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Speaking the Language

Indonesia - Speaking the Language


Indonesia has over 725 ethnic languages spoken by a population of 240 million people. It is not uncommon to hear local Indonesians conversing in various dialects while going about their daily life. Nevertheless, all Indonesians are united through the main language, Bahasa Indonesia, which has been their national language since the early 1930s.

Today, every Indonesian-born citizen speaks their native language and Bahasa Indonesia fluently. The native language is taught to an individual until they are old enough to join a public school. Bahasa Indonesia is then introduced in public schools as a second compulsory language.

Most Indonesians are able to converse in English though not everyone will speak it fluently. Thus, it is important as a foreigner to learn the local language, Bahasa Indonesia. It helps break the ice and bridge the communication barrier you are likely to face with the locals. Moreover, there are other reasons why learning the Indonesian language is crucial.

Bahasa Indonesia not only dictates everyday conversation, it is also the main language used in education and local media. In addition, Bahasa Indonesia is the official language used for conducting commerce, especially in small-scale retail businesses. Fortunately, an expat can get along fine speaking English if they are working in a large corporation in Indonesia. It is when you leave the office doors to connect with the local community that language barrier becomes a more pronounced problem.

Another reason why an expat should learn the Indonesian language is because the Indonesian government is working on making it compulsory. Currently, learning Bahasa Indonesia is a requirement for foreign students and expats whose line of work requires them to interact with the local community. Therefore, if you are a journalist or surgeon on a work contract in Indonesia, the Indonesian government expects you to be fluent in the national language.

Your eloquence in both spoken and written Indonesian will be tested through a national examination conducted by the Indonesian government. These examinations are usually random and scores are awarded to gauge language proficiency. If the maximum score is 100, a score of 80/100 and above is considered a pass, while anything below 30/100 is a fail.

A fail does not mean you will be immediately deported to your home country. However, you will be sent back to study the national language and re-sit the test. Though there is no limit to the number of times you can take the language test, it can get quite costly to re-sit the exam if you fail several times. The Bahasa language test costs around $30 to $40 to sit.

Fortunately, there are many ways to learn the Indonesian language without having to pay for classroom sessions. Bahasa Indonesia is also an easy language to learn even for adults. Here are a few things you need to know about the spoken and written language of Indonesia.

The Indonesian language uses a pronunciation hierarchy similar to that of the Javanese language. This means that a single sentence can be spoken in several ways, through tonal variations, to suit different occasions or address different people. Secondly, while speaking the Indonesian language, you can never refer to the listener directly in second person (you) unless you know them personally. Instead, Indonesians find indirect ways to refer to the person who is the subject of a conversation.

Thirdly, there are no tenses while speaking Bahasa Indonesia. An Indonesian speaker will, however, use indicators like ‘yesterday' or ‘now' to help the listener know the time the action was happening. When you want to speak in the plural, you only need to add a quantifier to the main noun without changing anything else in the sentence.

Lastly, the Indonesian language follows the same sentence structure found in English of subject + verb + object agreement. Every written sentence in Bahasa Indonesia is spoken exactly as it is in a conversation without changing the structure.

Always remember that when speaking Bahasa Indonesia, you can never use tenses, reveal the gender of a person, and plurals only require a quantifier before the noun.

Ways to learn the Indonesian language as an expat

Bahasa Indonesia can be learnt as a taught subject in a classroom or through practice by communicating often with native speakers.

Online Programs

There are plenty of educational websites that provide classes for learning the Indonesian language. You can sign up for free lessons and download tutorials for offline studies. You can also join an e-learning program offered by institutions of higher learning to foreigners.

Exchange programs

For a student, an exchange program is a perfect opportunity to interact with local Indonesian language and culture. You can enroll for a course while studying in high school or in a university.

Private Tutors

Private tutors are an excellent resource for learning the Indonesian language. They will give you lessons at home and will help you learn at your own pace. However, private tutors can be quite expensive to hire and in many cases, you do not always get your money’s worth. Only use a tutor whose mastery of the Indonesian language is excelent; a referral would be a good place to start.

Official Indonesian Test

The TIBA (‘Tes Bahasa Indonesai Sebagai Bahasa Asing’) is the official national exam that tests proficiency in the Indonesia Bahasa language. This test will examine all areas of language including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. These examinations can also be offered to test one’s eloquence in the Indonesian language as a high school student, expat worker, or academic scholar.

Bahasa Indonesia is a language with an easy to follow diction even for expats. As a student, you can enroll for Indonesian language classes. As an adult expat, you can still learn Bahasa Indonesia through an online test, by hiring a private tutor, or by sitting for the national examinations to test your proficiency in the Indonesian language.

Language Schools in Indonesia

Cinta Bahasa Language School
Email: learn@cintabahasa.com
International: 0062 812 3916 5005
Mobile: +62 812 3916 5005
Local: 0812 3916 5005

Language Studies Indonesia
Telephone: Inside Indonesia: 0-800-1-Bahasa (224272)
Outside Indonesia: + 62-21. 2765 - 0454 (GMT + 7 Hours)

Indonesian Language School
Ph. +62 274 589631 or +62 274 543420 (also fax)


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