Studying Indonesian

Posted on 8 April, 2012

If you’re keen on studying Indonesian, there is no shortage of ways to pick it up. In Australia, there are four main ways to pick up the language:

If you’re thinking of studying in country, there are three options:

Studying in Australia


Although a lot of students pick up the language at high school, probably the most conventional path is to enrol in Indonesian at university. In any given year there are over 1000 Australian students studying Indonesian at one of nearly 20 universities around the country. Students can enrol as part of their major, an elective, or simply for pleasure. Most Indonesian language courses will involve 4-6 hours of class a week, with a corresponding amount of study outside these ‘contact hours’.

One of the major advantages of studying Indonesian language at university is the choice of non-language Indonesian courses on offer, including from politics, culture and literature, economics and development. Studying Indonesian at university also gives you the opportunity to study the language in-country, including through the popular ACICIS program.

Community colleges

Besides studying at university, another way to pursue Indonesian is through your local community college. These institutes cater for all levels of Indonesian and are ideal if you’re no longer a full time student, or you’re looking for more ‘work-friendly’ class times. The cost and duration of these courses vary.

In Sydney, WEA Sydney offers a beginners Indonesian language course over 9 weeks, whilst UNSW Languages also offers a beginners Indonesian language course over 10 weeks. Sydney Community College offer 10 week Indonesian classes at all levels.

In Melbourne, the Australian Indonesian Association of Victoria runs weekly language classes at the University of Melbourne’s Hawthorn campus. Classes are held across eight levels, from beginner to advanced. In Perth, Balai Bahasa Indonesia run regular language classes.

Private tutoring

Private tutoring is probably one of the ‘better-value’ approaches to Indonesian language learning: it has the advantage of one-on-one attention and the convenience of choosing the times that suit you. Nevertheless, many students miss the interaction and shared experience you’ll find in a class setting. Prices for private tutoring vary dramatically, ranging from $20-$80 an hour.

To find a private tutor, it’s best to look around online using a service like Tutor Hunt, or get in touch with a local university’s Indonesian faculty, who should be able to help you find a tutor in your local area.

Conversation groups

They’re probably not the best environment for an absolute beginner, but conversation groups can be another good way to continue the language learning process. Conversation groups have no set format and usually involve a bunch of people – from two to twenty – sitting around and chatting in Indonesian. Similar to informal conversation groups, one-on-one language exchanges with Indonesians living in Australia are good a way to improve your Indonesian, while helping Indonesians improve and practice their English.

Once again, university faculties and the internet are generally your best options to find language exchanges and discussion groups in your area. If you’re in Perth, Balai Bahasa Indonesia run courses and conversation groups for all levels at Scotch College and the Indonesian consulate.


Improve your Indonesian by taking advantage of free online worksheets and video lessons from UniBRIDGE Project

UniBRIDGE Project allows participants to have online language exchanges in real-time using the latest educational web-conferencing software. How fast would your Indonesian improve if you spoke it everyday? AIYA members are eligible to take part register here.

For more information about UniBRIDGE Project click here.

If you are interested in learning local languages, check out the Indonesian online local language dictionary made by the Ministry of Education and Culture.


In-country study

In-country study is a great way to improve your understanding of the language, culture, and society you’ve been studying – all in its everyday context. For students based in Australia, you’ve got plenty of study options through universities in both countries, with programs varying in length from six weeks to a full year.

Accredited Programs

These programs are generally either run by, or coordinated with universities based in Australia, meaning that you’ll earn credits toward your university language major.

Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies

ACICIS has been running since 1994, and offers a huge choice of study programs in Indonesia – they’re probably one of the most straightforward ways to study in Indonesia. They handle the visa application process and also provide in-country pastoral support for students, including help finding accommodation, personal safety, and cultural excursions. You can defer your tuition fees through HECS: they’re around $2,000 for member universities; $3,000 for non-member universities.

While you’re studying in-country, you’ll remain enrolled in your home university – you can even keep receiving Centrelink payments while you’re studying abroad. Airfares, visa-related costs, accommodation, travel insurance, spending money and local transport are all you need to worry about.

Semester study options

Practicum Programs

  • Business Professional Practicum – runs for six weeks in Indonesia, including a two-week intensive Indonesian language study and industry-led seminars at Atma Jaya University, followed by a four-week supervised industry placement
  • Creative Arts & Design Practicum – a six-week intensive academic and vocational study program in Indonesia combining academic elements with hands-on practical creative production experience
  • Development Studies Professional Practicum – runs for six weeks in Indonesia, including a two-week intensive Indonesian language study and industry-led seminars at Atma Jaya University, followed by a four-week supervised industry placement in the field of international development
  • Journalism Professional Practicum – runs for six weeks in Indonesia, including a two-week intensive Indonesian language study and industry-led seminars at Atma Jaya University, followed by a four-week supervised industry placement in the field of journalism and communication
  • Law Professional Practicum – runs for six weeks in Indonesiam including a two-week intensive Indonesian language study and seminars in local legal experts, followed by a four-week supervised industry placement in a local or international legal firm.

In-country Indonesian Language and Culture Program (RUILI)

The Language and Culture Program is conducted at the Mataram Lingua Franca Institute (MLFI), Lombok (January – February) and at Nusa Cendana University (UNDANA) in Kupang, West Timor (June – July) as an eight-week intensive program catering for eight different levels. It’s a great chance to experience Lombok’s unique culture, as distinct from the larger language schools and programs in Java and Bali.

Students from  Charles Darwin University, the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Tasmania and the University of New England should find that their faculty works in partnership with the Mataram Lingua Franca Institute or Nusa Cendana University. CDU and UM will help students apply for their visa, and arrange accomodation on arrival. You’ll also receive support from an in-country program director.

The Salatiga Program

Salatiga is an intensive Indonesian language and culture program (PIBBI) held at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga, Central Java. Classes run five hours a day, four times a week, and are typically made up of around 5-12 students depending on the program’s intake. Besides language study, you’ll get to take part in batik making, pencak silat, tarian and Indonesian cooking classes, as well as a 30-hour field assignment.

Courses are offered as a package, covering tuition, meals, and a home stay with a local family.

Students from ANU, the University of Sydney, the University of Southern Queensland, the University of Melbourne, Griffith University and UTS are eligible for credit from the six-week program. It’s worth getting in touch with your own university to see if they’re able to give you credits for your participation.

Private lessons and small classes

Fluency Bahasa Indonesia

Fluency is a private Indonesian language school for foreigners. Fluency has a school in Lombok, and in Jakarta they deliver lessons in your office or home. They offer very flexible courses, where you can chose the number of hours of tuition required and how many hours per day. They are able to cater to all language levels and course needs, and offer specialised curriculums for diplomats, businesspeople, students, volunteers and tourists. They have also worked with University students to develop curriculums that meet their needs and requirements. This includes students from the USA, Australia and Europe. This would perhaps be a be a good language school for those unable to organise a university approved course with RUILI.

Their teachers have taught Indonesian to foreigners throughout Indonesia for more than 12 years. In addition to tuition, they offer inclusions such as airport transfers, meals, cultural activities, and excursions. They also offer the option of distance learning via Skype tutorials for students who cannot attend their school (or are not located in Indonesia).

Wisma Bahasa

Wisma Bahasa has locations in Yogyakarta and Jakarta, both offering private lessons and small classes of up to four people. They’ve had over 29 years of experience, offering seven levels of instruction in both Indonesian and Javanese.

They also run an Immersion Program, an intense 5 or 10-day program that is aimed at intermediate Indonesian speakers and have a vocational use of Indonesian.

Alam Bahasa

Alam Bahasa has locations in Yogyakarta, offering a ‘Direct Method’ of teaching, which helps learners to identify concepts and expressions and be able to speak as naturally as Indonesian people do. They’ve had over 20 years experience, offering eleven levels of instruction, including Javanese.

Besides conducting courses in Yogyakarta and distance learning, Alam Bahasa has experiences of sending teachers to teach in Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Bali, Banda Aceh, Simeulue, East Kalimantan, Raja Ampat (Papua), Surabaya, Manado and Tapanuli.

Besides conducting courses in Yogyakarta and distance learning, Alam Bahasa has experiences of sending teachers to teach in Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Bali, Banda Aceh, Simeulue, East Kalimantan, Raja Ampat (Papua), Surabaya, Manado and Tapanuli.

Sekolah Bahasa Realia

Bahasa Realia is located in Yogyakarta, Central Java, and offers private lessons as well as small classes. They’ve had experience teaching Bahasa Indonesia to volunteers from Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID).

There are three study options: non-intensive (flexible and at an hourly rate), short intensive (30 hours of tuition) and general-intensive (up to 60 hours of tuition). The intensive options include homestays, airport transfers, discounted hourly rate and cultural trips. Other options include studying with a Mitra (tutor/buddy) which allows the student to choose what exactly they would like to learn, as well as cultural field trips to historical places in Yogyakarta.

Cinta Bahasa

Cinta Bahasa is based in Ubud, Bali, with branches in Sanur, Kuta and Canggu. They offer small group and private courses for students of different abilities, as well as language and culture immersion courses for students, professionals and researchers. Cinta Bahasa focus is on communicative Indonesian, the language that people speak on a daily basis, with less emphasis on grammar and “formal” speech.

Cinta Bahasa also offer a discounted rate at Sunny Blow Cottages for students looking for accommodation near the Cinta Bahasa school.

Indonesia Australia Language Foundation

The Indonesia Australia Language Foundation offers courses in English and Indonesian through three centres in Jakarta, Surabaya, and Denpasar suited to expatriates, students and teachers. They offer intensive, part-time and specialised courses for students of different abilities.

If there’s a program, school, or opportunity you think we might have missed, let us know! Just send an email through to our Web Officer and we’ll take a look at it right away.

Last Updated 25th February 2019.