Indonesia Expat

Why Learning Bahasa is Essential for Expats

Learning the local language is essential for people moving to a new country, but is often taken lightly by many expatriates, particularly those that master the English language. While many Indonesians are keen on learning and using the English language, they are also generally proud nationalist, who appreciate foreigners respecting the local language.

In Indonesia, the decision of learning the local language is left to the individual expatriates as there is no longer any regulation that forces foreign workers to learn Bahasa. Mastery of the local language used to be one of the requirements for foreigners looking to work in Indonesia. However, the requirement, which was stipulated in a 2012 Manpower Ministry regulation, has been revoked, as the regulation has been replaced by a new Manpower Ministry regulation in 2015.

However, earlier this year, there have been calls for the language requirement to be put back in place, arguing that it would benefit Indonesia in terms of tourism and investment.

“We hope that there is a regulation that makes it obligatory for them (foreign workers) to use Bahasa Indonesia, such as through the Manpower Ministry regulation,” said Dony Setiawan, head of Language Diplomacy, Language Strategy Development Center at Education and Culture Ministry’s Language Agency, as quoted by

Usually, the decision of whether or not to take classes in the local language would differ from person to person, depending on the reasons for emigration. Retirees, for example, tend to be more interested in integrating with the local culture and so being able to communicate in the local language becomes more important. Those on temporary assignment, meanwhile, would often feel less obliged to learn the language, and just pick up words and phrases as they go.

Whatever the take is in local language learning, the fact is that learning the local language helps newcomers understand local customs, thus avoiding giving offence, and can lead to truly international friendships.

The best way to approach an unfamiliar tongue is to start before you leave your home country. If no courses are available in your area, the internet is your go-to-place, as there are hundreds of language-learning options to choose from. Upon arrival at the new country, it’s the time to put the theory into practice by reading things like road signs, tickets in supermarkets, before advancing to simple conversations once your confidence builds.


See: 8 Free Ways to Learn Bahasa Indonesia

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