Indonesia Java

IMLAC Contact Details

OK, so I know that people are searching the internet for more information on learning Indonesian in Indonesia… and specifically the contact details of the language school IMLAC in Bandung. Well, here they are.


Address: IMLAC, Jalan Gunung Agung No. 16, Bandung 40142, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

My advice is to contact Maria via email. She is the office manager and can help with visas, visa advice, schedules, costs etc. These are the contact details for the office in Bandung, but Maria can put you in touch with the other offices (eg Salatiga) if you need those details. Maria can speak English, so don’t worry about any language barrier. Note: These details were correct as of 2012, but IMLAC now has a website which might be more up to date.

A brief note on costs. You can get away with about 4,000,000 rupiah (US$440) per month per person when living here in Bandung and studying at IMLAC. That is the costs of visa, tuition, rent and food. You can probably do it slightly cheaper, most will spend more than that (mainly to eat at restaurants, hire a maid, do fun stuff, buy nice things).

Happy to field questions.

Indonesia Java Travel

Learning Indonesian Progress Report – Culture

Before arriving in Bandung to learn Indonesian language, I knew that part of the course was going to deal with Indonesian culture and to be honest, I just wasn’t interested. Mainly because I already knew quite a bit about different customs and the ceremonies that the different ethnic groups like to undertake. The other thing was that I thought I could just pick up the nuances of the culture by living here. I thought the culture was the stuff that as outsiders we observe. The surface stuff. The ceremonies, the way people interact, the way people talk, the styles of people’s houses – the things we can see. But it’s much more complex than that.

After almost 2 months of learning Indonesian, learning about the culture and living in a kampung, I can honestly say that I could never have understood the subtlties of this culture on my own. It would be impossible. And I now feel for many of the expats living in Indonesia who are regularly frustrated by some of the little things in day-to-day life when dealing with Indonesians – it’s really all about cultural misunderstandings.

So what am I talking about? Well, I’m talking about understanding the way Indonesian people think and feel and how that impacts on the words they use, the way they use them and the body language that accompanies that. There’s an obsession with status in Indonesia that I never really understood before. But it’s complex. It’s not just about wanting to be at the top of the hierarchy. It’s also about being polite about it and not boasting about your wealth or social standing. There is a constant struggle to lower oneself to ensure that other don’t view you as being a snob.

It also goes for things like new clothes or shoes. If you complement someone on the new clothes, the person will be embarrassed and will say they’re cheap, not good or were on sale… anything to devalue them so that the person doesn’t appear to revel in having someone praise their wealth or social standing. It’s all very strange and very complex.

By the same token, even though you’re lowering yourself at every opportunity, it’s only on the surface. You really do try and move up the social ladder while acting as if you’re not and that it’s not important. So you might buy an ipad partly because it increases your status in the eyes of others, but you’ll try and say it’s rubbish and not that good knowing that it still makes you look richer and more important. I love it.

So why is this important? Well, if I want to be something other than just another white guy living in Indonesia that can throw around a few dozen Indonesian words, I need to fit in. I need to cocok. And I think it’s every person’s responsibility to cocok if you go and live in another country. In Australia when we see immigrants stick within their enclaves and fail to embrace the local culture, we castigate them — we discriminate against them. The same happens in Indonesia and I think it’s fair enough.

So this culture thing is all important. It can’t be learned from a book, it can’t be learned from the people. It has to be taught to you, you have to experience it and you have to be pulled up when you get it wrong. And that is something that is not likely to happen from an Indonesian person as it’s embarrassing to correct someone when they do something wrong. Especially a bule. Which is just another one of those cultural complexities.

Java Travel

Learning Indonesian Progress Report – Understanding Accents!

Today, for the first time, I realised that I recognise accents in Indonesia. You might think that it’s no big deal, but for me it’s important because it allows me to understand when someone says a word that sounds different to the way I learnt how to say it. Wha? Example.

Pakai. This is the verb people use for “to use” (which is not technically correct anyway!!!) I learnt to say the “ai” part like an American would say “I”. People in West Java say the “ai” like a Brit would say the “ey” bit in “hey”. Then the rest of Indonesia quite often speaks informally and just says “pake” with the “e” sounding like “e” in “egg”. That same principle applies across all the words with “ai” in them and then a range of other words that mean you have no idea what someone is saying, even though you’ve learnt the vocab!

So it’s important. And I have only just realised that I am naturally hearing the different variations in pronunciations without having to think about them. That is fantastic! Real progress.

Pantai or Pantay?
Pantai or Pantay?

The next problem I have to work out is when people are speaking in a mix of English and Indonesian. Most of the time I have absolutely no idea what they are saying when they use English words because I’m concentrating on each word trying to convert each Indonesian word into English in my mind… and then someone gets tricky and slips in an English word with an Indonesian accent. For me, it just sounds like an Indonesian word that I haven’t learnt yet! Pure hell! I reckon it’s better for people to just use one or the other, particularly if their English pronunciation is not quite up to scratch.

Which leads me to my last point — Given that I often have problems understanding Indonesians using English, it’s important for me to make sure my Indonesian pronunciation is spot on if I want to be understood by the vast majority of Indonesians. So I’ll continue to work on that…

What’s your experience with accents in foreign countries?


Java Travel

Learning Indonesian in Java

Those that have read my blog in the past will have gotten a sense that I love one country over and above all others. It’s a strange love affair I have with Indonesia that even I don’t understand, despite the interludes being frequent and varied. Next month I will once again visit my beloved with a mission to learn a bit more about her.

I can already speak Bahasa Indonesia, the single unifying language of a country that has more than 700 active languages and which is spoken by more more than 200 million people. I currently speak at a level that allows me to go to the markets and buy whatever I need, ask where buses are going to or coming from and discuss the generalities of daily life. But I want more. I know my language skills are deficient when I hear news reports or two friends speaking to each other, only picking up the odd word or two – most of the time I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. And this probably means that I’m only able to communicate with people because they are speaking slowly and simply so I can understand.

Brooding Gunung Merapi, East Java
Brooding Gunung Merapi, East Java

So I’ve been in contact with a school in the Javan city of Bandung called IMLAC. It’s a Christian school used by missionaries before they head off around the country to do their work. For me, it’ll be about the language aspect and I hope to advance from a basic speaker to a fluent speaker. Bandung is a city located in the hills about 2 hours from Jakarta. A friend of mine lived there for 18months and raved about both the school and the city and ever since I’ve thought about actually doing it myself – and now I am. The plan is for 3 months of full time study and I hope to get myself a nice little house in what the Indonesians would call the kampung – the village.

Muslim Girl
Muslim Girl

At some stage I’d love to learn some other Indonesian languages such as Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese. A staggering 80+ million people speak Javanese. True. That’s probably got something to do with over 130 million (!!!) people living in Java. They pack em in, but still you can find solitude. I can’t wait.

Oh yeah, I want to climb a few volcanoes there as well. Anyone with hot tips for Java?