How to Master Bahasa Indonesia

Living as an expatriate in a foreign country is surely not easy. There are new things to face, some of which could prove to be stumbling blocks, such as bureaucracy, cultural differences, local habits and, in particular, communicating.

Although some Indonesian workers understand and speak basic English, it would be better to learn and understand Bahasa Indonesia, especially when you deal with locals in your work on a daily basis.

Start with basic phrases, such as “selamat pagi” (good morning), “terima kasih” (thank you), “maaf” (sorry) and “tolong” (please help), and how to ask for directions and about prices, etc.

Here are some ways to master the Indonesian language.


Bahasa Indonesia is considered an easy language to learn, and you can always learn it by yourself. You can buy a dictionary or do-it-yourself books at major bookstores in Jakarta, such as Gramedia or Kinokuniya. If going to a bookstore is too time-consuming or costly, you could learn by accessing websites like or

Take a course

Enrolling in a class is effective, since a course teaches not only how to speak Indonesian but also about Indonesian culture, which will give you more confidence when chatting with Indonesians.

AIM for English is one place that offers classes for expatriates. The institution is located at Jl. Padang 5C, Manggarai, South Jakarta, phone (021) 8385238, email [email protected]

There is also the Jakarta Communication Club at Jl. Cipaku II 27, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, phone: (021) 7203966, (021) 72791829 or visit for more info.

Broaden your horizons

Join social clubs that you’re interested in or meet up with local friends after work to expand your network and practice your Indonesian.

Read local publications or watch local TV programs in order to keep abreast of recent local issues, which will also help you learn and practice more.