Is Indonesian worth learning?

necessary to learn Indonesian

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

Are you relocating to Indonesia – whether it is for work, retirement or living the digital nomad life in Bali? Do you find yourself wonder if it is “worth” or “necessary” for you to learn Indonesian?

Let me paint you a picture of someone who chose not to do so.

Caitlyn had no desire to learn Indonesian. She came to Bali from the United States as a newlywed, when she was twenty two years old, because her husband got relocated for work. They settled in Ubud, a very diverse community in Bali, in the 2010.  Soon after arriving in Bali, they rented and lived in a big bungalow on a street where most beautiful big homes were occupied by expatriates.

It was not necessary for Caitlyn for learn Indonesian because she lived in one of the most prominent expat neighbourhoods in Bali. Her kids all went to an International school. All the merchants in the neighborhood spoke English as well as her priest, who not only spoke English, but also celebrated Mass in English. The staffs at her favorite nail salon and massage place spoke English as well. Her circle of friends remained those of expatriates living in Bali. Ten years later, upon her husband’s relocation back to the United States, Caitlyn had not learned to read, write, or speak the Indonesian language. Sure, she got familiar with the local greeting of “Apa kabar?” (which means how are you?), “Selamat pagi” (which means good morning), and the like. Though living in Indonesia for a decade long, Caitlyn never made the conscious effort to “learn” or even “think” in Indonesian because she did not have the necessity to do so. Did she still enjoy her life in Bali? Absolutely.

However, not speaking Indonesian had kept Caitlyn mentally rooted to their native country and imprisoned in the language of her own culture. The comfort of negotiating a new culture while maintaining a ‘visitor’ / ‘tourist’ mindset may seem easier to many, but in reality it cost her an isolation within the society.

Caitlyn lived in a self-imposed community where everything was in English. For all intents and purposes, Caitlyn, just like many other foreigners in Indonesia, live in their old (native) country and not in Indonesia.

Sometimes people can get too comfortable when living in an ethnic community. It is easy to live and work where the native language is the dominant tongue. They never have to worry if their Indonesian is good enough or whether their pronunciation is correct or not. Having no need to worry, the immigrant can feel totally at ease living there.

Not to mention locals are friendly. You’d never come across anyone saying “Speak Indonesian. This is Indonesia.” kind of disapproving remarks anywhere in Indonesia.

So yes, you WILL, without a doubt, be able to have a wonderful life in Indonesia even without being able to speak the language, but imagine how more colorful and adventurous your life could be if you could speak Indonesian. You’d make more friends, be more independent in navigating you daily lives – i.e. when you have to settle your traffic violation ticket, or say, take care of your passport renewal, without the help of others. You may even come across MANY potential business and career opportunities in Indonesia too, just by being able to speak the language and integrate within the local community.

In the end your decision to learn Indonesian goes back to you.

Do you know anyone who is not Indonesian but is able to speak fluent Indonesian? Having this kind of people within your ‘radar’ will motivate you in your learning journey.  So below we are sharing some Youtube videos (with interesting content!) of non Indonesians who are able to speak fluent Bahasa Indonesia. We hope by watching these videos, it’ll somehow spark some fire inside you to learn Indonesian. Afterall being fluent in Indonesian is an attainable goal. You just have to put your mind to it, and work diligently towards achieving your fluency goal – just like how you would with your other goals (set it and work towards it).

Video #1: Sarah Johnson (from the USA)

Video #2: Husein Nasimov (from Russia)

Video #3: Stewart (from New Zealand)

Video #4: Yuna (from Korea)

Video #5: Han Jogdae (from Korea)


Video #6: Bastien (from France)


Video #7: Steph Choi (from the USA)

Video #8 : Felipe Valdes (from Brazil)

Video #9: Precious Lundberg (from Australia)

Video #10: Matthieu (from France)


Now, to keep yourself motivated learning Indonesian, why don’t you try to film yourself talking in Indonesian just like these people? It’s proven to be a very effective method to learn to think in Indonesian. Your progress certainly will be faster and you’ll be more confident to speak Indonesian in front of the locals.

We love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Immersing in Indonesian culture

Useful Javanese Phrases for Tourists

  Java has become one of the most favorite tourist destinations in Indonesia. It is famous for Mount Bromo, Borobudur Temple, Prambanan Temple, and many

Perfecting Indonesian Pronunciation

Perfecting Your Indonesian Pronunciation

Let’s get it straight. The realistic objective is not to develop an Indonesian accent. The main objective of practicing your Indonesian pronunciation is to minimize

Do You Want To Boost Your Bahasa?

drop us a line and keep in touch