Indonesia’s society, polity and economy are robust and healthy and the world’s largest island country is ready to make a remarkable role in the affairs in the region and around the globe. This means that learning the Indonesian language or Bahasa Indonesia is gaining importance as well.
Indonesian is the official language in the country. It’s an Austronesian language, a standardized register of Malay that is used as the lingua franca in the vast archipelago where 742 languages and dialects are spoken. The second most spoken language in the Indonesia archipelago is Javanese although it is not officially recognized.
Ethnologue puts Indonesian under the Malay language, which is the 23rd most spoken language in the world. About 23.1 million speak Indonesian as their first language and 22.8 million of them are found in Indonesia. Globally, the language is spoken by some 198.5 million people.
While Indonesians speak a variety of indigenous languages at home, the official language for formal education, governance, judiciary, administration, national mass media and several forms of communication is Bahasa Indonesia.
The Indonesian language is not a creole or pidgin but a true language that many believe was developed due to their desire for independence. It received several foreign lexicons, from the various countries that colonized the land, including Arabic, English and Dutch.
Indonesia is rich in natural resources, such as gold, copper, tin, natural gas and crude oil. It has made a name for itself as a manufacturing center. It has an estimated (2018) GDP (PPP) of $3.481 trillion and a per capita of $13,120. Several of the major countries in the world are trade partners of Indonesia. The top 15 includes the following:
- United States
- South Korea
Key exports to these countries are textiles, rubber, plywood, electrical appliances, gas and oil. Indonesia imports foodstuffs, fuels, chemicals, plastics, iron and steel, equipment and machinery.
Business protocol and etiquette
Business cards are essential when doing business with Indonesians. It is normal to exchange business cards after a handshake and short greeting. Your business card should show your title. You show respect by printing your information in Bahasa Indonesia on the other side of your business card.
It is important to accept and give your cards using your right hand or both hands. Treat the card with respect. Read the information on it and put it close to you or in your card case.
Indonesians are conservative in their business attire. Women should wear conservative dress that covers their neck down to their ankles. Tight fitting clothes are forbidden.
To effectively communicate you have to keep in mind that your Indonesian counterparts communicate indirectly. They will not say what they mean so it is up to you to pay attention to the person’s body language or learn to read between the lines. Indonesians generally speak quietly using a subdued tone. They perceive loud people as aggressive. Indonesians treat business deals as personal thus taking the time to communicate is important. For them, meeting face-to-face is more effective that exchanging written messages.
They avoid confrontations because they do not want to lose face. They are very polite and you may receive answers that you want to hear instead of the actual replies. They will remain civil when offended but they will treat you coldly or avoid you. Hierarchy is very important to them. Since they take time to come to a final decision, exercising patience is required.
Learning Bahasa Indonesia
It is often said that learning a language enriches your view of the world and embracing a country’s culture can open many doors for various opportunities. There is always a challenge when you learn a new language but it is always to your advantage when you have mastered a foreign language considering the global scenario today.
Why should you learn Indonesian when many Indonesians speak English?
Better means of communication
You cannot assume that your business counterpart in Indonesia can speak English. It is more polite to deal with them in their own language, thus learning it is a step in that direction. You will gain their respect and you’ll have more opportunities and chances to have an advantage over your competition. Indonesians are traditionalists and conservative and learning the language means learning about their culture and traditions as well.
Indonesian is the official language in the entire country and knowing how to speak it will allow you to communicate wherever you go in Indonesia. If you’re a tourist going to Bali and other exotic destinations in the archipelago, it will be a great help if you know the language. English may be spoken in major cities but if you want to tour the outskirts, you’ll fare better if you speak Bahasa Indonesia. You’ll be able to communicate with the locals and avoid shams and misunderstandings.
The economy of Indonesia is growing steadily. It recovered from the Asian economic crisis the fastest. With the increasing interest of western nations to expand into Asia, Indonesia offers plenty of opportunities for business and trade. Right now many foreigners consider dealing with or partnering with Indonesian businesses. Knowing the local language is vital if you want to move and work in Indonesia.
Form new relationships
You can form various relationships when you learn Indonesian. You can have educational ties, security ties, commercial ties and so on. You can also form relationships with the locals, the very people who are the foundations for higher relationships.
Learning the language opens the door to a rich, fascinating and intriguing culture. You’ll understand the history of one of Indonesia’s most famous exports, batik cloths. If you are dealing with coffee, know that Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest coffee producer. It exports Arabica and Robusta coffees.
You’ll have more influence if you speak Indonesia and working in the import/export industry. Indonesia is a rich source of various agricultural products such as corn, rice, cassava, peanuts and soybeans. It is also one of the largest exporters of spices, cocoa, palm oil, palm kernels, copra and rubber.
Learn Indonesia’s unique and complex culture
Indonesia is multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural. All the ethnic groups have their respective languages, philosophies, myths, rituals, dance, music, festivals, traditional dresses, cuisine, housing, architecture and arts. It’s a fascinating world. You’ll be amazed at the historical stories behind the traditional Balinese and Javanese dances. You’ll understand the legends depicted in the performances of Wayang Kulit (shadow puppets) and why their traditional houses and buildings are built in such a particular way.
The Indonesian language
The Indonesian language is an interesting mix of several languages, which built up its extensive lexicon, which in itself is fascinating.
Aside from Britain, Indonesia was also a Dutch colony. During the period under the Dutch, the Latin alphabet was used for written texts. Dutch spellings were implemented.
When the people started the independence movement in the 1930s, the language was standardized and given the name Bahasa Indonesia.
Slowly they began to make changes in the traditional Dutch spellings. “Oe” was replaced by “u” in 1947. President Suharto made an official set of changes to the spelling system of Bahasa Indonesia in 1972. Some of the key changes include:
As mentioned earlier, the vocabulary of Bahasa Indonesia is enriched by many loan words from different languages. Some of the languages that made significant contributions include the following:
- Austronesian languages
Minangkabau from Sumatra and Malaysia, Javanese, Sundanese, Betawi. Nias, Batak, Maluku and Manado
- Indian languages
Sanskrit and Tamil
- Middle Eastern languages
Arabic and Persian
- East Asian languages
Chinese and Japanese
- European languages
Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, Latin, French and English
English words of Indonesian origin
Indonesian is a language that has a variety of influences, from ancient to modern languages. Some of them have found their way into the English vocabulary. Examples include:
- Komodo dragon
- Mata Hari
These facts and examples indicate the importance of the Indonesian language to the global business community. Learning the language is vital if you want to work in companies that have ties with Indonesian companies or join the company that wants to expand in the Southeast Asian market. Since many international companies are looking for bilingual and multilingual people to handle foreign markets, learning Indonesian could be your stepping stone to a very lucrative and rewarding job or for securing a business deal.
Communicate with your Indonesian counterparts easily. Day Translations, Inc. offers Bahasa Indonesia translation services. We also offer interpreting services if you need it. Our Bahasa Indonesia translators are located around the world. They are subject matter experts so they can professionally assist you if you need business and financial documents, messages and emails accurately translated. Ensure the success of your business dealings in Indonesia through the suite of language services of Day Translations. Reach us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us any time of the day. We are open daily throughout the year to immediately attend to your translation and interpreting requirements 24/7.
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