Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Indonesian (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Indonesian (or Bahasa Indonesia as it’s also known) gives you access to the world of over 160 million speakers across South-East Asia. Among them, only 23 million speak it as their mother tongue, but for the other 140 million Bahasa Indonesia is the lingua franca of the entire archipelago.
Indonesian is a standardized form of Malay, one of the most widely-spoken languages in the Austronesian language family. When Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands in 1945, Malay was chosen as the official language. The country itself is spread across thousands of islands and hundreds of different languages. Standardized Malay, redubbed Bahasa Indonesia, ties the archipelago nation together.
There is basically no cross-over between English and Indonesian in terms of vocabulary or grammar, but the language is still relatively easy to pick up. With a small vocabulary and simple spelling, Bahasa Indonesia may be the easiest non-Indo-European language for a native English speaker to master.
Indonesian is the most widely spoken Austronesian language. Understanding it will give you a head start if you want to also learn any of the other languages spoken in South-East Asia and Oceania, like Tagalog, Maori or Hawaiian. Because Indonesian uses the same alphabet as English, it’s a good place to start if you want to become acquainted with the dominant language family of the Pacific islands.
With Babbel, you can learn Indonesian without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
We add courses on a regular basis, so the opportunities to learn and improve are always growing. And if you own an iPhone, Android, or Windows 8 phone the key to speaking Indonesian is already in your pocket.
Having a little Indonesian in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As the lingua franca of the world’s fourth most populous nation, knowing some Indonesian can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in that region of the world. Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest economy and a rapidly developing industrial nation. Trade between the U.S. and Indonesia totals in the billions every year. Because so few non-Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesia learning the language can give you a rare skill and make you an in-demand specialist.
Traveling – Java, Borneo, Bali and the 13,463 other islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago offer the textbook definition of vacation getaway. In terms of both the natural environment and culture, Indonesia is one of the most diverse places on earth. White sands beaches, coral reefs, emerald seas, tropical rainforests and volcanoes draw millions of divers, surfers and hikers every year. The 300 unique cultures that call Indonesia home offer a staggering range of wonders to experience, from temples to festivals to really good cuisine. When you can speak Indonesian the country opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never even guess.
Living Abroad – When you speak Indonesian well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in Indonesia can become tempting. The capital city, Jakarta, offers opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad and professionals looking for new opportunities in a vibrant and rapidly-growing economy, while quieter corners of the archipelago are tempting destinations for retirees in search of low prices and warm climates.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Indonesian as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Indonesian Culture, Unfiltered – Indonesia is home to a fascinating combination of cultures from two continents and hundreds of indigenous traditions, sometimes existing side-by-side, but just as often mixed into some new hybrid. Whether you want to get into Gamelan and Kroncong music, understand the stories told in Wayang shadow puppet theater, study the martial arts Pencak Silat or Tarung Derajat, or learn how to really cook rendang, speaking Indonesian will let you participate more directly. Knowing the language will also give you unfiltered access to Indonesian literature and cinema. And if you have Indonesian roots, learning the language will help you to illuminate your heritage.
Ways to Learn Indonesian
Although Indonesian isn’t a widely-studied language in the United States there are still many ways to learn it:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned a language this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap; you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
Online Indonesian Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that don’t require buying a new module.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there ways to learn Indonesian for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Indonesian for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Indonesian and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in Indonesia. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Indonesian vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming Indonesian radio and TV online, watching Indonesian movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Indonesian grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to start learning the language. Books could get you reading Indonesian after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Indonesian for free on the web. From Indonesian grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Indonesian online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Indonesian with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Indonesian, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Indonesian program:
Cover all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. Your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices – so you can learn anytime, anywhere.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons, so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Indonesian with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager, where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not to continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try a free Indonesian lesson with Babbel and see for yourself just how enjoyable learning can be.