The Importance and Benefits of Being Able to Speak Indonesian Language

Do you have a testimonial about the importance and benefits of being able to speak Bahasa Indonesia? If so, please send us an email. We’d love to hear it! —

You can’t be fully anywhere without being able to speak — and listen — to the inhabitants in their own language. Indonesians, and Balinese in particular (since we’re talking about Bali), open up very readily when they realize they can converse with you. If you want to spend time in Bali, you really should learn Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). It’s a good idea, too, to learn the body language, etiquette and social manners of Indonesian, all of which are part of any language. A school can speed up this process and help save you from unintentionally causing offence. As Bali’s landscape changes and becomes more confusing and crowded, the Balinese themselves are still a fascinating and open-hearted people. To me they’re the main draw on this island. You can have access to this human treasure when you can communicate with them in their national language. Diana Darling, Author

If you’re here “forever” you really should be at least somewhat proficient in the language — it’ll improve MANY aspects of your life here. David Van Rooy

As a teacher of Indonesian in Australia since 1967 my visits here to Indonesia have certainly been enriched by my ability to speak Indonesian fluently. It has allowed me to develop close relationships with people beyond everyday exchanges. Any expat living here without the language must remain on the fringe of this very beautiful and complex society. Gaining fluency in the language is surely a basic requirement of taking up residence here. Without it so many doors remain closed. Everyone seems to pick up the simple everyday “service” language functions but this keeps you apart from the wider community in which you are living and you are destined to always be the “foreigner”. Anecdote: As is common here, people I meet casually love to chat once they realise I can speak their language. Once, years ago in a three-wheeled bemo in Denpasar, I got chatting with the young driver. In no time I had learned all about his tough life- long working hours with little sleep, 7 children at home, the impossibility of ever preventing more due to the high cost of a vasectomy for someone on his tiny wage. When he dropped me at my destination I felt so involved in his plight I decided to donate the cost of a vasectomy. Mind you, having noted his chain smoking habit, I feared the money would rapidly go up in smoke. But then again, maybe this one language encounter did help change one man’s destiny. Toni Pollard, Indonesian Language Teaching Expert

I came to Indonesia to work as a volunteer. My organization provided me with a month of intensive language training. After the course was finished, I went to work in my office. With just one month of training, plus a lot of self-study, I found that I was 80% effective in my office from day one. Being able to talk with my colleagues and make new friends, within just a few more months I could work all day using Indonesian. Within a few more months, I was able to stand up in front of a group of people and make presentations. I could talk with government officials and other high-level people I would have to meet. Soon, I was able to manage a team of people entirely in Indonesian, and that was how I got my next job as a manager at UNDP. I’m not bad at learning languages, but learning any new language is not easy. It takes just that, learning. The benefits to me have been amazing, and being able to speak Indonesian is a major reason why I’m still here today. Stephen DeMeulenaere

After over ten years of living in Indonesia, I am still struggling to learn the language. Granted that I was middle-aged when I started and have never had much of an ear for languages, but that’s no excuse. After a decade I should be a lot more fluent than I am. It’s an easy language to speak badly and I’m constantly getting into trouble. Once I was standing up for a friend in divorce court in Denpasar when the judge asked me a question I didn’t understand; I said yes instead of no and the whole courtroom corrected me. I recently failed to have my local drivers license renewed because the new test in Indonesian floored me. The police officer apologized to me, but I apologized harder to him. It’s shameful. I’m living in this country and plan to be here until I fall off the perch, and I communicate at the level of a three year old. Some polite Balinese compliment me on my ill-constructed sentences, but local friends tend to be more frank. “You’ve been here TEN YEARS and you still can’t read a child’s storybook?” they ask in perfect English. When people from China, India and other lands move to Canada they’re expected to learn to speak English and be able to read signs, posters and follow vernacular news. When we westerners move to another country, many of us arrogantly assume that we don’t need to learn the local language. I think this attitude is colonial and just plain rude, and stubbornly keep signing up for Indonesian courses. The teachers are usually good, but my brain implodes every time I try to master the concepts of men/kan and the passive tense. Technical terms like ‘intransitive verbs’ and ‘object focus construction’ leave me in the dust because I somehow missed learning any English grammar in school. There are certain lessons that I could probably spend several weeks on before the concept will sink in, but structured classes don’t work like that and keep moving right along with me lagging further and further behind. I come home after two hours of Indonesian lessons and have to lie down to rest my brain, then wake up to find that Wayan Manis has done all my homework. I’ve never spoken English at home. My long-suffering staff, who do speak some English, aren’t allowed to utter a word during working hours. So we have long, convoluted conversations with the aid of maps, drawings, charades and dictionaries. Sometimes they have to tell me the same thing three of four times until I get the point. On the other hand, the little bit of Indonesian I do speak gets me by in family compounds in remote villages and farmers’ fields high in the mountains. Often their Indonesian isn’t very good either, which helps. But I am gearing up to try again. Cinta Bahasa (, a new school based in Campuhan College, will be the first in Ubud to offer an intensive beginner class of two hours a day, five days a week for a month. Maybe even I could be brainwashed into learning something with that kind of schedule. Perlahan – lahan naik gunung. Ibu Cat

For those who want fast improvement in their understanding and fluency in a language, the “immersion method” – with good teachers and modern, intensive teaching methods – is the best answer. Until now, despite some excellent classes at Pondok Pekak library, Starfish and elsewhere, students have had to go to Denpasar or more often, Jogjakarta, to make rapid improvement in their Indonesian language. The newly opened Cinta Bahasa at Campuhan College provides group and tailored private courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced students, with meals and accommodation available on site. Ibu Dyah Prashetya Hening, the founder of Jogja’s best-regarded college, professionally trained Cinta Bahasa’s two highly experienced teachers. Wayan Jen





10 mistakes foreigners make moving to Bali


6. Not learning Indonesian language Indonesian is a relatively easy language to learn, but it still requires effort and practice. You will gain a great deal of respect by Indonesian people by communicating in their language.

10. Not making Indonesian friends As difficult it is to imagine probably for most people, some expats who move to Bali only associate or make friends with other expats. Having many local friends will only make your stay in Bali more enjoyable and in many ways easier. Dealing with bureaucracy can be a real pain, but having a friend who can help you out makes everything so much smoother. At the same time I believe it is also healthy to make friends with fellow expats. Like many things about living in Bali, it’s all about finding a good balance. —





Learning Indonesian the fun way in Ubud

Deisha Tamar,
The Jakarta Post, Ubud |
Thu, 04/21/2011 |

Foreigners who want to learn Indonesian usually go to Yogyakarta, as the city is famed as the education hub of Indonesia. And when they want to have a nice vacation they go to Bali. They may not know, however, that they now can kill two birds with one stone by leaning Indonesian in one of the Island of Gods’ most vibrant cities.

Cinta Bahasa is an Indonesian language school located in Ubud, Bali. Cinta Bahasa, which means “Love Language”, is an abbreviation of aku cinta bahasa Indonesia (I love Indonesian). The course provides classes for those who want to master Indonesian. The course is located at Campuhan College, a non-profit school specializing in language and communication training for low-income Balinese students.

The course is also situated in the same place as Campuhan College, which is on the main Campuhan-Sanginggan highway, on Jl. Raya Sanggingan, west of Ubud. Both Cinta Bahasa and Campuhan College are part of the Karuna Bali Foundation, which focuses on education and individual growth opportunities for the Balinese.

Mastering Indonesian at Cinta Bahasa will cost around US$400 (Rp 4,000,000) for 40 hours of classes — that’s two hours a day, five days a week for a month. The school also provides textbooks and other learning materials for students to practice their Indonesian outside of class. Students can opt for private, group or corporate classes depending on their skill level, of which there are three — Beginner Indonesian, Intermediate Indonesian and Advanced Indonesian.

Besides providing the language course, Cinta Bahasa can also provide accommodation in Ubud for its students through special packages. They also use various effective methodologies, such as movies, music, movement, flashcards, semi-structured conversation, and interactive role-playing situations. For beginner students, they focus on everyday conversation and role-playing situations — and formal language and grammar for intermediate students.

Cinta Bahasa was founded by husband and wife Stephen DeMeulenaere and Yoshida “Ochie” Chandra DeMeulenaere, both of whom have had good experience with language and teaching. Stephen studied at Realia School in Yogyakarta in 2000 and also worked as a language teacher in Canada, Argentina and Japan, can speak six languages.

His wife, Ochie, had worked as a lecturer at Binus University, taught English at Campuhan College, and worked as an interpreter and translator, and copywriter at several renowned advertising agencies. She was also involved as a coordinator at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Ochie is also one of the teachers at Cinta Bahasa, along with Noviana Kusumawardhani, a published author who taught at Realia in Yogyakarta for five years.

One of the students of Cinta Bahasa, Diana Darling, said in her testimonial that, “it’s a good idea, too, to learn the body language, etiquette and social manners of Indonesian, all of which are part of any language. A school can speed up this process and help save you from unintentionally causing offense.” The language school also offers several other language-related services, such as translation, editing, and copy-writing and technical writing.

Set in the picturesque location of Ubud, Cinta Bahasa Indonesian Language School is an interesting choice for learning Indonesian. Especially since Ubud has gained recognition as a tourism and cultural town in Bali — with many events held annually such as the much-celebrated Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and Bali Spirit Festival.

This makes Cinta Bahasa the perfect place to not only learn Indonesian, but also to dive into the local exotic Balinese culture.