or even the anglicism Bye!, sometimes spelled Bai!.
There are many other useful conversational Indonesian words, phrases and expressions you’ll get to know as you learn Indonesian, from terima kasih (“thank you”) and permisi (“excuse me”) to Di mana X? (“Where is X?”), Apa kabar? (“How are you?” or “How’s it going?”) and Saya tidak mengerti, or “I don’t understand.”
When you learn these Indonesian phrases and hundreds more like them, you’ll be better able to communicate with native Indonesian speakers with ease.
Ways To Learn Indonesian
There is no right answer when it comes to how to learn Indonesian — or any new language. With so many options for your language journey, it’s no surprise that choosing a learning style or method can be overwhelming!
Of the millions of people who speak and study Indonesian as a non-native language, you’ll find folks who have used all sorts of resources to learn the language, some free, some fairly cheap, and some more of a financial investment. There’s no right combination, and it’s up to you to decide which methods work best for you to learn Indonesian.
What's The Quickest And Easiest Way To Learn Indonesian?
You’ll find that the fastest and easiest way to learn Indonesian is the way that offers you the least amount of friction — so if you can’t stand shuffling through textbook pages or you get bored flipping Indonesian flashcards, you might want to stick to a method that’s more exciting or engaging. Knowing yourself is key to success. Here are just a few of the ways to learn Indonesian quickly:
in a classroom setting or with one-on-one instruction from an Indonesian teacher or tutor
with paid or free online Indonesian courses, classes, software or apps
with Indonesian media resources like podcasts, playlists, books, movies and TV shows
Learning Indonesian In The Classroom
Indonesian is studied in many school systems and universities around the world. Indonesian classroom learning is the most popular option for learners in grade school or university settings. It allows more intensive, regular study with feedback from teachers who know the Indonesian language and can correct mistakes as they happen and teach content in an interactive way. Depending on how large a class is and how engaged the teacher is, learning in a classroom might be a less personalized experience, but having other students to talk to and practice with is a valuable resource for a learner of any language.
Though full-time students make up a large proportion of Indonesian classroom learners, plenty of adults enroll in Indonesian classes, too. Many cities and communities offer free or fairly cheap language classes, and you’ll be very likely to find them in popular languages like Indonesian. Though a full-time job might limit your schedule, a commitment to a once- or twice-weekly Indonesian class after work or on the weekends can really improve your Indonesian language skills in a measurable way.
Learning Indonesian With An Indonesian Tutor
Private Indonesian tutoring offers a more tailored learning experience than traditional classroom learning with many of the advantages. Having a skilled Indonesian tutor at hand who can help you perfect your pronunciation and work with you closely on the aspects of Indonesian that cause you trouble is a great way to improve your skills fast — without a teacher needing to split time and attention among multiple students. And Indonesian tutoring doesn’t have to be inconvenient at all; many sessions can and do take place over video call instead of in person.
But the often steep costs of such individualized instruction can be a barrier to many learners. Well trained master Indonesian tutors often charge high hourly rates for their lessons, so finding a top-quality, budget-friendly option can be challenging.
Software and Online Indonesian Courses
There are many top-notch, expert-designed online Indonesian courses and programs that run from reasonably priced to very expensive. They allow you to learn Indonesian on your own time and are often more interactive and engaging than many free courses and resources. Plus, many of the best products out there are constantly updated with new, fresh material, so you can get the most relevant Indonesian learning experience available.
Can You Learn Indonesian For Free?
All of the above options have one thing in common: they cost money. For those learners who want to be more conscious of their budgets or are okay with spending more time finding and working with more cost-effective content, there are still plenty of options to learn Indonesian for free or for cheap!
Free Online Indonesian Courses And Apps For Learning Indonesian
There’s no shortage of free Indonesian courses, apps and content you can find on the web and on your phone. From Indonesian grammar wikis to online forums and Indonesian classes, you’re sure to find hundreds of options that might do the trick. Some of them are better than others in the ways they’re organized and how thoroughly they explain new concepts, so take them with a grain of salt.
Be aware that the tradeoff of a free product is that it usually sacrifices quality. Much of the content that’s in free apps or that’s scattered around the web comes from user-generated translations that are rarely verified and are often inconsistent or riddled with errors. These lessons often focus on writing and reading without much of a way to improve listening and speaking skills. And be wary that free interactive Indonesian lessons like these can often be basic, poorly designed, messy, rigid, and just downright boring — not to mention littered with ads.
That’s not to say these Indonesian resources can’t be helpful! But it’s important to know how and where to fill in the gaps in your language learning journey when certain content isn’t enough.
Learning Indonesian With Native Indonesian Speakers
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who speak different native languages meet up to help each other learn, swapping roles as teacher and student. For example, if you spend one hour teaching a friend who’s a native Indonesian speaker something about English, he or she would then spend the next hour teaching Indonesian to you. This is an effective method when both people are able to commit significant time and thought to the partnership, but keep in mind that not everyone is a good teacher. Explaining why your native language works the way it does is often easier said than done; you might understand English grammar subconsciously and use it flawlessly all the time but not be able to explain to an Indonesian person or Indonesian speaker the rules that govern how you’re supposed to use that grammar.
Immersion Indonesian Learning
Indonesian immersion programs or some form of immersive Indonesian language travel are definitely the most extreme and intensive ways to learn a new language, and they’re not for everyone. (They’re also not technically free if you count airfare to a new place and all the costs of living associated with wherever you go.) But without a doubt, immersing yourself in a new culture and a place that doesn’t speak your language and surrounding yourself with native Indonesian speakers will force you to make rapid progress in Indonesian or another target language as you struggle to communicate and understand those around you.
Of course, you’ll want to start with at least a little foundation in a new language before picking up your life and plunging yourself into a completely foreign locale. Using resources like Babbel, language textbooks and Indonesian classes, and practice with Indonesian native speakers can all help you prepare before you make a big transition through Indonesian immersion.
Useful Indonesian Media To Learn Indonesian For Free Or Cheap
When you don’t have access to Indonesian classes and teachers or even native Indonesian speakers, there are still plenty of Indonesian media resources to help you get on your way to fluency in Indonesian. Most of them can be accessed for free online or from a library or found for very cheap — or even through a subscription for a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify you’re likely already paying for!
Books To Learn Indonesian
If you like to read, you’ll find that literature written in Indonesian can help you master the Indonesian language. There are plenty of Indonesian books and stories that make great learning resources for beginner, intermediate and advanced Indonesian learners, from children’s fairytale stories like Keong Mas, perfect for introductory learners, to longer, more substantive reads like the famed historical fiction novel Bumi Manusia (“This Earth of Mankind”).
Using books to learn Indonesian is a great way to sharpen your reading skills and to understand how the Indonesian language is used in a whole wide range of contexts, from historical fiction to fairy tales to personal essays to collections of short stories to nonfiction and everything in between. Reading books in Indonesian helps you move at your own pace, and you can stop to consult an Indonesian dictionary if you need extra help along the way. Keeping a language journal of unfamiliar Indonesian words and expressions helps you build your vocabulary. Plus, you can get some extra speaking and Indonesian pronunciation practice by reading the book aloud.
Learning Indonesian With Audio Lessons, Indonesian Songs And Indonesian Podcasts
There are many online Indonesian audio lessons you can find that can teach you the basics of Indonesian vocabulary and grammar without needing to look at a page or a screen. Indonesian audio lessons are great for multitasking; you can listen to them in the car or in the background of another activity, like commuting to work, cooking dinner or taking a walk in your neighborhood.
Similarly, Indonesian podcasts and Indonesian audiobooks are a great way to learn passively while you do something else that requires your visual attention. Luckily, there are lots of audio resources to pick from, and many of them are free. Indonesian podcasts like Learning Indonesian are great for beginners and cover a wide range of introductory grammar and vocabulary, and others like Bule Belajar Bahasa are more suitable for intermediate learners while still maintaining a fun, conversational tone.
And listening to Indonesian songs can be a great learning method, too. With songs, a chorus or group of lyrics is often repeated more than once, giving you plenty of opportunities to hear lyrics over and over. You can find many playlists of Indonesian songs on Spotify that are often organized by proficiency level, too, from beginner playlists to more advanced ones.
It’s important to keep in mind that to really master a language, you’ve got to do more than just listening to it; you’ll probably want to supplement audio with ways to practice writing, reading, and speaking Indonesian, too.
Learning With Indonesian TV Shows And Indonesian Movies
Watching Indonesian movies and Indonesian TV shows is an excellent way to connect with the Indonesian language in a fun, dramatized and engaging format. You can find good Indonesian-language content of all different genres and for all learning proficiency levels on streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime.
When you’re watching, you can choose to display subtitles in Indonesian for some extra reading practice. Try to avoid watching media dubbed in your native language, as you won’t end up hearing any Indonesian! If the dialogue is too fast, you can pause what you’re watching to give yourself a chance to process what you’re hearing and look up and write down unfamiliar words. And when you use movies and TV series to learn Indonesian, don’t be afraid to break them up into chunks to give your brain some rest.
Learning Indonesian With Babbel
The goal of learning any language is to have real-life conversations with native speakers. So a language learning app should be designed to get you to that goal in the best way possible. It’s important to dedicate the time and effort to practicing with discipline, but outside of your own personal commitment, you’ve got to have technology that knows how to help you most effectively along the way.
Luckily, Babbel is designed by a team of language experts, educators, and designers who know all about what it takes to get the most out of learning a new language — so you are guaranteed a top-quality Indonesian learning journey that’s capable, engaging, and yes, even fun.
Here are the key ways Babbel Indonesian lessons are crafted to get you having real-life conversations in Indonesian with confidence, and all for less cost per month than your morning coffee.
The Full Spectrum Of Language Learning
Learning a foreign language is an endeavor of many dimensions. It takes a lot of skills and patience to learn how to start speaking on the spot, to write a text to a friend, or to translate dialogue you hear from a TV show in your target language.
We know how to make these elements work together to your advantage. Babbel’s lessons are interactive and cover all the aspects of learning Indonesian — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — with multimedia Indonesian content to train your ears and eyes. Our speech recognition feature even helps you hone your Indonesian pronunciation, too.
Indonesian Learning On Your Terms
One of the best parts of learning with Babbel is being able to fit lessons in seamlessly when you want them and where you want them. Our bite-size lessons take roughly between 10 and 20 minutes to complete and can be squeezed into your already busy schedule, whether you’re on your commute or waiting for a pot of water to boil as you cook dinner.
With Babbel, you can pick and choose the topics and themes that are most relevant to you. Taking a trip soon? Brush up on the Indonesian you’ll need for travel and navigating new places. Need to sharpen your Indonesian for an upcoming business meeting? Our Indonesian language courses have you covered.
The iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. And your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices — so you can learn Indonesian anytime, anywhere.
Learn Indonesian — And Make Sure It Sticks
What good is committing to learning a foreign language if you’ll forget it before you even have a chance to use it? That’s why your personalized Babbel Review feature is optimized to help you retain the information you’re learning.
It takes advantage of the concept of microlearning, or bringing back information in short bursts to help you hold on to it better. You can practice writing, listening to, and speaking the Indonesian phrases, terms and expressions you’ve learned in your earlier lessons to lock them into your brain.
For Indonesian Learning, Try Babbel
We’re committed to making sure you get the most out of learning Indonesian. We offer a free first lesson in every language so you can get a feel for if Babbel works for you. And if you don’t like it, we have a 20-day money-back guarantee — no questions asked.
Try a free Indonesian lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking Indonesian with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!