This past week I have had a few Indonesian language lessons (its a long story), but I am now beginning to wonder whether it would have made more sense to learn Javanese. This article from the BBC suggests it might have been.
I was surprised that the language shares the same alphabet (the Latin alphabet) as we use in Europe, so that helped me overcome any initial barriers or nerves. However, as with any new language, wondering what the usefulness of these new words would be kept on crossing my mind.
Learning a new language from scratch reminded me what kind of learner I am. A not very social one, it turns out. Typically, when presented with a new expression or phrase, I close my eyes and hum the term back to myself for repetition. When other students in my class all attempt their own individual pronunciation of a new phrase or word, I effectively block them from view. I need to write things down. I need to dissect them, drill into them, ruminate over them and later recall them, but for me this is all highly individual. Or at least, I only want to follow my teacher and my pen.
And yet there is a wider point I want to make. Which is that for all these quirky learning preferences of mine, the most enjoyable aspect of these classes the past week has been the role play session with other students, pretending we are all haggling over fish and rice and beer in an Indonesian market. Comparing notes after class and providing one another support via a class whatsapp group has helped me realise that for all the challenges of learning Bahasa Indonesia, others are feeling the pain – and can share the joys – too. I may be temperamentally drawn towards absorbing words on my own, but I massively want to then practise them and gossip over how to do things with them, over a coffee, or beer, fish or rice.
What a shame, then, to learn it might all be in vain as the article suggests Bahasa may in fact be seen as far too formalised and even symbolic of the old Suharto regime to practically use. I will carry on regardless; haggling over beer. Or fish!