Is Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) Difficult to Learn?

Is Indonesian or bahasa Indonesia difficult to learn? In this post, I share my opinion as Indonesian.

How Language are Acquired

The term Indonesian is mainly used to refer to bahasa Indonesia. Besides, some people refer to it as bahasa. First, I would like to clarify that those are different terms. Bahasa Indonesia is actually the official language spoken in Republik Indonesia while Indonesian refers to the people of Republik Indonesia and bahasa literally means ‘language’. If you want to refer to official language of Republik Indonesia, simply call it ‘Bahasa Indonesia”.

Then, is Bahasa Indonesia difficult to learn? Well, it depends on many related things such as spirit you have, urgency in learning the language, etc. Everybody knows that learning a language needs cognitive process in which learners should cognitively know how any expression is formed. However, if we refer to behaviorism theory, we’ll find it as habit.

Regardless of the theory of cognitivism and behaviorism, we need to know the difference between language learning with language acquisition. You would agree that majority of native speakers of English are not able to explain how their language works. The same statement applies to native speakers of Bahasa Indonesia - they cannot explain in detail how expressions in Bahasa Indonesia is formed.

Is It Really Difficult to Learn?

All languages are difficult to learn as the language we want to learn is not familiar. We need to deliberately learn the language by not comparing our native language with our target language.

Regarding the learning of Bahasa Indonesia, it will depend on the learners. Once the learners know how to learn any foreign language, the learning will become easier. However, that is not the magic formula to learn foreign language. Familiarizing ourselves with the vocabulary, structure, intonation, expressions, etc are a must.

Many argue that Bahasa Indonesian is easy to learn. However, in some points, it is difficult that the rule is not so clear enough. Sometimes, Indonesians speak out of the rule but it is acceptable. Let’s see an expression as example.

Commonly Used It Should Be
... Prof. Dr. Muhaimin, M. Pd., Prof. Dr. Josh, M. Pd., atas perhatiannya sehingga skripsi ini dapat selesai... ... Prof. Dr. Muhaimin, M. Pd., Prof. Dr. Josh, M. Pd., atas perhatian mereka sehingga skripsi ini dapat selesai...

On the table, expression or sentence under the “commonly used” is commonly written by many students in the preface section of their thesis. As there are two individuals, they should use objective pronoun “mereka” instead of objective pronoun “-nya”. However, no one will protest that kind of ungrammatical line. In fact, for a scientific work, grammar should be in a top priority.

Given the clue above, it can be inferred that in the domain of foreign language, it is sometimes not the grammar that makes a language understandable. From the pragmatics perspective, one important point is “pragmatically accepted” - as long as the expression is understandable (commonly based on context), then it is pragmatically accepted. However, you need to be the one who can produce both semantically correct and pragmatically accepted expressions.

What Makes Bahasa Indonesia Difficult?

From the side of the language itself, Bahasa Indonesia has some ‘oddities’ that makes it difficult to learn. They key to understand the ‘oddities’ is familiarizing yourself with everything.

As Indonesian, the inconsistency of the rules becomes the number one reason why Bahasa Indonesia is difficult to learn. Again, being familiar with the expressions is the key to this problem.

Some examples of inconsistency can be found under the topic of prefix and suffix. In this case, you can’t 100% trust the written lesson on Bahasa Indonesia.

Let’s take some examples. In Bahasa Indonesia, any verb can obtain prefix ‘me_’ and suffix ‘_kan’ which literally means ‘to make’ or ‘to cause’ or ‘doing something for someone’.

Let’s take a base verb ‘baca’ which literally means ‘read’ in English.

English Bahasa Indonesia Note
I read a story Saya baca sebuah cerita Prevalent
I read a tory Saya membaca sebuah cerita Prevalent
I read a story Saya membacakan sebuah cerita Prevalent

One more example. Let’s take verb ‘makan’ which literally means ‘eat’ in English.

English Bahasa Indonesia Note
I eat banana Saya makan pisang Prevalent
I eat banana Saya memakan pisang Prevalent
I eat banana Saya memakankan pisang Not common

Beside those examples, there are some other examples of oddity of structure which entails on ‘prevalent’ and ‘not common’. Englinesian Podcast tries hard to familiarize you all with Bahasa Indonesia through podcast channel which is available on your podcast apps. Besides, Englinesian also tries hard to assist you with written resource.