Indonesian Language Challenge

June 30, 2017 by

Let the summer language challenges begin!

This month I have taken on a language learning challenge that’s new territory for me. Yes, from the title, you know already that it’s a month of Indonesian language learning. So here I am in Bali and this is my teacher, Daniel from Cinta Bahasa language school.

My Indonesian teacher, Daniel

Why Indonesian? Why now?

I am a great believer in having concrete reasons and goals for learning language to ensure motivation throughout the process. For me the motivation and goals were clear. I was planning a trip to Bali and wanted to learn the local language to communicate with people. I had the dilemma of whether or not to take on Balinese and/or Indonesian. Yes, I am serious. It’s a weakness of mine to want to go for the other language too. Some of you will be reading and thinking, “are you insane?” and others may even think, “I’m taking on my first language and you’re worrying about Balinese?”. I know, I know, it is crazy but I am perhaps an extreme language learner, so I don’t expect full comprehension of that part of me. In the end, I decided that learning some basic phrases and words of Balinese would be a good enough nod to the local Balinese speakers, but concentrating on Indonesian was the way to go.

Indonesian – one of the most understudied major world languages?

Over the years I have noticed just how big the circle of Indonesian speakers is growing in the language learning communities online, especially with the efforts of Polyglot Indonesia. It’s very easy to meet Indonesians and have language exchanges with them, whether it’s at a language learner event, like the Polyglot Conference, or simply online.

It stuck me as odd that so many language learners appeared to still skip over Indonesian in spite of the many reasons for learning the language:

  1. It’s simple to learn to communicate at a basic level and you therefore get an instant buzz from your achievements .
  2. Indonesians are thrilled to use their language with you and help you progress.
  3. Indonesian has many borrowings from a number of world languages, including Arabic, Dutch, Portuguese and, more recently, English. It’s really fascinating!
  4. Indonesia is a beautiful country that’s more affordable to get to nowadays and very affordable in the country itself. So plenty of chance to use your skills, if you visit.
  5. Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world with over 200 million speakers. There could be ways to use your skills to further your employment/business opportunities too.

I am a great believer in language courses, when they are taught well. When Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months told me about Cinta Bahasa’s great programme (check him out learning with Daniel here), I got in touch with them immediately to organise classes.

I opted for a mix of online and in-person classes, so I was not tied to the school whilst I’m here. I need that flexibility in my life with family, work and other commitments. I also recognise that sometimes I need someone to take me out of my comfort zone and lead me through the process. Yes! I like teachers!

Of course, I have taken on languages before without teachers and simply found language partners. This can work well. It is sometimes nice to have additional structure from outside too though. At Cinta Bahasa they talked to me about my goals, my previous experience, what a like and don’t like and helped to formulate a solid learning plan for my own needs. That way, I don’t feel trapped by the programme because it’s been built with my input too. Honesty about your schedule, time, and goals at this planning stage is crucial to your success.

What did I know beforehand?

I did some basic Indonesian for about a month alone before arriving in Bali. I always do that in preparation for any trip. Language is so tied to a culture’s culture and people that I see it as the best way to reach people on a personal level. I liked to be able to ask for basic things and introduce myself from day 1. It also gives me a warm feeling inside.

Do follow my story over the coming weeks. I will post video updates. Here’s video number one to get you going! 🙂

Edit to add in the initial video to judge my level with Cinta Bahasa:

Edit: added link to Benny learning Indonesian with Cinta Bahasa also.

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This post was written by Richard

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