Introduction & History of Bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa Indonesian is based on the Malay dialect, although the spelling and some words are quite similar Indonesian is pronounced with a Dutch pronunciation. It’s also a phonetic language, so what is written, is how it is pronounced. It is the official language of Indonesia, which is made up of over 17,508 islands, spread across 3 time zones, and the largest Muslim-majority nation. There are actually over 300 native languages spoken in Indonesia, while Bahasa Indonesia is only spoken by 7% of the total population, as a mother tongue. So for most Indonesians BI is actually a second language! And this is actually why Indonesian was adopted as the national language to bridge the gap and provide a language for trade and business as well as administration throughout the country. So you may learn Indonesian, but don’t be surprised if you learn some other words as well, according to where you learn the language. The locals seem to always have another language to test you with and use. Bahasa Indonesia is written with the Latin alphabet, and the lexicon is rich with borrowed vocabulary from many languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese. Many words are similar to English words and English words are also adopted. Sometimes if you don’t know the word the English word will be understood, if not the context will bridge the gap. The major ethnic-linguistic groups within Indonesia.
Indonesian Ethnic Groups Map
Indonesian Ethnic Groups

Employers of foreign workers to provide Bahasa Indonesia training and learning facilities.

A Presidential Regulation was quietly introduced the regulation number 20 of 2018, in article 23. This raised many questions and discussions about what this meant. Some said foreign workers (TKA) are required to speak Indonesian if they want to get a work permit. The Sydney Morning Herald reported “Buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia.”  While others argued this was not the law, and would seriously jeopardise foreign investment. There seems to be ongoing confusion about whether or not foreign workers need to learn Indonesian or not! We took some time to investigate and our conclusion was that there is now a compulsory requirement, for companies that employ foreigners (PKA) in Indonesia that they provide facilities and training for them, to learn Indonesian. So, as reported by Presidential spokesman Johan Budi, “there is no obligation for foreign workers working in Indonesia to be able to speak or understand Indonesian”.
Yang wajib itu adalah fasilitas pendidikannya dan pelatihannya.” kata Johan Budi.
So there you have it, so far! So if you need to utilise a great learning facility and skilled teachers, IEC Fatmawati (PT EMR Edukasi) would be happy to discuss your requirement’s, just give us a call.

Learning Bahasa Indonesia

So you want to learn Bahasa Indonesia, maybe because you have moved to the country and all setup but don’t feel at home, you feel alone and unable to communicate. Or you want to fit in and be more accepted at work, or it’s just easier to speak to the house staff and community. So how to go about this? Well there are many ways to do this, and we will explore some of the options below. Most Indonesians can speak conversational English and it is the language often used in business, tourism and academics, learning Bahasa Indonesia is important to help you communicate more effectively with the locals. The effort you put into learning will be highly appreciated by locals and could be very helpful when it comes to building personal and professional relationships with them. As you see above, although Bahasa Indonesia is the national language of the archipelago, and trying to learn the basics can seem daunting. There are many resources available both paid for and free, you don’t have to worry about spending tons of money in order to practice speaking their dialect. We also need to understand the purpose of our learning, is it for conversation, to understand culture and background (why don’t the Javanese say No!?) is it formal or informal and do we need to learn how to read and write as well as speak and listen? The course you take and the time required for you to get results will change according to the pathway you choose. So let’s see what some of the options are: –

Self-taught Bahasa Indonesia

RPL Initial Meeting
The engagement method is quite effective, although you may not get all the nuances of a language, it definitely can get you going. When you are sitting in a restaurant and you need to eat, communication will happen and you will figure out what each other wants! Its quite funny the waiter needs to sell and the customer wants to eat, so mutual target and goals, a little pointing and hand signs and all done! So positive attitude and trying closes the gap. And this is really important in learning a language, do not be afraid to try and learn and make mistakes. Keep trying and working at the language. So grab yourself a notebook, and start. Work with the people around you and practice. Instead of paying a private tutor to teach you, why not have people you know give you free lessons instead? In return, you can teach them the basic and most common phrases of your foreign language too. This could be your Indonesian friends and colleagues at work, your neighbours, or even your taxi driver. When they say I don’t speak English! Say “It’s ok! I want to learn Indonesian!” The more you practice the faster and better you will get. Beware though a lot of this practice will be informal Bahasa Gaul. At first you need to get the vocabulary and words, as well as the pronunciation, so most people buy books and reference materials. There are many books available and it’s always good to grab one or two to keep you up to date. There are many books available, grab a kindle and get an ebook off Amazon. Some of the books we can recommend include Complete Indonesian: A Teach Yourself Guide 2nd Edition by Christopher Byrnes (Author), Eva Nyimas (make sure you buy with the CD, they are needed with this book!)   Understanding Indonesian Grammar: A student’s reference and workbook1 January 2000 by James Neil Sneddon    

Online Learning

Online virtual picture
Online Education Courses
The Internet is an amazing treasure trove of resources. With a little time, patience and diligence, you can find suitable online courses and resources. However, it’s always free, most of the materials are only limited, as you have to pay a certain amount to have access to a premium course. Its is just a carrot to draw you in. However, this is a good way to start learning the most common phrases and greetings. Some of them even have lessons that are presented step-by-step.

Learning Indonesian

Learning Indonesian has a free audio lesson that teaches the basics. This is actually a very good basis and great for using like a podcast. You can also learn by joining Babbel, or Duolingo. These programs are great for getting a basic vocabulary and even getting to understand the prefixes and more complex words.

Duolingo – Upto Intermediate levels

Duolingo is a typical online application that you can have on your smart phone and tablet. You can also access it via computer browser. It works great and can help to get you started and understanding a good basic set of vocabulary. Pros:
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of material for beginners
  • Discussion streams can get you to engage in conversations online about the language you are learning.
  • Once you reach intermediate level, you’ll need to move on to something else.
  • Uses translation to teach your new language.
  • Lack of contact with a native speaker and a lack of feedback to quickly correct your mistakes.
  • Some of the content is not practical speech.
  • Computer audio voice rather than native speaker
Conclusion: Some people I’ve talked to have used Duolingo as their only source to learn a language and they are happy with the results. We feel Duolingo as more of a supplement to keep busy with your new language while in the car or commuting each day. After a couple of months of studying a language with Duolingo, I’m ready for something more challenging. This is typical of these online programs and resources.

Download materials on the web

With a single click on your PC, tons of materials are readily available for you to print or download. There are websites that teach basic Bahasa Indonesia and also provide these resources. That way, you can repeatedly practice studying wherever and whenever even if you don’t have access to the Internet.

Download an app or a Podcast

There are several apps where you can learn and study while on the go. This app in particular guarantees that you’ll be able to speak Bahasa Indonesia within 24 hours. Learning Indonesian also has an app where you can take up to 20 lessons for free in an audio format. So whether you’re commuting on your way to work or busy doing household chores, you’ll still be able to multitask.

Watch tutorial videos on YouTube

Ever since the advent of this video-sharing platform, never has it been easier to access tutorials on any kind of topic. There are several channels that teach the basics through a fun and easy video lesson. Plus, you can download these videos and watch them again anytime. Learn Indonesian with is a channel that you can subscribe to with various videos categorised into greetings, simple introductions, numbers and common phrases among many others.
“IndonesianPod101 uses native speakers (actually often linguistic graduates) for the videos which definitely puts this is a class on its own, the quality is great and the options for learning very superior.”

Watch movies and TV shows or listen to music in Bahasa Indonesia

Frequent exposure to the language helps you recall faster. It’s like how kids who enjoy watching Japanese or Korean anime sooner or later become fluent in it. Start with a movie or TV show incorporated into your learning routine. While watching, don’t be too dependent on the subtitles. Try remembering what each word or phrase means and slowly branch out to learning sentences. Regularly listening to songs in their dialect and looking up their translation also helps.

Formal Courses

The best solution is to get a course and start working with a teacher, this gives you interaction with a class and Any language is easier to recall when it’s often used or applied. You have to be actively speaking Bahasa Indonesia if you want to be fluent in it. Meet up in a class with other expats where you can constantly share what you have learned. The teacher can guide the class learning and make sure everyone achieves the learning outcomes or goals of the learning. Classes can be economical as the cost is spread across many students and there are multiple classes going on. Have an Indonesian friend or two join as well so they can assess your progress. Not only is this set up fun, you’ll also get to learn while bonding with new friends at the same time.

Tutors & customised learning

When looking to learn a new language, many people wonder about language software versus a private language tutor. So how does a private language tutor compare with all these different apps and online platforms? Pros:
  • You can tailor your vocabulary and phrases to your learning needs.
  • Your teacher can help you with grammar and syntax.
  • Your teacher can help you improve your pronunciation. Indonesian uses a thrilled “r” which has the mouth closer to a “d” position with an “r” sound. Germans and Spanish people of course have no problem with this.
  • Can be online or face to face. Online learning can cost a lot less, depending on where your tutor is based.
  • You can progress at your own pace that is right for you.
  • Get individual attention
  • Do your homework and only focus on the trouble areas?
  • Face to face private language learning can be expensive.
  • The quality of material depends on you and your teacher.


Go for a private teacher if & when you can afford to, especially if you have a high motivation level and a great need to learn the language. Plan you budget and set milestones for what you want to accomplish with your language learning to make the most of your money and time. Consider using material such as the upcoming Fluent Forever app to tailor your learning to what is relevant to you and to learn how to discover the intricacies of your new language from one simple sentence or concept. In addition, since you’re the one paying, make sure you direct your private language teacher to cover content and concepts that are interesting and relevant to you. So as you see the solutions you chose can make your learning easier and faster, I always remember the old saying from sales “in sales there are 3 things clients want; a fast delivery (or learning), a good quality or a good price; You can choose any 2, the other you will have to take what comes!
EMR Indonesia Address
EMR Indonesia Address