If you’d like to learn an Asian language spoken by more than 200 million people but are put off by the complexities of Chinese or Japanese, then Bahasa Indonesian, the official language of Indonesia, may be the answer. Even a basic knowledge of Indonesian will greatly enrich your visit to this vast tropical archipelago of more than 16,000 islands, including Bali. Very few Indonesians outside the main cities speak English.
Part of the language’s attraction for foreigners is its simplicity—it only takes a couple of weeks or so to learn the basics necessary for essential communication. Indonesian is written in Latin script. It is also highly phonetic; the pronunciation of words is exactly as they are written. The basic word order, like many languages, is subject-verb-object.
Reflecting the influence of colonization, the Indonesian language contains many words from Dutch—and some from Portuguese. With around 90 percent of the country’s citizens following the religion of Islam, Bahasa Indonesia has also adopted many Arabic words. And because of the country’s rapid economic development, it is now absorbing English words at a tremendous rate.
The best way to learn, of course, is by visiting Indonesia, where you will have every opportunity to practice with the locals, who are well known for their friendly and polite manner.
Bahasa Indonesia can also be learned at some language schools in Jakarta.
The Indonesia Australia Language Foundation (IALF) runs courses in Bahasa Indonesia for expatriates living in Indonesia as well as for visitors to Indonesia who wish to study the language and culture. Students may choose to study in Jakarta, Surabaya or Denpasar, Bali. For more information see IALF’s website, www.ialf.edu.