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Is Indonesian a good Asian language to learn?

Is indonesian actually a good and useful language to learn? Or would a language like Portuguese be better in the future.

October 11, 2019



Indonesia is a rapidly growing economy, and will become a significantly important language in the near future. If you intend on ever living throughout the Australasia or Oceania region I would highly recommend, especially as here in Australia our government is currently greatly encouraging students to study indonesian, to ensure that they are prepared for the future of an economically dominant indonesia within our region.


There are a lot more Indonesian speakers than Portuguese speakers but you can only use it in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Not so sure about that -- including Brazil, Portuguese has some 220 million L1 speakers.


Indonesian has 270 million by itself.


According to wikipedia Bahasa Indonesia has about 43 million L1, and 155 million L2. Of course these numbers change over time, and the number of L2 speakers is highly subject to interpretation... at what point do you count someone as an L2 speaker? Would you count everyone in the US who had Spanish in high school as an L2 speaker of that language, or only someone who uses it on a regular basis in a non-educational setting? If we use the "size" of a language as a proxy for the potential usefulness of learning it, I'd put Portuguese and Indonesian in roughly the same mid-size ballpark, below the "big" ones like Spanish but above the "little" ones like Danish. One caveat with Indonesian is that from what I've read the formal language taught in courses is pretty remote from the informal colloquial dialects people really use, whereas with (Brazilian) Portuguese the difference is smaller.


Indonesia has close to 270 million and given that the literacy rate is over 90% using the L1 and L2 definition of language is unrealistic. Bahasa Indonesia is the language used in education so all students must learn it well enough to communicate well. My extended family is Batak and I am yet to meet anyone of them who speaks better Batak than Indonesian. Some of the local dialects are spoken by millions but from early primary school Indonesian is dominant. Wikipedia is not a good source of accurate information as anyone can post there. Also, L2 does not simply mean second language. It refers to people who use their first language to learn a second one ... like us. It is not a term to refer to people who grow up bilingual, so the writer of Wikipedia has created misleading data.


Thanks for the personal perspective. It can be hard to get good data on actual numbers for languages not primarily used as the sole native language, like Indonesian, Swahili, and Esperanto. Either way, I'm enjoying learning the language, and hope to get a chance to try it out at some future time!


The difference in how formal it is taught as it is used is in fact very far. But I expect people who learn the language only do so for business purposes (and so the formal, taught one is good). If someone wants to learn the informal version, I feel it is best they hang out with Indonesians instead.

Also, L1 L2 class does not really matter in Indonesia because it's a national language that everyone needs to know well to deal with official things. Most of anyone who is classed as an L2 most likely has a mother tongue they speak at home but is not applicable/not used in school or places like banks, offices etc

I'm from a region near Singapore, my family and friends generally communicate with a chinese dialect called hokkien, and the first language I came to know was english, and we were forced to learn mandarin by the elders in our families. You could say that indonesian is my fourth language, but since it is the official language, noone is really not fluent in it.


I think that it is dependent on where you live and what your travel/life plans are. In Australia we are very close to Southeast Asia and have many opportunities to travel there easily, so for us it would definitely be Indonesia. However, if you are based in Europe or Latin America, then I would think that Portuguese is a much better option.


singapore is an economic powerhouse, (they even out rank the usa). Malay, (Indonesian), is a large part of their dialect. (along with english and mandarin of course.) plus Malay doesn't have all those tricky accents to watch out for. I think its more useful to learn Malay because its more different from our language than Portuguese is.


The action film The Raid got me interested in the Indonesian language. Plus they are good neighbors to the Philippines my parents' homeland. There is an Indonesian singer who goes by the name "Niki".


Another good Indonesian singer is Tulus.


And Indonesia is wonderfull to visit!


I find it extremely fun to learn! And because it uses a standard English alphabet without diacritical marks, it seems easier than many Asian languages.


It depends on which part of the world you are in. If you intend to head or live in the South East Asian region or Australia I would highly recommend you learning Indonesian over Portuguese. However If you plan to go to Brazil, parts of Africa or Portugal or live there then Portuguese will be more useful.


Depending on what part of the world you are and what business you are involved in. Bahasa is huge here and if you can grasp it, you can apply it all over this huge country and even in Malaysia and Singapore


Portuguese is not an Asian language, so you could learn both, they are not the same, and both are really useful.


A language is only as useful as you believe it is. In other words, it's up to you man! I would say that sometimes it isn't about actually using a language, but rather internalizing it. Often this opens up doors we didn't see before. For instance, I don't come onto Duolingo to find something I can use, but rather something I can learn. I like learning, and so far I enjoy learning Indonesian. To me, it is the act of speaking it that makes it worthwhile and useful, more psychological, if you will. Though, another purpose could be a usefulness like traveling there and speaking it on vacation. Your post is very general in scope, but I would suggest the Indonesian language over the Portuguese language because I find it more useful. This question is very personal in nature as to what is defined as "good" and "useful" is very different between two people or two cultures. Of course, seeing that I am studying Indonesian, it's more useful to me or I would be studying Portuguese!


I agree. I am learning Indonesian As I have many Indonesian relatives and an Indonesian wife; but I am learning Spanish simply because I like learning ... I am unlikely to be able to use it unless I visit a Spanish speaking country for a couple of weeks some time in the future. Learning new things keeps our brains healthy and makes life interesting.

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