How to speak Indonesian like a native

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Why it’s time to learn Indonesian

Indonesian is a fascinating language, and spans hundreds of dialects when local variations are taken into account. It isn’t actually impossible to learn, though – and you don’t need to know all the dialects to get by. When we refer to the language in the Western world, we are talking about Bahasa Indonesian, which is a close relation to Malay in linguistic terms and spoken by most of Indonesia’s 238 million inhabitants. Even locals who speak Sundanese or Javanese as their first language will typically speak Bahasa Indonesia as their second language, and 23 million speak it as their first. This is the form you should tackle, and there are plenty of reasons to do so.

Four reasons to learn Indonesian

1. Tourism and business benefits

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and is becoming a major destination for tourism and business. Because there are only a few Westerners with Indonesian language abilities, if you can speak Indoesian even to a basic level, you will instantly be at an advantage in terms of doing business or finding work. Tourists will also find that the locals instantly respond better to travellers who have taken the time to learn some local phrases and to respect their culture. You’ll find that your budding spoken Indonesian skills will translate into interesting conversations with local people and new opportunities, such as invites to that fantastic hidden little restaurant that only the locals know about..

2. Making new friends

The world is getting ever smaller, facilitated by the rise of digital business, social media and cultural exchanges. But unlike in much of the world, where English is a lingua franca, it’s far easier to make new friends in Indonesia if you can either speak the language or are prepared to learn it. From language conversation partners through to formal cultural exchanges, the opportunities really open up to you if you are prepared to learn how to speak Indonesian. Who knows where this exciting language will take you?

3. Ease of learning

One for the linguaphobes here. It may be surprising to know that Indonesian is actually one of the easiest languages to learn. Word formation is simple, there are no tenses and grammar and vocabulary is fast and easy to pick up. Also, because it is very similar to Malay, you basically learn two languages! If you are already working towards becoming a modern global Polyglot, you will probably also notice that it borrows many words from other languages too, such as English, Arabic and Dutch, reflecting its rich history and cultural diversity.

4. A sharper brain

Learn a new language and your brain will benefit, as researchers have found that this activity helps to stave off neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia and the overall effects of ageing. Tackle Indonesian and keep those little grey cells sharp and active as you take on a new challenge and fresh opportunities!

Beginner to fluent in Indonesian: learning with Babbel

For many of us, it simply isn’t practical, possible or affordable to find a one-on-one teacher for learning a language. As Indonesian isn’t widely spoken in the UK as a second language, tutors aren’t always close by. Similarly, Adult Education Classes, local college courses and summer schools typically will focus on European languages. Tutoring may be available online via Skype, but this isn’t always the best way to learn for most students and can take a while to organise.

A far better and quicker route to learning Indonesian the modern way is Babbel. It’s a trusted language app that has helped 5 million learners across the world to master at least a second language (many move to a third or fourth!), with 14 exciting modern languages available from a single, user-friendly interface. The beauty of Babbel is that it makes use of the finest academic research and cherry-picked learning methods to get students speaking their chosen language fast - and the flexible lessons are based around conversational practice, so you can go from beginner to advanced in no time at all with regular practice, a daily lesson or two and a good dose of motivation and commitment. With lessons that are tailored around your interests and objectives, it really is easy to learn how to speak Indonesian, whether your objective is to pick up some basic phrases to make conversation on a holiday, or to handle yourself professionally whilst on business in the country. Because it’s based on your phone, using Babbel means you can learn wherever and whenever you want to. Learn on the bus to work, whilst taking a coffee break or whilst enjoying a hearty bowl of Beef Rendang! In no time at all you’ll be able to tell the difference between your Sekoteng and Bajigur when perusing the tourist districts of Jakarta.

However you do decide to learn how to speak Indonesian, though, the most important thing to do is to completely immerse yourself in Indonesian and speak it to yourself every day. Commit to saying words, phrases and sentences out loud as soon as you learn them, practising your new skills and working on your phrasing. Name words of things that you see in Indonesian and quiz yourself on how you would say everyday things in the language as you go about your day. Your Babbel app is just in your pocket for when you need to check some vocabulary or find the answer to a query. Remember too to be consistent and devote at least 15 minutes a day to your new second language, gaining all of the benefits as you do. Remember, this commitment will pay off handsomely when it comes to new global opportunities; work, travel, new friends, better cultural understanding and a stronger position in a changing world.