Study


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Last September I decided that I wanted to learn Bahasa Indonesia. This is the first time in my that I've really tried to master a language. I learnt French and German for a few years when I was younger, but at that age I didn't care much for anything I was taught in school. After the three or four years I spent in Thailand I picked up enough Thai that I could hold simple conversations, but I didn't delve too deep into it, which was always one of my regrets.

Living in Timor-Leste, I was, at first, keen to learn Tetum. I bought the language book everyone seems to have and I ploughed through the first half-dozen chapters, but after that I became lazy and always found other things, mostly work, to do instead.

With this cloud of shame looming over me, I took up the challenge of learning Bahasa Indonesia, partly because it's spoken in Timor-Leste, but most of all because I'm aiming to gradually move myself into Indonesia, part of which includes hopefully doing my masters in Southeast Asian studies later this year.

As far as the language goes, I started in September by downloading free material from a couple of websites. This helped me pick up the basics by myself. Work took a backseat for a few weeks as I spent much of my time going through various exercises.

At the end of October I went to the IALF Language Centre in Bali and did a couple of weeks' one-on-one tuition. It was expensive, but gave me a better understanding of how the verbs work. At the end of it they gave me a certificate and said I'd passed their Level 3, although it isn't accredited. IALF also does regular classes, two hours a day over four weeks.

I got a lot of material for IALF, which I carried on using after I'd finished studying there. I also bought myself a couple of books, including Bahasa Indonesia: Book Two by Yohanni Johns, which is particularly useful.

I started buying newspapers and watching a lot of television. The channels in Indonesia show Western movies with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles every day. So I've been reading my books and watching films and listening to Indonesian music.

With the basics nailed, I'm now in Salatiga, Java, doing a six-week intensive course at Satya Wacana Universitas Kristen's Language Training Center. The course is accredited by the Australian National University (ANU) and it seems to be regarded as one of the best around for Indonesian language.

I took a placement test and was put on the Level 3 (of six) course, which is equivalent to ANU's 2A. We get about 72 contact hours over four weeks and there are quizzes, tests and a field assignment. We just finished the first week and it was hardcore.

Most of the other participants here are ANU students. They're all about 18 or 19, I think, so I feel a bit old (I'm 27). Most of them know each other and they're all pretty lively.

I'm not so interested in the course's cultural activities or the social side of being here. The only reason I'm on this course is to improve my language skills. Saying that, I'm enjoying the learning process and find myself itching to get to class every morning.

The course is rather expensive compared to others (AU$2,685), but the fee includes accommodation with an Indonesian family and all my meals. I don't have to pay for anything really expect 2,000 rupiah each way to school and back by angkota.

The house I'm staying in is modern, I have my own room, the family are great and I'm very well fed. I will be here until February 13, but I'm still contactable by email if needed.

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