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3 Reasons Why Indonesian is One of the Easier Asian Languages to Learn for English Speakers

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Unlike many Asian languages, Indonesian has been influenced rather significantly by quite a number of European languages, making it easier for English speakers to learn.
3 Reasons Why Indonesian is One of the Easier Asian Languages to Learn for English Speakers

Published by The LingoNomad

Featured article photo: Aerial photography of a rice terrace in Rumpin, Indonesia by Tom Fisk (CC0 Licensed)

Indonesian uses the same 26 Latin alphabets like the ones in English

Many Asian languages use non-Latin scripts, and learners often have to start off by memorizing and practicing reading and writing characters in those languages before learning vocabularies and grammar.

This wouldn't be the case with Indonesian, as it uses the same 26 Latin alphabets as the ones in English, putting English speakers ahead of the game when it comes to learning reading and writing in Indonesian. The Latin alphabet was said to be introduced and popularized in Indonesia by the Dutch, although some sources claim that it was the Portuguese who first introduced the alphabet in certain parts of Indonesia.

However, the former claim is certainly the most widely accepted one. From 1901 to 1947, Indonesian was written using the Van Ophuijsen Spelling System, named after the Dutch linguist Van Ophuijsen, who devised this spelling system based on Dutch orthography. In 1947, around two years after the Indonesian proclamation of independence, this spelling system was replaced by the Republican Spelling System with very minor changes. For example, the /oe/ sequence was replaced by /u/, the /nj/ sequence was replaced by /ny/. This Republican Spelling System was later replaced by the Perfected Spelling System, also with very minor changes. 

In any case, the fact that Indonesian uses the same writing system as English definitely puts English speakers at an advantage in learning the language. Additionally, there are no diacritics used in Indonesian either, so you do not need to download an Indonesian-specific keyboard to type in Indonesian!

Indonesian contains many loanwords from Dutch and English

Indonesia used to be a part of the Dutch Colonial Empire for over three centuries from the 1600s to the 1900s and as a result, there are many Dutch loanwords in Indonesian. It is estimated that there are over 3,000 of such loanwords.

Dutch is also often said to be the closest language to English. They both belong to the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, and as such the two languages share similarities in quite a number of vocabularies. Considering this fact, English speakers may then find learning Indonesian vocabularies may not take as much effort as they would need in other non-European languages.

Here are some examples of similarities in the vocabularies between Dutch, Indonesian, and English: 



Fascinated yet? And here's a fun fact: All but three of the months in Indonesian are spelled the same exact way in Dutch!

There are no tense conjugations

Unlike English, Indonesian is simple in the fact that you do not have to conjugate verbs in different tenses! In English, you have to remember the past tense conjugations of verbs such as "lose", "find", "eat", "drink" are "lost", "found", "ate", "drank". This isn't the case in Indonesian, you do not have to conjugate verbs based on the time, let alone needing to memorize them (because they don't exist). All you have to do is, through the use of words, specify the manner and/or the time of when something happens. For example:

  • Dia tidur → He sleeps
  • Dia sedang tidur → He is sleeping
  • Dia akan tidur → He will sleep
  • Dia sudah tidur → He has slept
  • Dia tidur kemarin → He slept yesterday

Notice how the word tidur 'sleep' stays the same, regardless of whenever the action is done. The only thing that changes the meaning in each sentence is a single word that modifies the meaning of the verb. Easy, right?

Want More Practice in Indonesian?

  • IndonesianPod101 offers audio and video lessons with native speakers to help you learn Indonesian effectively from Beginner, Upper Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels to practice on listening, vocabulary lists, and grammar pointers to fast track your goal in becoming a pro in Indonesian!

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