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Is mastering Indonesian Language hard?

I heard many times that Bahasa Indonesia is barely impossible to master if you are not living in Indonesia since you born. Is it actually true?

Well, Kinda. Bahasa Baku Indonesia (Indonesia Standard Language) is very different when you want to use it everyday conversation. You can speak with other indonesian with ISL. but you wont understand the Indonesian when talking to you because they will put some word that is not in ISL (Indonesia Standard Language) like some slang in it. which make it a bit confusing.

example: Foreigner: "Makanan ini pedas sekali" (This food is very spicy) Indo: "Pedes banget iya kan?" (very spicy right?)

You see it? "Pedes" and "Banget" is not in Indonesia Dictionary because "Banget" is supposed to be "Sekali" which mean "Very" (in this case). while "Pedes" is "Pedas" which mean "Spicy".

In the end, Some Foreigner left confuse with the word. to learn indonesia slang, you need to live here since you are 5 years old. because at that time, your brain still developing and can easily pick up the slang words.

I want an opinion of you who learn Indonesian Language about this. is it true or not? does it hard to "master" the language?

August 25, 2018



When talking bahasa in Indonesians I have found that they quickly realise that my skills are limited and are happy to talk slower and repeat things for me. Also, most chatting (not including family) has been at markets and shops ... people who have some English so they are able to correct me. Mostly, they are happy to meet foreigners who make an effort to speak bahasa.


I don't agree with this. I think bahasa gaul (everyday Indonesian) is easy to master if you live in an area where not a lot of people speak English. I lived in a rural area in East Java for two years, and I rarely spoke ISL at the end of my time there. Everyday Indonesian changes depending on where you live in Indonesia. Someone who learns Indonesian in Jakarta will use Jakartan Indonesian ("lu" = "kamu", dll.), while those that learn Indonesian in East Java will throw in more Javanese words ("monggo", "inggih", dll.). Sometimes, it is easier to learn everyday Indonesian instead of ISL because everyone around you speaks bahasa gaul/bahasa sehari-hari, and not ISL.


Everyday Indonesian will always be a bit easier because many of the grammar rules are ignored and, more importantly, you have the advantage of context from real situations. Online courses have to provide properly constucted sentences. Context from spoken sentences also overcomes idioms. Imagine translating, How are you going? I am well ... vs. I am going by train. ISL must be taught by these courses. As soon as people travel to Indonesia and mix with locals they would easily pick up the differences.


My Indo is still quite limited, but each time I visit Indo I hear slang and slowly add it to my vocab ... without learning that these new words are slang. I agree that it is unlikely that these works can be learnt from books or courses ... simply because they are not covered frequently enough due to their geographical use.


Same. I know quite a bit of slang for the place I tend to visit (Medan). I've been adding it to my vocab for a while, and in some ways I know the slang better than the normal words!


I think this is an issue on all laguages. For example, I can understand English speakers from the US very well and English people if they speak kind of "BBC" style, but it is harder for me to understand British people if they speak "cockney" or if they are Scots.


Yes, I think that's true for all languages which have their own difficulties.

Take French for example, and the sentence "He gives it to + pronoun.

To me : il me le donne. To you : il te le donne. To him : il le lui donne. "Il lui le donne" is impossible...

Why are the pronouns inverted for the third person ? I am French and I don't know... This inversion is also valuable for the plural.


If you want to master everything like speaking, writing, reading, listening and all grammar rules involved I would say yes.


Changing vowels is quite common and not too hard to understand once you pick up on it. Otherwise words are just swapped for others. When a completely different language is used that is harder, sometimes though they will mix language or some words are quite similar. English is a good other language to have as so many words are forms or directly from English.


When learning about Bahasa Indonesia Baku, I would rather say that it isn't too difficult to master.

Why?, see, Bahasa Indonesia:

  1. Doesn't have gendered noun/pronoun
  2. Time difference is indicated by adverb, not verb tense changes
  3. The letter(s) pronounced in a word is almost always the same as how it was written, the case of unpronounced letter(s) in a word is rare
  4. The spelling is quite simple and for the most important, it uses Standard Latin Alphabet, the same as English. Because Dutch colonization history, Germanic Language speaker might find it easier to pronounce Indonesian words
  5. Grammar rules aren't as complex as Indo-European Languages'


But if we talk about Indonesian slang, which is mainly used by Indonesian people in their daily activities (other than those in formal/academic situation), things could become a little bit tricky. The reason behind this are:

  1. Indonesia is very rich with vernacular languages (some even have their own script and writing system) and dialects, they often got intermingled with Standard Indonesian. For instance, instead of saying "Saya/Aku" = "I", you could say "gue" in Jakarta or "beta" in Maluku. The word "komputer = computer", will be pronounced with an e like in the word "father" by Indonesian speaker in Java, but might be pronounced with an e like in the word "Mexico" by Indonesian speaker in Medan.
  2. Indonesian people and their languages alike had been exposed to foreign influence, both from Western and Eastern countries for all the recorded history until now because the Archipelago position serving as a trade route hub


Yes, it's tricky, but not impossible to master. The key here is immersion and the urge to use it for communication,

What is the best way to get yourself immersed in the way the language will be used?, Of course you're right!, staying here in Indonesia would be the best option, because you'll feel the urge to understand Indonesian.

While it's correct that if you stayed here since you're very young it'd be much easier to understand Indonesian, both formal or slang because you're brain is still in it's fastest development stage. Our brain doesn't stop developing when we grow older, the development is just not as fast, so you still can learn Indonesian as an adult.

If you can't visit Indonesia and stay here for some time, then don't worry, you can try to make friends from the Internet, find fellow language learners, have a chit-chat with some Indonesian people, join an Indonesian group of your hobby, find some like-minded Indonesian people as you, watch Youtube, read news in Indonesian, etc

Most Indonesian people are friendly, and glad (or some maybe even enthusiast) if there is a foreigner who could speak Indonesian, or at least try to speak Indonesian, they will be more than eager to teach you to understand their language. And when you've learned a lot, you'll also be understood in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and East Timor. It's such a great headstart!

Work hard on your learning but don't force yourself and find the best method that works for you. When you're ready, you might go to a local Indonesian restaurant, or even visit Indonesia to flawlessly order a bowl of bakso, or a plate of nasi goreng like an Indonesian would :D

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