One of the challenges for newcomers to Jakarta is learning the local language, Bahasa Indonesia. It is certainly well worth taking the trouble to learn at least a little of the language as it will make your stay in Indonesia more rewarding. English is the main foreign language taught in schools and, although most Indonesians have a basic understanding of English, their knowledge is likely to be passive and the standard of English is not very high outside of the tourism industry and the business world.
For a foreigner to speak the language, or even make an attempt, is widely appreciated in Indonesia and will greatly facilitate the process of making friends and learning about the culture. Fortunately it is a fairly simple language, without genders of nouns and tenses of verbs like many European languages, and it is certainly far less complicated than English! There are over five hundred different languages and dialects spoken in Indonesia which represent the many different ethnic groups found in the archipelago. The indigenous languages of Java are very different than those of Bali, which is also totally different from the language used in Lombok for example.
The concept of a national language, Bahasa Indonesia, first arose in 1928 when youth groups from around the country, at the time still a Dutch colony, held a national congress and pledged allegiance to one country, one nation and one language in order to promote unity among Indonesians. Bahasa Indonesia is a hybrid of other languages, based on Malay as the Malay language was used in the trade routes of Southeast Asia and therefore was already widely spoken in most of the region’s coastal areas. Many Dutch words as well as some Portuguese, Arabic and English can also be found in the official Bahasa Indonesia dictionary.
Bahasa Indonesia has served to unify the country, and is now the language spoken in government, the media, schools and the business community. It is very rare to find an Indonesian who does not speak this language in addition to his/her own regional language, unless among the very elderly. The word bahasa literally means language. It is not correct to talk about learning or speaking bahasa, but one should always specify which language bahasa Indonesia, bahasa Inggeris, etc. Initially, you may find it helpful to pick up a phrase book to begin to familiarize yourself with the language.Words and Phrases published by the American Women’s Association in Jakarta is a basic phrase book that helps expatriates living in Indonesia deal with everyday situations. Many types of Indonesian language courses are available in Jakarta, ranging from basic survival Indonesian to more advanced levels. These courses are taught to groups in schools and community centers, or privately in your home or office. Some recommended language courses are:
Australian College of English (ACE)
Kemang Traning Centre
Jl. Kemang Timur No. 90
Phone: 7179 2880
Indonesian Australia Language Foundation (IALF)
Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav. X-6 no. 8
hone: 521 3350
Indonesian Language Programs (ILP)
Jl. Panglima Polim IX No. 2
Phone: 722 0449, 722 2408
Jakarta International Community Center (JICC)
Jl. Kemang Dalam X No. E-6A, Kemang
Phone: 7179 2813, 719 2216
SIB School of Language Windsor Complex
Jl. Haji Namin No. 28, A1 Cipete Utara
Phone: 6888 8246, 0813 8559 0009
There are numerous private instructors available in Jakarta who charge a very reasonable rate to come to your home or office. It is best to find a private tutor through word of mouth someone who has been recommended by a friend or colleague. It is also a good idea to check community bulletin boards or your embassy for suggestions. Another popular way to learn the language quickly is to take an intensive course in Yogyakarta, such as those offered by:
Alam Bahasa Indonesia
Realia Indonesian Language Training
Provided by: Colliers International