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  • Bahasa is complicated!!! bye...

    'Bahasa is complicated, ya?'

    Sometimes I hear this statement from many expats in Indonesia. In your opinion, what makes bahasa complicated?
    Provides the Indonesian language course programs for expats in Indonesia (Private)

  • #2
    Bahasa Indonesia is completely unlike English in grammatical structure. It is what I believe is referred to as an "agglutinative" language - you take a root like beri or bangun and add a variety of affixes such as me-, ber-, di-, pe-, pe-an, ke-an, or ter- (am I leaving any out?). English may occasionally seem superficially similar (you can add inflections like -ed to create past tense), but actually the two languages require a completely different way of thinking about sentence structuring.

    Further, Indonesian is a "high context" language and English is "low context." I think that is actually the hardest thing about the language for me - understanding meaning well involves crossing a lot of cultural boundaries with a high degree of accuracy.

    Another thing: Indonesian is one of the fastest changing languages around. It's filled with neologisms and Bahasa Gaul is a real challenge for foreigners since we don't usually learn that stuff from our teachers or textbooks. Even Indonesians who have been abroad for a few years complain that they have trouble understanding the language when they return home - there are new expressions all the time!

    For what it's worth, Indonesian is not ranked as a particularly easy language for native English speakers to learn. I think the Foreign Service ranks it as a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being easiest and 5 being hardest. Lots of people say Indonesian is easy, but I think those people don't care about getting past the "Saya mau beli buah" level. For that very basic stuff, yes, Indonesian is quite simple, because it doesn't have tenses or cases. However, to REALLY speak the language properly is much harder than a lot of people think. Much Dunning-Kruger effect out there, including perhaps in myself! (I have been known to brag that I am probably one of the few expats in Jakarta who can rattle off all four meanings of the prefix "ter" without thinking. But while I'm glad I can do that, it doesn't help me a lot in day to day interactions in Indonesian.)

    Anyway, if you have students who acknowledge the difficulty of learning the language, to me that is probably a good sign. It could just be that they are lazy and looking for an excuse not to study! But if they are serious, it shows they are actually dedicated to learning the language well, and recognize the difficulties.
    Last edited by Puspawarna; 07-04-16, 09:54.

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    • #3
      For some people it is for some it is not. You said foreigners well... they do come from different countries China, Korea, Japan, India, English speaking countries those are majorities of people coming to Indonesia.

      I knew it from beginning that Indonesian language is going to be difficult mainly like puspa said before there are so many prefixes and suffixes changing the root word drastically in its meaning sometimes.

      I do believe you can master it. With building vocabulary and constant practice you would be able to speak nicely.

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      • #4
        from my point of view (French)... it's the same structure, same pronunciation and way more simple than French. It was not quite hard to learn the basic.
        La motivation vient en se motivant ~ Motivation come by self-motivation

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Bahasa Teacher View Post
          'Bahasa is complicated, ya?'
          You should never hear that from anyone, but sadly we often do. It's worth repeating that the language is called ‘Indonesian’ in English. End of rant.

          As someone wrote above, Indonesian is agglutinative. This doesn't make the language easy or hard to learn. Rather, it just makes it a different type of language. Again, we frequently hear that Indonesian has no tenses. In the way that English has tenses, no, but the tenses are still there, albeit with a lack of verb inflection. The information regarding time is generally moved to an adverb or one has to infer the meaning from context. Some people don't do well with that for one reason or another. It takes time to adjust and you actually have to interact and use the language to master it. Sitting in a classroom or studying via an online course won't do it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by godmachine12 View Post
            Again, we frequently hear that Indonesian has no tenses. In the way that English has tenses, no, but the tenses are still there, albeit with a lack of verb inflection.
            I think the issue with tenses is that a student of Indonesian does not have to devote time to memorizing verb forms the way a learner of English does. Tense markers like "kemarin" or "tadi" apply across the board, and there is no need to memorize one or more new forms of the verb - unlike English where "go" turns into "gone" and "went"; "eat" turns into "ate" and "eaten"; "take" turns into "took" and taken"; "say" turns into "said", "think" turns into "thought" and...well, you see what I mean. That entire memorization process for English can be skipped in Indonesian: pergi, makan, ambil, bilang, pikir - no need to change the form in a lot of irregular ways.

            On the use of "Bahasa" as a name for the language ... I feel your pain, bro. I can't count the number of times over the past 25 years or so, since I first started studying Indonesian, when I have felt stabby over hearing people refer to "Bahasa" instead of "Indonesian."

            But we have lost the fight, and it may be just as well. Language, even English, changes over time, and that is not good or bad - it just is. There was a time when grammarians decried the use of the word "handbook" because...well, I don't know why, but I do know it offended certain sensibilities. I think we have to accept that times and language have changed. "Bahasa," in addition to being a word that simply means "language," now also, when written with a capital B, is the name of the national language spoken in Indonesia.
            Last edited by Puspawarna; 10-04-16, 18:38.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Puspawarna View Post
              I think the issue with tenses is that a student of Indonesian does not have to devote time to memorizing verb forms the way a learner of English does. Tense markers like "kemarin" or "tadi" apply across the board, and there is no need to memorize one or more new forms of the verb - unlike English where "go" turns into "gone" and "went"; "eat" turns into "ate" and "eaten"; "take" turns into "took" and taken"; "say" turns into "said", "think" turns into "thought" and...well, you see what I mean. That entire memorization process for English can be skipped in Indonesian: pergi, makan, ambil, bilang, pikir - no need to change the form in a lot of irregular ways.
              This is exactly why it is so difficult to teach Indonesian kids to use verb tenses and conjugate verbs correctly and consistently. I mean, it is not difficult to teach it to them, but very difficult to get them to understand and buy into the idea that it is actually meaningful and important to do so. And I can understand that learning and remembering that "go" changes into "has gone" and "went" is pretty darn confusing and frustrating to them. But even getting them to consistently use the simple past tense when describing a past event is an uphill battle.

              On the use of "Bahasa" as a name for the language ... I feel your pain, bro. I can't count the number of times over the past 25 years or so, since I first started studying Indonesian, when I have felt stabby over hearing people refer to "Bahasa" instead of "Indonesian."

              But we have lost the fight, and it may be just as well. Language, even English, changes over time, and that is not good or bad - it just is. There was a time when grammarians decried the use of the word "handbook" because...well, I don't know why, but I do know it offended certain sensibilities. I think we have to accept that times and language have changed. "Bahasa," in addition to being a word that simply means "language," now also, when written with a capital B, is the name of the national language spoken in Indonesia.
              This bugs me too, but I suppose you are right that "we have lost the fight", since many Indonesians seem to use "Bahasa" as a standalone term or shorthand form. If it's good enough for them, why should we complain? But I still dislike it, just as I still dislike the use of "Indo" instead of "Indonesia" or "Indonesian". Your point is well-made about language in general, though. Language teachers, and others, of every generation surely complain about how the youth are "degrading and impurifying the language", and then their generation gets old and dies off, by which point the language has already been altered, and the cycle repeats again ... otherwise, we English speakers would still be speaking Old English, or maybe never would have made it as far as "English" at all.
              Last edited by Mister Bule; 10-04-16, 21:15.
              [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

              The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mister Bule View Post
                This is exactly why it is so difficult to teach Indonesian kids to use verb tenses and conjugate verbs correctly and consistently. I mean, it is not difficult to teach it to them, but very difficult to get them to understand and buy into the idea that it is actually meaningful and important to do so. And I can understand that learning and remembering that "go" changes into "has gone" and "went" is pretty darn confusing and frustrating to them. But even getting them to consistently use the simple past tense when describing a past event is an uphill battle.
                Also, not easy for speakers of English to be taught to use French and Spanish verbs correctly (and v-v).
                Last edited by johntap; 10-04-16, 23:08.

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                • #9
                  Indonesian is complicated for an English speaker due to its drastically different structure.

                  Just an observation: what makes English complicated for non-native speakers is the use of tenses and the large size of its vocabulary. Indonesian has basically no tenses and the root word vocabulary is rather small in comparison, but the suffixes are extremely complex. It just occurred to me that you can sort of 'cheat' on Indonesian suffixed words, by treating each combination as its own entity. It's not exactly cheating because it's how Indonesian kids learn the words. Do you think the average Indonesian student can rattle off the meaning of the me-pe-an construction? No. Yet they understand what 'mempekerjakan' means and can use it in a sentence.

                  Let me take the root word 'kerja' as an example:
                  Kerja : work
                  Pekerja : worker
                  Pekerjaan : job
                  Pengerjaan : process
                  Bekerja : working
                  Mengerjakan : working on
                  Mempekerjakan: employ

                  Don't worry about the detail of how 'kerja' turns into 'mempekerjakan', just commit to memory that 'mempekerjakan' is to employ.

                  Another example:
                  Ajar : teach
                  Pengajar : teacher
                  Pelajar : student
                  Pengajaran : instruction
                  Pelajaran : lesson
                  Belajar : studying
                  Pembelajaran : education
                  Pelajari : study!

                  English has its own set of suffixes, like -y, -ity, -ness, -tion, -ic, -ible, -able, -ful, -some, un-, in-, im-, ir-, co-, sub-, etc. I didn't care about the specific meaning of these constructions, I simply memorized the entire word and its context.

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                  • #10
                    Ok, I'm not saying that learning the anatomy of Indonesian suffixes is useless, it's just that if you're interested in using the language effectively as opposed to understanding it academically, my technique gets you fluent faster.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Nimbus View Post
                      Ok, I'm not saying that learning the anatomy of Indonesian suffixes is useless, it's just that if you're interested in using the language effectively as opposed to understanding it academically, my technique gets you fluent faster.
                      I think that's how most of us do it for our every day vocabulary like pembangunan or menceritakan - but it's very useful to understand how the system works so that when we encounter an unknown word we can puzzle out a likely meaning, or at least find it in the dictionary.

                      One of the things that beginners find very odd about Indonesian is where to find affixed forms in the dictionary - for example:

                      menerima - look under "t"
                      menyampaikan - look under "s"
                      mengambil - look under "a"
                      bekerja - look under "k"
                      berada - look under "a"
                      memanaskan - look under "p"

                      ...and so on. Once you know the rules, it's easy! But before then, it looks confusing at the least and utterly arbitrary at worst. So, you have to have enough familiarity with how the roots work to either be able to look up panas, or better yet, say to your self "Wait a minute, I can figure that out...panas, that means...oh I get it! Memanaskan is the verb 'to heat'"!
                      Last edited by Puspawarna; 11-04-16, 05:58.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nimbus View Post
                        It's not exactly cheating because it's how Indonesian kids learn the words. Do you think the average Indonesian student can rattle off the meaning of the me-pe-an construction? No. Yet they understand what 'mempekerjakan' means and can use it in a sentence.
                        I'm not disagreeing with any of your post, but it is interesting that young kids do still understand the grammatical rules at some level because it's common for kids to make up words that aren't actually words, but they're applying the grammar appropriately. "Bestest" comes to mind as an example I know I've heard many young, English speaking children say. It's not a word, but we know exactly what they're trying to say and why they would think it's a word.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Puspawarna View Post
                          I think that's how most of us do it for our every day vocabulary like pembangunan or menceritakan - but it's very useful to understand how the system works so that when we encounter an unknown word we can puzzle out a likely meaning, or at least find it in the dictionary.

                          One of the things that beginners find very odd about Indonesian is where to find affixed forms in the dictionary - for example:

                          menerima - look under "t"
                          menyampaikan - look under "s"
                          mengambil - look under "a"
                          bekerja - look under "k"
                          berada - look under "a"
                          memanaskan - look under "p"

                          ...and so on. Once you know the rules, it's easy! But before then, it looks confusing at the least and utterly arbitrary at worst. So, you have to have enough familiarity with how the roots work to either be able to look up panas, or better yet, say to your self "Wait a minute, I can figure that out...panas, that means...oh I get it! Memanaskan is the verb 'to heat'"!
                          Yeah, unless you have Google Translate available, you got to remember the inflection rules just to guess what the first letter of the root word is. It is complicated, it's natural for me simply because I got used to it.

                          Me + first letter
                          Me + a = menga
                          Me + b = memb
                          Me + c = menc
                          Me + d = mend
                          Me + e = menge
                          Me + f = memf
                          Me + g = mengg
                          Me + h = mengh
                          Me + i = mengi
                          Me + j = menj
                          Me + k = meng
                          Me + l = mel
                          Me + m = mem
                          Me + n = men
                          Me + o = mengo
                          Me + p = mem
                          Me + q = mengq
                          Me + r = mer
                          Me + s = meny
                          Me + t = men
                          Me + u = mengu
                          Me + v = memv
                          Me + w = mew
                          Me + x = mengx
                          Me + y = mey
                          Me + z = menz

                          Root words beginning with k, p, s, and t are particularly tricky, as their first letter is wiped out when inflected.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by R Cameron View Post
                            I'm not disagreeing with any of your post, but it is interesting that young kids do still understand the grammatical rules at some level because it's common for kids to make up words that aren't actually words, but they're applying the grammar appropriately. "Bestest" comes to mind as an example I know I've heard many young, English speaking children say. It's not a word, but we know exactly what they're trying to say and why they would think it's a word.
                            There is a standard textbook definition of how to use each Indonesian suffix set, complete with a fixed number of acceptable use cases. I learned it in school, but I remember very little of it. This lack of theoretical knowledge doesn't hinder my fluency in Indonesian, because I understand it at a deeper level. Just like children I have a 'feel' of what's correct, even though I'd have a hard time explaining it.

                            When you first learn a new language as an adult, it is indeed faster to start with a structured approach. Learn the basic rules and such. However, in my opinion, at some point it's more effective to learn by context, just like what children do. Once you develop a 'feel' for the language, you can use it instinctively and effortlessly. This is the holy grail of mastering a language, the ability to understand and use the words at an almost subconscious level.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nimbus View Post
                              There is a standard textbook definition of how to use each Indonesian suffix set, complete with a fixed number of acceptable use cases. I learned it in school, but I remember very little of it. This lack of theoretical knowledge doesn't hinder my fluency in Indonesian, because I understand it at a deeper level. Just like children I have a 'feel' of what's correct, even though I'd have a hard time explaining it.


                              Once you develop a 'feel' for the language, you can use it instinctively and effortlessly. This is the holy grail of mastering a language, the ability to understand and use the words at an almost subconscious level.
                              Yep ... there have been numerous times when I have told Indonesian students or even teachers or administrators that a native English speaker would "never" use the sentence or phrase construction they just tried to make, but instead would say it like (whatever), without being able to point to something from "the rulebook" to explain why that is so. Of course, other than a bit of review in my language teaching training, the last time I actually studied English grammar was pretty much in the eighth grade, and that was a long, long, long time ago, but it is not always about the grammar as much as simply the usage and word choice. Those nuances can be quite difficult for non native speakers to learn, especially if their exposure to native speakers is very limited, and this is one of the most valid arguments, I think, for the value if not the necessity of having native speakers as teachers (if the goal is for students to achieve something close to real fluency).
                              [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

                              The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

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