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How Long Does it Take to Learn Indonesian?

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Those who have tried know: Learning a foreign language may not be easy, but it’s an amazing and fulfilling process. By learning to understand, speak, and think in a foreign language, we add a new skill to our repertoire—but that’s not all! We can also change the very way we see the world.

But in today’s civilization, time is money and many of us feel too trapped by responsibilities to try mastering a language ourselves. So if you’re planning to study Indonesian, an important question to ask yourself is: How long does it take to learn Indonesian? And perhaps more importantly: Is it worth the investment? 

Did you know that Indonesian has a lot of words that can’t be translated into English? One of my favorites is faedah, which describes something that has a value and a benefit that goes beyond the commercial (and even the material) aspect. It’s a real, intrinsic value… Just like that of learning a new language! 

Everyone wants to reap the benefits of hard work as soon as possible, and this is why we all instinctively look for a fast and easy way to learn foreign languages. We want to start practicing right away and use our new skills to find a better job, to travel, or to better communicate with a loved one.

We would certainly like to know exactly how long it takes to learn a new language, so that we can make plans… But, unfortunately (or not), language learning does not work like that. There’s no one best or fastest way to learn Indonesian, and above all, there is definitely no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns differently, and lots of different factors will influence how quickly you learn.

Let’s have a look at what these are, and maybe try to find the best way to take advantage of them to learn Indonesian fast!

An Hourglass Against a Dark Background
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the essential factors to take into account when trying to determine how quickly you can learn a language is your actual experience with languages. 

The Language(s) You Speak

What is your first language? And what other foreign languages do you speak? 

Yes, this may actually make a difference in how quickly you’ll be able to learn Indonesian. If you know a language very closely related to Indonesian, such as Malay, it will be way easier for you to pick it up. 

If you’re a native speaker of English, the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) classifies Indonesian as a Category II language. This is halfway between the easiest and the hardest languages to learn for English speakers!

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Have you learned a language before?

If you’re already fluent in two or more languages (for example, if you were raised bilingual), it will be easier for you to learn Indonesian. Several studies show that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language, because they’re more accustomed to being exposed to a new language.

Even if you’re not bilingual or fluent in a foreign language, just having studied and learned one at some point in your life will be useful. When your mind has had to get used to memorizing words and rules, and looking at different letters and symbols, it will not forget it—even after many years.

Basically, the skills you developed studying one language will actually help you learn another, even if the two languages are unrelated!  

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first things you’ll do when learning a foreign language is to study how it’s built and how it works. This is usually done by studying its structure and grammar.

A Woman Lying on the Grass Studying

If you already have some experience studying syntax and grammar, even if just for your own language, it will make it much simpler for you to learn the grammar and syntax of a foreign language.

So, if your plan is to start learning Indonesian (or any other language), it’s definitely a good idea to get some grammar foundations to build on! 

Learning Style

The way you learn is another incredibly important aspect of how long it will take you to become fluent in Indonesian. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning to a classroom setting, even on an intensive course, it will take you longer to learn and feel confident with your language skills outside the classroom. Try exposing yourself to Indonesian in your everyday life and I assure you that you’ll cut down the time you need to learn it! 

Make a habit of reading in Indonesian, watching Indonesian films and series, and listening to Indonesian podcasts while you drive or cook. This will help, but if you want to practice your conversation and speaking skills as well, the best thing you can do is find a language partner.

Your Time

Of course, even if we haven’t mentioned it yet, the time you dedicate to learning a language is paramount! 

If you want to learn quickly, try to dedicate as much time as you can to studying, practicing, and exposing yourself to the language. 

Practicing daily is a must: Research has actually shown that students who dedicate an hour a day to language learning—whether revising grammar, memorizing vocabulary, watching a film, or reading a book—learn significantly faster than those who just stick to weekly multi-hour classes.

And of course, if you have the opportunity, full immersion is best. If you can travel to Indonesia and live there for a while, that will make a huge difference!

A Balinese Temple

Approach

Your approach and attitude while learning a foreign language are extremely important, and might make all the difference!

Your Motivation

It’s no secret: Staying motivated and interested is essential for learning a foreign language. Why are you learning Indonesian?

Have this clear in your mind and use the reasons you find to set weekly (or even daily) goals for maximum efficiency. This strategy will not only help you stay motivated and interested in learning, but it will also make you want to put more effort into it.

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will help you learn more easily and quickly, and it will go hand in hand with maintaining a positive attitude. This is a winning strategy you should adopt during your language learning journey! 

Try to see learning as a fun and interesting activity; something that you’re choosing to do, rather than being forced to do.

A Woman Holding Flowers in Front of Her Eyes

Remember: Learning a foreign language will open your horizons and mind, both on a personal and a professional level, to say the least.

When you think of it like this, you’ll always feel like learning something new every day, which will make the process more fun and much faster! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, even if these are all just estimates, we’ve tried to put together a timeframe encompassing how long it will take you to reach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of Indonesian. 

Beginner

As a beginner speaker of the language, you’ll be able to introduce yourself, understand slow and clear spoken language, and ask basic questions (probably making some small mistakes). 

If your objective is to be able to greet people, have very basic conversations, and order a meal at the restaurant, this level is probably enough. 

According to the FSI, you’ll need to dedicate a minimum of 250 hours to reach this level. If you study 15 hours a week, you’ll be having basic conversations in just 4 months! That’s pretty fast, isn’t it? 

Intermediate

Do you want to learn the Indonesian language to a more advanced level?

At the intermediate level, you’ll be able to understand clearly spoken everyday conversation, maybe asking some questions to keep up. This level will also allow you to understand the main points while watching videos and reading the news. If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to ask for information, follow directions, and have basic interactions with locals about familiar subjects.

An Indonesian Woman Wearing a Kebaya

To achieve an intermediate level, you’ll need double the time as you did for the beginner level. This means about 500 hours, which, with the same intensity of study as mentioned above, will take you around 8 months. 

Advanced

If you want to be fluent in Indonesian, you’ll need to achieve advanced language skills. At this level, you’ll have no problem navigating all kinds of situations in your daily life abroad or while traveling, and you’ll be able to have full conversations with native speakers. You’ll also be able to watch Indonesian movies and read books… Basically, you will be fluent. (Even if there will always be something more to learn about this beautiful language.)

As we mentioned above, according to the FSI, Indonesian is a Level II language and thus requires 900-950 hours of study time if you want to reach total proficiency. This means that if you dedicate 15 hours a week to studying, you’ll be fluent in just over a year! Not bad if you consider that some other, more complex, languages require twice or even three times as long!

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to start learning a new language

And, as we just saw, the sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll achieve your language objectives and start practicing real-life Indonesian. 

Looking for a great online Indonesian resource to get you started? On IndonesianPod101.com, we offer all kinds of language learning content designed to help you stay motivated and interested. Here you’ll find blog posts, Indonesian lessons for all levels, a dictionary, and vocabulary lists. 

How long it takes you to learn Indonesian just depends on you. How much time are you willing to invest in it? Our courses and resources are specifically created to give you all the right tools to learn Indonesian as quickly and easily as possible, so that you can make the most of your precious time!

Whether you’re a complete beginner who wants a full-immersion experience or an intermediate speaker who just needs to widen your vocabulary, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you make a decision about Indonesian—or if you still have questions for us! We’d be glad to help.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian

Is the Indonesian Language Easy to Learn?

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Many aspiring learners wonder whether the Indonesian language is easy to learn, and if so, why more people don’t speak it.

You see, Indonesian is not a very commonly learned language for most of the world. 

Sure, there are people in Southeast Asia that pick some of it up, it’s a growing subject in Chinese and Japanese universities, and it’s long been one of the most popular foreign languages for Australians—but you hardly see it on lists of languages people want to learn. 

That’s a shame, really, because learning the language opens you up to so many wonderful things. Visiting the country when you can speak the language is much, much more freeing than being limited to an interpreter or dealing with whoever can speak some English.

You might be interested in opening those doors, but maybe you’ve been put off by long words and a spooky reputation for being a difficult Asian language. Could there be truth in that?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Is Indonesian Hard or Not?
  2. Difficulties in Learning Indonesian
  3. Indonesian is Pretty Easy
  4. Your First Indonesian Steps
  5. Advice to a New Learner
  6. The Advantages of IndonesianPod101
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Indonesian Hard or Not?

An Indonesian Speech Bubble

Indonesian, by and large, is not that hard of a language. From the perspective of someone who’s already learned it, that might not be too reassuring, but it’s the truth.

There are quite a few differences between European languages and East Asian languages. But the thing is, none of these differences are the type of thing that requires you to memorize long charts or pore over difficult grammar explanations.

For example, Indonesian has a number of suffixes and prefixes that can change a root word’s part of speech. That’s one place where learners might get confused, because sometimes, those can be pretty subtle. It takes a lot of immersion to develop the knack for knowing which one to use.

But on the other hand, there are so many shortcuts that you can take. Indonesian is the second language of millions of people across the country, spoken with great fluency but without extremely rigid rules for conversation.

Locals are also extremely welcoming to foreigners who can converse in Indonesian—even if they’re comfortable in English, they’ll happily speak Indonesian instead to let people practice! 

2. Difficulties in Learning Indonesian

Gulai Chicken

There are a couple of factors that can make Indonesian hard to learn for some people. 

Indonesian is a bit of an artificial standard, as mentioned above, so people add a lot of slang and regionalisms to it when speaking among themselves. That’s why you might find YouTube videos super-easy to understand, but the more informal speech of day-to-day conversation nearly opaque to your ear.

That kind of diglossia can be disheartening, because you’ll feel that you still have so far to go even if you can understand books and the news.

The best way to deal with this is to read more informal Indonesian, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter comments. Internet comments have a bad rap for being mindless drivel, but unfortunately, it’s exactly that kind of language register that you have to learn to understand—because it’s the way people really speak! 

On the other side of things, the prefix and suffix system definitely has its sticky points. One of the hardest concepts for people to grasp is the me-kan prefix/suffix, which is often used to signify that something was done “for somebody.”

  • Saya membaca koran Kompas.
    “I read the Kompas newspaper.”
  • Saya membacakan ayah berita hari ini.
    “I read today’s news to my dad.”

The root is baca (“read”) in both sentences. But while membaca is an act of reading for oneself, using the circumfix me-kan causes the word to mean that the act of reading is done for someone else.

Not too bad, right? Unfortunately, that’s just one example for a circumfix with a ton of different meanings! You’re probably going to have to learn a ton of examples individually.

The last thing that trips up learners is the idea that it’s okay to be vague. A lot of people never get past the idea that they want to express exactly as much information in Indonesian as they’re used to expressing in their native language. 

3. Indonesian is Pretty Easy

An Old Woman Buying a Book

You might have picked up on this already, but that last section isn’t that big of a deal. Overall, Indonesian is easy to learn as a foreigner. 

For one thing, you can just learn these complicated prefix or suffix words as individual concepts that usually map to their own separate words in English. In the example above, there’s nothing wrong with learning membaca as “to read” and membacakan as “to read for.”

Another advantage that Indonesian-learners have is that the pronunciation is quite easy in general. While you do have to know how to roll your R and use pure vowels (for more help, check our pronunciation guide), spoken Indonesian words correspond exactly to their written counterparts.

Even when people speak informally using the more casual variants of Indonesian, they reflect that in their casual writing. In English, we all write “have to” even though we say “hafta,” but in Indonesian texting and online comments, there’s no worrying about proper writing conventions.

Lastly, learners of Indonesian have a huge advantage when it comes to the verbs. Each “tense” corresponds to a single particle that’s inserted before the verb—no conjugation required. 

For past events, use sudah; for present progressive, use sedang; and for future, use akan.

  • Saya sudah membeli buku.
    “I bought a book.”
  • Saya sedang membeli buku.
    “I am buying a book.”
  • Saya akan membeli buku.
    “I will buy a book.”

4. Your First Indonesian Steps

A Little Girl Taking Her First Steps

The very first thing you should do when learning Indonesian, or any new language, is to focus on the sounds.

Make sure that you can accurately make and understand each individual sound of the language now, because later on when you’re trying to understand flowing native speech, you’ll wish you had prepared beforehand.

It would be perfect if you could find a video series with clearly spoken Indonesian and Indonesian subtitles for you to understand how the letters you see on the screen reflect the sounds you’re hearing. Even though the Indonesian alphabet is simple, this is a skill that takes time to develop.

After that, your biggest hurdle is going to be the vocabulary. Although Indonesian has some loanwords from European languages (particularly when it comes to the sciences or pop culture), the vast majority of the words come from Arabic, Sanskrit, and local Austronesian languages.

Therefore, you’ll need to come up with a good flashcard or wordlist system in order to build a strong vocabulary base from the start. 


5. Advice to a New Learner

A Traditional Indonesian Ceremony

One of the biggest mistakes a new Indonesian learner can make is trying to speak too quickly. By that, we don’t mean the speed that the words are coming out of your mouth; we mean how soon you start speaking after you’ve started learning the language.

Just like pronunciation, you should build a good base in understanding Indonesian before you try to hold a conversation. That way, you won’t be distressed by not understanding what you hear.

Also, don’t worry if it takes you much longer to understand TV or movies than it does to read your textbook or listen to a course made for learners.

As mentioned before, rapid-fire spoken Indonesian uses a lot of local slang terms. Even the words for “you” and “I” are different in informal language! Generally, the words are Anda and saya respectively, but in informal Indonesian, they’re kamu and aku—and in Jakartan slang, they become lu and gue!

Essentially, even though you’ll find Indonesian easier to pick up than some other languages, don’t expect to be able to use and understand it instantly. Keep your expectations reasonable, and you won’t be discouraged. 


6. The Advantages of IndonesianPod101

Remember a bit ago when we recommended videos with Indonesian subtitles?

It turns out that you can get exactly that for free on our IndonesianPod101 YouTube channel.

Once you’ve watched a couple of those, why not check out our main website at IndonesianPod101.com?

Although there are good textbooks and online resources available if you know where to look, Indonesian isn’t commonly learned enough to have a ton of different language courses.

What IndonesianPod101 can bring you is a structured course starting from the very basics, guiding you all the way through an upper-intermediate or advanced level. At that point, you’ll be able to smoothly transition into reading and watching real Indonesian content made for native speakers! 

7. Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the only big obstacle to learning Indonesian, or any other language, is time.

Indonesian requires a little more time for you to remember the wide array of vocabulary, but practically no time at all to learn the grammar.

In fact, the United States government rates Indonesian a 3/5 in terms of difficulty for English-speakers. That means it’ll take a little more time than learning French or German, but significantly less time than learning Arabic or Korean.

As long as you have a good and consistent study schedule, you’ll be able to hold your own in simple Indonesian conversations in less than six months. After you learn the basic sentence patterns, all you need is a good dictionary to build your vocabulary and gain the ability to understand more and more real Indonesian.

The best time to start is today. Grab a textbook—or better yet, sign up with IndonesianPod101—and you’ll be amazed at the kind of progress you can make with Indonesian.

If you’ve already started learning Indonesian, which aspects of the language are most difficult for you? And which are the easiest? Let us, and aspiring Indonesian-learners, know in the comments!

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Watch Out for These Common Mistakes in Indonesian

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There’s a certain face that people make when they can’t understand what you’re saying.

For many people, it’s a screwed-up grimace of concentration. For Indonesians, it’s more of a quiet smile and a slow drift of attention.

Indonesians are polite folks, to be sure. They’re not going to tell you very much about your mistakes in Indonesian when you’re speaking with them.

That’s up to you.

If you want to hold up your end of the Indonesian conversation, you’ve got to make sure you’re speaking Indonesian that’s beyond just “comprehensible.” It must be pleasant to listen to, and with as few mistakes as possible.

But what types of mistakes tend to be the worst for Indonesian-learners, and how can you get around them?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Tricky Pronunciation
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?
  4. The Shape of Words
  5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. Tricky Pronunciation

View of Skyscrapers in Jakarta

Indonesian, by and large, is an easy language to pronounce. You could show a phrasebook to someone who’d never even heard of Jakarta, and they could make themselves understood in a couple of minutes, tops.

But there are definitely a couple of things that totally give away foreigners speaking Indonesian.

Chief among these is probably the vowels. Indonesian has six “pure” vowels: 

  • /a/ as in “talk” 
  • /e/ sort of like in “day”
  • /i/ as in “see” 
  • /o/ kind of like “go”
  • /u/ as in “you”
  • /ǝ/, the unstressed vowel in “duh” 

It also has the short “i” and “o” sounds in “bit” and “lock,” but those only appear right at the end of words before a consonant.

The common mistake in Indonesian comes when English-speakers in particular start morphing those vowel sounds into diphthongs. They’re pure vowels, and Indonesian doesn’t actually have a lot of diphthongs!

Another mistake that tends to be made more by Europeans and Mandarin Chinese speakers has to do with the “p,” “t,” and “k” sounds at the end of words. You’re not supposed to fully pronounce them.

In fact, to make these sounds, one should cut off the airflow very briefly but never release—which, coincidentally, happens a lot in English, but not in most European languages. Mandarin speakers have the opposite problem, where they find it unnatural to end words with those sounds at all!

2. Confusing Words

Little Girl Trying to Decide Between Red and Green Apple

Indonesian vocabulary can be super-easy to pick up (browse through a list of nonfiction Indonesian titles and count all the English loan words), but there are times when it can be devilishly tricky.

This isn’t helped by the fact that there are a bunch of words that sound really close to one another, but are actually false friends! For example:

  • kelapa – “coconut”
    kepala – a person’s head
  • semangat – an exclamation like “Go!” or “Hooray!”
    semangka – “watermelon”
  • mangkuk – “bowl”
    mangga – “mango”
  • handuk – “towel”
    hantu – “ghost”

If you happen to know some Spanish, you might be tripped up by the fact that dia is an extremely common word in Indonesian. However, it means “he/she/it,” not “day”! That’s hari, but since they both have similar vowels, it may take some effort to get these two words separated in your mind.

Of course, not all of these words are going to pose problems for everybody. Order susu kelapa (“coconut milk”) enough times, and you won’t even think about how close the word is to kepala.

The best way to remember confusing words is to focus on just one at a time. Studying them close to one another is a great way to strengthen the links between them in your mind and make it harder and harder to untangle the two words!

3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?

Man Taking a Nap in the Grass

Well, yes, more or less.

You can’t make any mistakes in Indonesian relating to word genders or adjective endings. However, people do tend to get confused at times with the word order.

After all, in a language without conjugation or declension, the word order is what ends up really carrying the meaning of each sentence. In Indonesian, you can often translate sentences word-for-word into English, which makes other, more variant sentence patterns more challenging to remember.

A typical sticking point for new learners is forming questions the right way. Let’s say you want to express “Whose car is this?” The only problem is that Indonesian doesn’t have a word for “whose”!

  • Mobil siapa ini?
    “Whose car is this?”

As you can see, we just put the word siapa (“who”) after the noun, and this word order is the key that communicates possession. 

Although Indonesian doesn’t have tenses in the form of verbs changing their appearance, there are particles that signify completed, in-progress, and future actions. These include sudah, sedang, and akan. These have got to go right in front of the verb—no exceptions.

  • Mika sedang mencuci mobil.
    “Mika is washing the car (right now).”

If you know Vietnamese, then this is easy. But if you know Mandarin, you’ll have to switch things around, since the “completed action” particle comes after the verb in Mandarin. 

4. The Shape of Words

A Couple Riding Their Bikes Down a Hill

One fascinating thing about Indonesian grammar is the ability to make subtle variations on verbs by adding prefixes, suffixes, and circumfixes.

If you’re new to the language, you might not have fully registered the rules for the most common prefix, meN-. Now, that capital letter isn’t really written that way. What’s going on?

The letter is here to stand for any nasal sound, such as “m,” “n,” “ny,” or “ng.” To know which one to use, look at the first sound of the root and where it’s pronounced in the mouth, then choose the ending closest to that.

So the root word baca can never be mengbaca because ng is pronounced all the way in the back of the mouth, and b is pronounced with the lips. Instead, it’s membaca!

Another pretty noticeable feature of Indonesian words is reduplication, where you simply repeat the word to mark the plural. And this leads to more common mistakes in Indonesian.

Something a lot of learners will do is reduplicate words every time they want to express the plural form, even though, in real Indonesian, the context is used more often than reduplication.

Remember: The reduplication is only really used for emphasis or when it’s not clear (but important to your sentence) that the thing you’re talking about is plural.

5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude

A Beach in Bali During Summer

Up until this point, we haven’t touched on much that’s really specific to the Indonesian language. As much as we’d rather not, it’s easy to make word order and pronunciation mistakes in any language!

One thing that’s rather interesting about Indonesian is that there are a lot of different pronouns used for different situations. Other languages spoken in Southeast Asia kind of have this as well, but it’s not something European language-speakers tend to be familiar with.

For instance, if you’re a middle-aged man, most people are going to address you as pak or Bapak instead of using the second person pronoun kamu (“you”). Middle-aged women get bu or Ibu.

Younger people often get mas or mbak, though these are actually Javanese and not used quite as much in Sumatra, Bali, or other parts of the country.

The mistake here would be assuming that you can use the same pronouns with the same people all over Indonesia. In Yogyakarta, for instance, the informal pronouns are aku and kamu for first and second person, respectively.

In Jakarta, though, people tend to use gue and lu for the same meaning, whereas aku and kamu are reserved for lovers!

To stay on the safe side, you should stick with neutral and polite pronouns, even if others address you in a more familiar way (that is, saya and Anda for first and second person, respectively). This is something that confuses native speakers too when they move to other cities, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Imagine you’re enjoying a tasty bowl of mi goreng at a tiny restaurant, and the owner asks you a question you don’t quite understand.

Do you say: Maaf, sekali lagi? (“Sorry, one more time?”)

Or do you nervously bolt down the rest of your noodles and leave, embarrassed and silent?

That’s the mistake too many language-learners make around the world—getting too wrapped up in their own mistakes.

And yes, lots of Indonesians can speak English very well. Some of them may become frustrated and switch to English on you at times. But there are tons more who either aren’t that comfortable with English or would love the opportunity to chat with you, no matter how many Rs you forget to roll.

7. Conclusion

There’s no way for you to be a perfect Indonesian-speaker without first being an imperfect one.

However, if you push yourself to speak a lot before you feel very comfortable, you do risk ingraining some of your mistakes and making them harder to fix later on. 

And as you reach a more advanced level and try to express more complicated ideas, you might find that smaller mistakes tend to build up on themselves and make it progressively harder to get your message across.

That’s why it’s important to always listen to and read Indonesian as much as possible. This way, you can always have good examples of real Indonesian for your subconscious to internalize. That’s what you get right here with IndonesianPod101!

What Indonesian mistakes do you make the most often? If you’ve managed to overcome a mistake, do you have any advice for your fellow Indonesian-learners? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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Indonesian Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Indonesian

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Indonesian! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Indonesian keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Indonesian Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Indonesian
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Indonesian
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Indonesian on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Indonesian Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. Indonesian Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing Indonesian

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Indonesian

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Indonesian language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Indonesian websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Indonesian teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Indonesian

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Indonesian. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Indonesian, so all text will appear in Indonesian. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Indonesian on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Indonesian language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Indonesian.” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as Indonesian with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “Indonesian” > “Options” > “Download.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “Indonesia.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Clock, Language, and Region.

2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”

3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Indonesian.”

4. Expand the option of “Indonesian” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “QWERTY.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “Bahasa Indonesia/Indonesian,” and add the “Indonesian” keyboard.

Adding a system language

5. Activating the Indonesian Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Indonesian will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Indonesian keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select “Indonesian” from the list, and then you can select QWERTY.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “Bahasa/Indonesian” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, these are a few good apps to consider:

6. Indonesian Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in Indonesian can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your Indonesian keyboard.

A man typing on a computer
  • You can actually just use the English (US) keyboard. The letters are equivalent to the English alphabet, so it’s the perfect fit.
  • Bahasa Indonesia doesn’t use special characters, so the QWERTY keyboard is enough to input your texts.
  • Google also offers an option for Indonesian handwriting

7. How to Practice Typing Indonesian

As you probably know by now, learning Indonesian is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Indonesian typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a IndonesianPod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Indonesian keyboard to do this!

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Family in Indonesia: How to Say Indonesian Mother and More!

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Any language student is going to recognize this assignment:

Write a paragraph about your family. Say how old each person is and give their names.

Perhaps it’s a ho-hum writing prompt, but it serves a really important purpose. As it turns out, people talk about their families all the time—and they definitely ask others about theirs.

In Asian cultures, the family usually plays a much more important role than it does in Western cultures. This makes it practical to know how to talk about the family tree in Indonesian, fluently. Are you aware of all the vocabulary and usage that you’ll need in order to truly understand how Indonesians talk about their Indonesian family tree? Below you’ll find all the information you need about Indonesian family terms and the family culture in Indonesia!

Table of Contents

  1. The Family in Indonesian Culture
  2. Describing Your Immediate Family
  3. Your Extended Family
  4. New Family Members: Indonesian Love and Marriage
  5. Using Family Words with Ordinary People
  6. How IndonesianPod101 Can Help You Learn Indonesian Well

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1. The Family in Indonesian Culture

Parent Phrases

When it comes to family values in Indonesian culture, Indonesian families tend to be closer to eahc other than those in Western countries. It’s very likely that people living in a larger house might have three generations under one roof.

Also, families tend to be bigger. The average household size for the USA was 2.6 people in 2018, while in Indonesia it was 3.9 in 2013. However, more and more parents are choosing to have just two children, particularly in urban areas.

The notion of a family representing a close bond is so strong in Indonesian, that a few hundred years ago, the polite way to address someone on the street was saudara ini—literally “this sibling!”

Children are expected to be respectful toward their elders, and that respect holds true even if some family members work overseas, which many do. The sense of connection that an overseas Indonesian has to his or her own family “back home” is quite strong, and many people will make the choice to forego extra savings in exchange for being able to physically travel back to Indonesia when they can.

2. Describing Your Immediate Family

Family Words

Even if we limit ourselves to just what most Westerners consider a family, don’t be surprised to find that there are quite a few more words here than you’d expect.

Let’s start with parents. A mother is called ibu and a father, bapak. I’m going to put most of the new words in this article into simple sentences so you get an idea of how these words actually work in context.

  • Nama ibu Fitri, dan nama bapak Hary.
    “The mother’s name is Fitri, and the father’s name is Hary.”
  • Bapak berusia 40 tahun, dan ibu berusia 39 tahun.
    “The father is 40 years old, and the mother is 39 years old.”

Now for “children,” or anak.

  • Saya punya dua anak kecil.
    “I have two small children.”
  • Anak saya suka susu.
    “My child likes milk.”

Indonesian Children

As is quite common in languages around the world, Indonesian doesn’t have separate words for male and female children. Thus a son is a “male child” (anak laki-laki), and a daughter is a “female child” (anak perempuan).

Indonesian words for family also describe older and younger siblings with different words. Note the words for “male” and “female” making an appearance again.

Older Younger
Brother Kakak laki-laki Adik laki-laki
Sister Kakak perempuan Adik perempuan

That’s about it for the nuclear family in Indonesian. But English doesn’t stop there, and neither does Indonesian.

3. Your Extended Family

The first thing most people think of as “extended” family is the grandparents. The word for “grandmother” is nenek and “grandfather” is kakek. Be sure not to confuse kakek with kakak!

Local languages all over Indonesia have their own words for grandparents, which we won’t get into. But in urban Jakarta, the words are actually opa and oma, instead of kakek and nenek. They’re holdovers from the Dutch colonial times, when certain words filtered down into the Indonesian language. Indonesian is a flexible language! Check out some of the slang words for family members when you’ve got a moment.

  • Nenek di mana?
    Di belakang rumah.

    “Where’s Grandmother?”
    “In the back of the house.”

Then we naturally have “grandchildren,” or cucu. Naturally, you can add laki-laki and ­perempuan here to be more specific as well.

  • Saya punya tiga cucu—dua laki-laki dan satu perempuan.
    “I have three grandchildren—two boys and one girl.”

The word for “cousin” is sepupu, and it doesn’t change based on age or gender. Any child of your parents’ siblings is a sepupu.

Lastly, in Indonesian you would call your “aunt” your bibi and your “uncle” your paman. Here there are again shades of Dutch influence, because some people continue to call their “aunts” tante and their “uncles” oom instead.

  • Tante Rere bekerja di mana?
    “Where does Aunt Rere work?”

Now let’s take a quick look outside the family…

4. New Family Members: Indonesian Love and Marriage

Man Putting Ring on Woman's Finger at Wedding

What do you call your sweetheart in Indonesian?

Many things, probably, though one of the most common pet names is Sayang. Strangely enough, it also means “unfortunately”! Trust me, the two meanings never overlap.

When you’re in a relationship, you call your significant other your pacar, and occasionally you’ll also see the word pasangan meaning “romantic partner.” Neither of these terms is gendered, keeping with the rest of the Indonesian language.

After the wedding (the pernikahan), the two parties are suddenly called suami meaning “husband” and istri meaning “wife.” This is often considered the moment when a person becomes an adult in Indonesian culture.

In fact, there’s a common question that people ask in Indonesia that would be rather rude in Western cultures.

  • Sudah menikah?
    “Are you married yet?”

Culturally, the only two acceptable answers to this are belum meaning “not yet” or sudah meaning “yes, already.” It’s either happening sometime or it already has—it would really throw people off to answer directly in the negative. Indonesians who are used to attending family reunions understand that this question comes left, right, and center.

In English, there are, of course, new names for parents after marriage—namely, the “in-laws.” Indonesian actually has words that map pretty directly onto the English equivalents, so you don’t have to do any memory games or mental gymnastics to figure these out.

One’s “parents-in-law” are known as mertua, regardless of whether they’re on the bride’s or groom’s side. And then “siblings-in-law” are known as ipar, with the same sort of freedom.

To be specific about their gender, you do the same thing we did above to describe siblings and children: add laki-laki for men, and perempuan for women. For parents-in-law, use bapak and ibu respectively instead, but you have to put them before the word mertua. Let’s clear this up with a couple of examples.

  • Ibu mertua saya tidak suka kue.
    “My mother-in-law doesn’t like cake.”
  • Saya punya dua ipar laki-laki.
    “I have two brothers-in-law.”

You’ll note that the structure of these words is different for each category: ibu mertua is literally talking about “a type of mother” while ipar laki-laki, since the word order is switched, means “a male sibling-in-law.”

Better get used to these family words for talking about your family in Indonesian, because they’re not going away…

5. Using Family Words with Ordinary People

Two Women Talking

Okay, here’s an extremely important part of speaking Indonesian that we’ve kind of glossed over up until now.

It’s a very normal part of polite Indonesian to use the words bapak and ibu when addressing or speaking to others.

  • Permisi, Bapak?
    “Excuse me, sir?”

But building off of that, you actually use these words instead of the pronoun Anda or “you.” Generally, you’ll use a very truncated form, where bapak becomes pak and ibu becomes bu.

  • Apakah Ibu mau lihat?
    “Do you (polite, female) want to see?”

And although this article is about Indonesian, we can’t bring up this point without introducing a tiny bit of Javanese. The largest of Indonesia’s cities are all on the island of Java, so people living there usually grow up bilingual in Indonesian and the local variety of Javanese (a related but different language).

Two words from Javanese appear quite constantly in Indonesian: mbak and mas. These mean “sister” and “brother” respectively, and they’re used with young people the same way ibu and bapak are used with older people.

  • Halo Mas, dari mana?
    “Hey man, where are you from?”

These words are also the accepted way to call servers over at a restaurant.

  • Permisi Mbak, minta bill.
    “Excuse me, ma’am, I’d like the bill.”

6. How IndonesianPod101 Can Help You Learn Indonesian Well

Family Quotes

Now you might be thinking: If you don’t personally have a handful of bibi and a couple of cucu laki-laki running around, what good is it to know all this vocabulary?

Well, for one thing, you certainly don’t need it to simply get by. Besides somebody asking if you’re an only child (anak tunggal) or not, you could live a fruitful life in Indonesia without ever talking about a sister-in-law.

But here’s the thing—Indonesians use these words like second nature. Any TV dramas, folktales, or epic poems that you’re interested in? They’ll be using these words all the time. “So and so’s brother betrayed so and so’s father, and I had to band together with my cousin to stop them!”

As I mentioned before, Indonesian family winds through Indonesian society. Being in good graces with somebody’s family is a fantastic social lubricant—they like you, you like them, everything just seems to go right when you’re together.

That can happen without knowing the language, of course. But when you go the extra mile to really understand the culture, it opens doors you could only dream of.

To learn more about the culture in Indonesia, and of course the language, visit us at IndonesianPod101.com. Read our insightful blogs posts, listen to our podcasts, and even upgrade to Premium Plus and take advantage of our MyTeacher program to learn Indonesian with your own personal teacher.

Your hard work will pay off, and you’ll be speaking Indonesian like a native before you know it! Let us know how this article helped you, or contact us with any questions.

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