How to Learn Indonesian

Edited by Dlpn, Travis Derouin, Zoe Volt, OhioMike and 14 others

Indonesian is one of the easier languages to learn due to its 26-letter alphabet and easy pronunciations. There are many things that you can do to learn this easy language. Read the steps below to get a better understanding of what you can do to learn Indonesian in the easiest and fastest way.


  1. Before you do anything, make sure that you are truly interested in learning this language. Since there aren't many Indonesians abroad, the language isn't going to be all that useful if you never plan on visiting the country. But it'll come in handy if you plans to visit neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, East Timor. If you understand that and remain positive about your decision, then there's no reason why you shouldn't go ahead and start learning.

  2. Commit yourself to your goal. Every language takes a while to learn, whether it's a common or an obscure one. It's a lot like bodybuilding; you need to do it on a regular basis and stick with it. Just because you might not take a class does not mean that you can skip a day or two. Remember that it's a long-term goal instead of a spontaneous decision. A lot of people tend to stop learning a language after a few months or weeks, so try to stay motivated throughout the tough or confusing parts.

  3. Spelling. Indonesian language is spelled the way it is written. Just like Latin, or Spanish, or International Phonetic Alphabet (you know, the words in the brackets in the dictionaries). Every syllable mostly consist of no more than a vowel and one or two consonant(s). The exception to the one vowel rule is diphthong.

  4. A-E-I-O-U This is the part that confuse most English speaker. "A" in Indonesian is spoken like "Ah" in English. "E" in Indonesian is spoken like "A" in English, "I" in Indonesian is spoken like "E" or "ee" in English, "O" in Indonesian is spoken like "Oh" in English. "U" in Indonesian is spoken like "oo" in English. Again, this is like Latin. Blame English for the inconsistencies. :) The only difference between English and Indonesian pronunciations is "C" which is pronounced as "ch" in Indonesian.

  5. Learn the simplest things first. This is the easiest and most fun part, because after you learn the "tourist basics", you'll feel much more confident in your knowledge and understanding. Here's a few basic words and phrases in Indonesian:

    • Terima kasih (teh-ree-muh kah-see)- Thank you
    • Maaf (mah-ahf)- Sorry
    • Apa kabar? (ah-pah kah-bahr)- How are you?
    • Permisi (per-mee-see)- Excuse me
    • Saya/Aku (sah-yah/ah-koo)- I (formal/informal)
    • Anda/Kamu (ahn-da/ka-moo )- You (formal/informal)
    • Saya ingin makan (sah-yah ma-oo ma-kahn) I want to eat
  6. Surround yourself with the language. This is going to help you a lot later on, especially on the days when you aren't motivated. There's a lot of things that you can do to make sure that you have the language around you in a fun and convenient way. Sign up for an RSS feed or newsletter of "Indonesian Word of the Day", start watching an Indonesian show/movie with subtitles, discover Indonesian music, listen to Indonesian podcasts, etc.

  7. Sign up for a class if you can. If you don't live in Oceania or Eastern/Southeastern Asia, it probably won't be very easy to find classes. However, you can usually get a tutor or join a language club. You'll find it much easier to stick to your goal once you get yourself into a regular schedule and interact with others who are trying to do the same as you.

  8. Get yourself a dictionary. Most chances are that your library or book store has an English-Indonesian dictionary, but don't be afraid to ask if there are any other books. The dictionary will be very useful to learn and to flip through when you encounter an unfamiliar word. Online translators are infamous for their incorrect translations, but you can use those once in awhile as well.

  9. Create flash cards. This is usually the part that most people hate, but it doesn't have to be. Copy down useful words that you want to remember. Use highlighters, markers, and even stickers to make them fun and interesting. Since it uses 26 Latin alphabet with no variations, you'd find no difficulty in writing or typing Indonesian language.

  10. Listen to the language. Like all languages, Indonesian has a unique sound and rhythm that you will need to become familiar with. Spoken Indonesian can be quite fast and quite different from formal Indonesian that you might learn from a textbook, so it is best to try to begin training your ear to understand it early on in the process.


  • Find a friend or a pen pal that can help you. There are a lot of people online that are trying to find a pen pal. If it's a person from Indonesia, you can help them learn English while they help you with their language. You can also ask a non-Indonesian speaking friend to quiz you on some words or even watch a show/movie that includes subtitles.
  • Try different methods. When writing down a word in Indonesian, it will help you more to draw a small picture instead of the English translation. So if you're writing down "tangan"(hand), draw a hand near it so you'll know what it means. This method will help you to remember words better and give them a meaning of their own.

Things You'll Need

  • Dictionary

  • Cue cards

  • Highlighters/markers

  • Search engine (to look for help online and find classes in your area)