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Language Schools for Expats in Indonesia

Submitted: November 2014

There are over 700 different native languages spread over the archipelago of Indonesia. The official language is Indonesian, which is called Bahasa Indonesia or BI by its speakers. Officially there are over 200 million Indonesian speakers in Indonesia, making it by far the most popular language in the country. It is almost certain that most urban Indonesians will speak Indonesian as either a first or second language. If you are moving to Indonesia as an expat, you are going to have to learn some Indonesian, even if it only extends as far as silahkan (please) and terima kasih (thank you).

The best way to jump-start the learning process is to spend some time back at school. This might involve anything from attending evening classes for around £40 a week to spending two weeks on an intensive one-on-one course, with accommodation and sightseeing included, at a cost of over £600.

If you are looking for an Indonesian proficiency qualification, perhaps to help you to find work, you can study for one of the three TIBA Indonesian proficiency tests offered by Lembaga Bahasa International (LBI). There are tests for academic and occupational (business) purposes and a test for prospective high school students.

Expats should be aware that in 2014 a new government regulation (no. 57/2014) was issued. This regulation states that all foreign workers in Indonesia should have a level of proficiency in Indonesian suitable to undertake whatever particular job they have been hired to do. If they fail to demonstrate sufficient proficiency, they will be required to take language lessons until they satisfy the criteria laid down by the Ministry of Education. It is hard to see quite how this regulation will be enforced, but it is clear that the pendulum is swinging towards a necessity for expats to attain at least a working knowledge of the language.

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) have begun offering one of their internationally recognised qualifications, the IGCSE in Indonesian, with the first exams taking place in June 2016. There is more information available here.

Choosing the right school for you depends on what you want to get out of it. If you are interested in more than just class-based learning, many schools provide sight-seeing tours, which not only help with your language development, but also give you more information regarding what you are looking at than you would get from a guide book. They may also provide outings such as shopping trips and restaurant visits. These can help you to learn the vocabulary you will need in these situations, and improve your confidence. Also a guided trip to a restaurant may encourage you to try the wide variety of Indonesian food on offer, and discover some new favourites.

Generally schools will run classes for students of all levels of ability, ranging from total beginners to accomplished speakers taking refresher courses. You will generally be assessed on arrival to see which class would be suitable, but you should always confirm that if you find yourself in a class that does not suit your ability, you can move freely into a more suitable class.

There are many different factors involved in the final choice of school. These include:

It may also be worth checking with the nearest university in Indonesia to see if they offer courses.




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