What language does Indonesia speak

Indonesia, officially known as the Republic of Indonesia, is a diverse and multicultural country located in Southeast Asia. With a population of over 270 million people, it is the fourth most populous country in the world. The country is made up of more than 17,000 islands and is home to hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their own distinct culture, traditions, and languages.

The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, which is based on Riau Malay and serves as a lingua franca for the nation. It is the language used in government, education, media, and business. Bahasa Indonesia was chosen as the national language to promote unity and communication among the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups in the country.

In addition to Bahasa Indonesia, there are more than 700 other languages spoken in Indonesia, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Some of the major regional languages include Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, and Madurese. These languages are widely spoken in their respective regions and often serve as the primary language for daily communication.

The Languages of Indonesia

Indonesia is a country with incredible linguistic diversity. With over 700 living languages spoken throughout the archipelago, it is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.

National Language: Indonesian

The national language of Indonesia is Indonesian, also known as Bahasa Indonesia. It is the official language of the country and is used for government, commerce, education, and media purposes. Indonesian is based on the Malay language and is closely related to Malay spoken in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore.

Indonesian is a standardized form of Malay, which means it is mutually intelligible with the Malay language spoken in neighboring countries. It was chosen as the national language to promote unity and communication among the diverse ethnic groups in the country.

Indonesian is taught in schools throughout the country and is the first language for many Indonesians. It uses the Latin alphabet and has a relatively simple grammar compared to many other languages in the region.

Regional Languages

In addition to Indonesian, there are hundreds of regional languages spoken in Indonesia. Some of the most widely spoken regional languages include Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, and Balinese.

Javanese is the most widely spoken regional language, with over 80 million speakers. It is the dominant language in Java, the most populous island in Indonesia. Sundanese is spoken by over 40 million people in West Java and Banten provinces.

Madurese is spoken by around 13 million people on the island of Madura and parts of eastern Java. Balinese is spoken by the Balinese people, primarily in Bali.

These regional languages have their own unique characteristics and are often used in daily life, alongside Indonesian. They are commonly spoken within communities and families, and play an important role in preserving the cultural diversity of the country.


Indonesia is a linguistically rich country, with a wide array of languages spoken across its vast archipelago. While Indonesian serves as the national language and is widely spoken throughout the country, regional languages play a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage and are an integral part of daily life for many Indonesians.

Official Language of Indonesia

Indonesia, a diverse archipelago comprising thousands of islands, has a rich linguistic heritage. However, the official language of Indonesia is Indonesian, also known as Bahasa Indonesia. Indonesian serves as the national language and the medium of communication across the country.

Established as the official language after Indonesia gained independence in 1945, Indonesian has played a vital role in uniting this culturally diverse nation. It is spoken by the majority of the population, making it the most widely used language in the country.

Indonesian, derived mainly from Malay, has been influenced by various languages, including Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese. It uses the Latin script and has a simple grammar structure, making it relatively easy to learn for foreigners.

Importance of Indonesian

The use of Indonesian as the official language contributes to the sense of national identity and unity among Indonesians. It facilitates effective communication between people from different regions and ethnic backgrounds, unifying them under a common linguistic umbrella.

Moreover, Indonesian serves as a language of education, government, and media throughout the country. It is taught in schools and universities, ensuring that all Indonesians have access to education in their national language.

Promoting Language Diversity

While Indonesian is the official language, Indonesia recognizes and values the country’s linguistic diversity. It acknowledges hundreds of regional languages and encourages their preservation and usage in local communities. This commitment to language diversity reflects Indonesia’s respect for cultural heritage and its spirit of inclusivity.

In conclusion, Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia and plays a vital role in maintaining national unity and promoting effective communication across the diverse archipelago. It is a language that embodies the rich cultural heritage of the Indonesian people and serves as a symbol of their national identity.

Regional Languages of Indonesia

Indonesia is a diverse country with over 700 languages spoken across its many islands. While Bahasa Indonesia is the official language and the lingua franca of the country, there are also several regional languages that are spoken by various ethnic groups throughout Indonesia.


Javanese is the most widely spoken regional language, primarily on the island of Java. It is spoken by the Javanese people, who make up the largest ethnic group in Indonesia. Javanese has its own distinct writing system and is often used in traditional Javanese arts and cultural performances.


Balinese is spoken by the Balinese people on the island of Bali. It is also the official language of Bali along with Bahasa Indonesia. Balinese has its own unique writing system, which is commonly used in religious rituals and ceremonies. It is closely related to Javanese and other Austronesian languages.


Sundanese is spoken by the Sundanese people, primarily in the western part of Java. It is the second most widely spoken regional language in Indonesia. Sundanese has its own writing system and is often used in traditional Sundanese arts, music, and literature.

Other regional languages spoken in Indonesia include Madurese, Minangkabau, Batak, and many more. These languages are often used in local communities and are an important part of Indonesia’s cultural heritage.

Despite the diversity of regional languages, Bahasa Indonesia serves as a unifying language for the entire country. It is taught in schools and used in government, media, and business. This linguistic diversity is a testament to Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage and the uniqueness of each region.

Javanese Language

Javanese is a language spoken primarily in the island of Java in Indonesia. It is the native language of the Javanese people, who make up the majority of the population in the province of Central Java and East Java. Javanese is also spoken by significant communities in other regions of Indonesia, including Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali.

Javanese is a member of the Austronesian language family, which includes other languages spoken in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. It is most closely related to Malay, Sundanese, and Madurese, which are also spoken in Indonesia.

The Javanese language has a complex system of grammar and vocabulary, with its own unique script called Hanacaraka. The script was derived from the ancient Brahmi script and is still used today, especially in traditional ceremonies and cultural events. However, the Latin script is also widely used in modern Javanese writing, particularly in formal contexts such as newspapers and official documents.

The Javanese language has several dialects, with the Central Javanese dialect being the most widely spoken and considered the standard form. Other dialects include East Javanese, West Javanese, and Madurese-influenced Javanese. These dialects may differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Features of Javanese

One notable feature of the Javanese language is its politeness and respect system, known as Krama Inggil. This system is used to show deference and respect to people of higher social status or older age. It involves using special vocabulary, pronouns, and verb forms to address these individuals.

Another interesting feature of Javanese is its extensive system of honorifics, which are used to show respect or politeness in different social contexts. These honorifics can be added to the beginning or end of words to indicate various levels of respect.

Usage and Importance

Javanese is not only spoken in Java but also has cultural significance throughout Indonesia. It plays a crucial role in traditional Javanese arts, such as music, dance, and theater. Many traditional Javanese songs and poems are written in the Javanese language, and performances often incorporate the use of Javanese language and etiquette.

In recent years, there have been efforts to preserve and promote the Javanese language, especially among the younger generations. Various educational institutions and cultural organizations offer Javanese language classes and programs to ensure its continuity and cultural relevance.

Overall, Javanese is a rich and important language in Indonesia, serving as a cultural link to the past and a means of communication for millions of people.

Sundanese Language

The Sundanese language is spoken by the Sundanese people, who are native to the western part of the Indonesian island of Java. It is one of the major regional languages in Indonesia and is part of the Austronesian language family.

Geographic Distribution

Sundanese is mainly spoken in the provinces of West Java, Banten, and Jakarta, as well as in some parts of the provinces of Central Java and Lampung. It is also spoken by the Sundanese diaspora in other parts of Indonesia and in countries such as the Netherlands, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States.

Writing System

The Sundanese language is typically written using the Latin script, although historically, the Sundanese people used a script called Aksara Sunda, which is derived from the Pallava script. The Aksara Sunda script is still occasionally used for ceremonial and cultural purposes.

Madurese Language

The Madurese language is spoken by the Madurese people, who primarily reside in the Madura Island of Indonesia. It is part of the Austronesian language family and is classified as part of the Malayo-Sumbawan branch.

With over 15 million speakers, Madurese is widely spoken in several regions of Indonesia, including East Java and northern Bali. It is also spoken by Madurese communities in other parts of Indonesia, such as Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The Madurese language has its own unique characteristics and features, distinguishing it from other regional languages in Indonesia. It has its own distinct grammar and vocabulary, influenced by both the Indonesian and Javanese languages.

Madurese is traditionally written using the Arabic script, known as Pegon script, but it is also written using the Latin script. The use of the Pegon script has declined in recent years, especially among the younger generation.

As with many other regional languages in Indonesia, Madurese is also facing the challenge of maintaining its vitality and use in everyday life. The influence of the national language, Indonesian, has led to a shift towards its use in various domains, such as education and media.

However, efforts are being made to promote and preserve the Madurese language, such as the inclusion of Madurese language classes in schools and cultural events that showcase traditional Madurese song and dance.

Overall, the Madurese language holds a significant place in the linguistic diversity of Indonesia and continues to be an important part of the Madurese identity and culture.

Batak Languages

The Batak languages are a group of related Austronesian languages spoken by the Batak people in North Sumatra, Indonesia. There are several different Batak languages, each with its own dialects and variations.

Types of Batak Languages

There are three main types of Batak languages:

  1. North Batak: This is the most widely spoken and well-known Batak language. It is primarily spoken in the Toba region of North Sumatra. North Batak has several dialects, including Toba Batak, Karo Batak, and Simalungun Batak.
  2. South Batak: This language is spoken in the southern part of North Sumatra, primarily in the Mandailing region. It has several dialects, including Angkola Batak, Mandailing Batak, and Pakpak Batak.
  3. Simalungun Batak: This is a distinct language spoken in the Simalungun region of North Sumatra. It is closely related to North Batak but has its own unique features and vocabulary.

Characteristics of Batak Languages

Batak languages are known for their complex grammar and rich vocabulary. They have a relatively large number of consonant and vowel sounds, and many words have multiple forms depending on the context.

The Batak writing system is based on the Latin script, with some additional symbols and diacritical marks to represent specific sounds. However, traditional Batak scripts, such as the Surat Batak and Surat Mandailing, are still used for ceremonial purposes.

Use of Batak Languages

Batak languages are primarily spoken by the Batak people in their daily lives. They are also used in religious ceremonies, cultural events, and traditional rituals. However, due to the influence of Indonesian as the national language, many Batak speakers are bilingual and can also speak Indonesian fluently.

Batak Language Number of Speakers
Toba Batak Approximately 3 million
Karo Batak Approximately 700,000
Simalungun Batak Approximately 500,000
Angkola Batak Approximately 300,000
Mandailing Batak Approximately 1 million
Pakpak Batak Approximately 100,000

Malay Language

The Malay language is one of the most widely spoken languages in Indonesia. It is the official language of Indonesia, as well as Malaysia and Brunei, and is also spoken in parts of Singapore and Thailand. Malay belongs to the Austronesian language family and is known for its simplicity and easy pronunciation.


The Malay language has a rich history that dates back to the Srivijaya Empire in the 7th century. It was influenced by Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian, as well as other local languages. During the Dutch colonial period, Malay became the lingua franca for trade and administration, and it was later adopted as the national language of Indonesia after independence in 1945.


Malay is characterized by a straightforward grammar system and a phonetic writing system. It uses the Latin script with additional symbols to represent certain sounds. The language has a relatively small number of sounds compared to other languages, making it easier for learners to master.

Vocabulary: Malay vocabulary has been influenced by various languages, including Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, English, and Dutch. This has resulted in a diverse vocabulary that reflects the cultural and historical influences on the language.

Regional variations: Malay is spoken differently in different regions of Indonesia. The Jakarta dialect, which is based on the standard Malay language, is commonly used in official settings, media, and education. However, there are also many regional dialects and variations that are spoken in different parts of the country.

Conclusion: The Malay language is an important part of the cultural and linguistic diversity of Indonesia. It is a language that has evolved over centuries and continues to be spoken by millions of people. Whether you are visiting Indonesia for business or pleasure, learning a few basic Malay phrases can help you connect with the local people and better understand the country’s rich culture.

English Language in Indonesia


English is widely spoken and understood in Indonesia. It is considered one of the official languages of the country, along with Indonesian. This is mainly due to the historical influence of the British and American colonial powers in the region, as well as the global importance of English as a language of international communication.

English Education

English education is an important part of the Indonesian education system. English is taught as a second language in schools and universities, and there are also private English language schools that cater to individuals who want to improve their English skills. English proficiency is highly valued in Indonesia, as it is seen as a vital skill for employment and higher education opportunities.

English in Business and Tourism

English plays a significant role in business and tourism in Indonesia. Many multinational companies and international organizations operate in the country, and English is the main language used for communication in these contexts. English proficiency is especially important in sectors such as hospitality, tourism, and customer service, where interaction with foreign visitors is common.

English Language Usage Percentage
Fluent speakers Approximately 22%
Proficient speakers Approximately 35%
Basic speakers Approximately 43%

English Media

English language media is also prevalent in Indonesia, with several English newspapers, magazines, and online publications available. English-language television channels and radio stations are also widely accessible. The popularity of English media has contributed to the growth of English language proficiency in the country.


The English language holds great importance in Indonesia, both in education and various professional fields. Its widespread usage and significance in international communication contribute to its prominence in the country. Learning English provides Indonesians with valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth.

FAQ: What language does indonesia speak

How widely is the Indonesian language spoken throughout Indonesia?

Indonesian, or Bahasa Indonesian, is spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago as the standard and official language, uniting the country with its diverse linguistic landscape.

Is Indonesian considered a difficult foreign language to learn?

Learning Indonesian can be easier compared to many languages, as it has a relatively simple grammar structure and uses the Latin alphabet, making it more accessible for those whose mother tongue uses the same script.

Do many people speak English in Indonesia, especially in tourist areas like Bali?

In tourist areas such as Bali, a significant number of locals, especially those in the tourism industry, speak English, facilitating communication with international visitors.

How does Bahasa Indonesian differ from local languages in Indonesia?

Bahasa Indonesian is a standardized form of Malay (Bahasa Melayu) and serves as the national language, whereas local languages in Indonesia can vary significantly, reflecting the nation’s linguistic diversity.

Are there many languages spoken in the Indonesian archipelago besides Bahasa Indonesian?

Yes, the Indonesian archipelago is home to hundreds of different languages and dialects, reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of its population.

Can Bahasa Indonesian be considered an indigenous language or a colonial language?

Bahasa Indonesian is an indigenous language, derived from Malayo-Polynesian languages, and it evolved as a lingua franca throughout the archipelago, distinct from any colonial language imposed during historical occupations.

How many Indonesian speakers are there compared to other language speakers in the world?

Indonesian is one of the major languages in the world, with millions of native speakers and additional millions who use Indonesian as a second language, especially within the total population of Indonesia.

Do most Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesian as their mother tongue?

While many Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesian, especially in urban areas, it is not always the mother tongue for a large portion of the population, who often grow up speaking local or regional languages.

Is the Balinese language still widely spoken in Bali, or do most Balinese speak English?

In Bali, the Balinese language remains widely spoken among the local population, although many Balinese also speak Bahasa Indonesian, and those in tourist areas often speak English as well.

How does the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture promote the use of Indonesian and related languages?

The Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture actively promotes the use of Indonesian while also supporting the preservation and teaching of local and regional languages, recognizing the nation’s rich linguistic heritage.