Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Just Say It!

What is one of the most difficult challenges when learning Indonesian as a new language?

In a word: FEAR

Taking the leap from passively listening to someone else speak Indonesian, to actually diving right in and speaking the language yourself is the biggest hurdle for many. Instead, most everyone will quickly offer a slew of excuses for holding back.

“I don’t know enough grammar yet.”
“I don’t know enough vocabulary yet.”
“My mouth can’t make those sounds!”

But the biggest one is…

“I don’t want to say it wrong and sound stupid.”

I’ve got news for you. You WILL make mistakes and quite likely at times your listeners will even laugh when there is a humorous mix-up. (Like mistaking the word kelapa for the word kepala!)

Here’s a suggestion: Simply decide to join in the fun and laugh right along with them! Your adventures in learning to speak Indonesian will turn into funny stories that you will probably use to entertain your children (or grandchildren) long after you have achieved complete fluency in the language.

By being willing to have some fun and not take yourself too seriously, you will drastically speed up your language learning and proficiency.

Learning to speak Indonesian is a journey, so why not choose to enjoy the ride?

The following are some suggestions for speaking Indonesian as soon as possible:

  • Audio recordings of native speakers are highly recommended since you can imitate correct pronunciation right from the start. Listen and then repeat what you hear until the words sound “normal” to you. There is nothing worse than learning to pronounce commonly used words incorrectly only to try to correct your pronunciation later. I know, I’ve been there.

  • Passive exposure to Indonesian through online radio stations and Indonesian music CDs will also naturally help to improve your pronunciation, as long as you try to sing along or say out loud some of the words you hear repeatedly.

  • Read Indonesian out loud as often as possible. It is easy to find reading material on Indonesian websites. If you want to start on a more basic level, there are some websites, as well as a few books available for regular and progressive reading to give your pronunciation muscles a workout on a consistent basis.

  • Use what you learn right away! Even if that means you have to use "Indoglish"!! That is, use the Indonesian words you already know to form sentences. Whenever you don't know the right word in Indonesian, just fill it in with an English word. (Then look up the missing words in your dictionary, write them down and add them to your new vocabulary list!)

    But the best way to really use your new skills is to
    find a native speaker to converse with. Ideally, you want to be talking out loud, but even regularly expressing yourself in Indonesian via e-mail will help you improve tremendously, especially if your audience is willing to correct your mistakes and is himself/herself a good speaker. Take the initiative and do some networking. You will probably be surprised to find that you will have little trouble finding someone to talk to in Indonesian.

Be absolutely determined to spend at least 10-15 minutes doing something to learn and speak Indonesian every day! Nothing will speed up your progress more than exposing yourself to hearing and speaking Indonesian on a regular basis.

Don’t fall into the trap of haphazardly spending long hours studying once in a while. That method produces little success and is very frustrating. Why torture yourself? Do it the easy way and don’t fry your brains – schedule at least 10 minutes a day, every day, for working on your Indonesian!

There is no other feeling like the joy that bubbles up when you almost magically start to understand, speak and even think in Indonesian for the first time. And after you are able to “get by” in Indonesian, you’ll also realize there is so much more to learn. But the hard part is over.

From there, it will be a delight to discover idiomatic expressions and almost intuitively you’ll begin to understand the attitudes and culture of your Indonesian friends at a deeper level. In time you will start to be able to really express yourself in your new language. You will build a connection that is the privilege few Westerners can enjoy. In the process, you will likely touch the hearts of your Indonesian friends as well.

It all starts with being willing to blurt out a few words a day, and maybe have a few laughs in the process.

So what are you waiting for? Just say it in Indonesian!!

Mulailah hari ini!!

Selamat belajar,