Obama's Indonesian

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Barack Obama is reported to speak Indonesian as result of the four years, from age six to age ten, that he spent in Indonesia. From what I know of his life since, he has not had much opportunity to improve or even keep up his Indonesian. He doesn't seem to have returned to Indonesia for any significant amount of time or to have had other Indonesian speakers in his life. I would therefore expect him not only to be quite rusty but never to have attained full adult competence. He would not be likely to have the vocabulary expected of an adult, and he might not have acquired some of the syntactic structures. He would also not control some socio-pragmatic aspects of the language, such as the more formal stylistic registers and when to use them. This isn't to dispute his claim to speak Indonesian, but to point out that unless there are factors unknown to me, he may well be able to carry on simple conversation in Indonesian, but he is probably not able to carry out political negotiations with Indonesian leaders in Indonesian, or even to understand discussions of topics like politics and technology in an Indonesian newspaper, for which he likely lacks the necessary vocabulary.

Does anyone know of evidence as to the level of his ability in Indonesian, and if it is higher than I suggest, how he acquired it?

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44 Comments »

  1. D Jagannathan said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

    From abcnews.com:

    “I said something the other day down in Georgia, and the Republicans jumped on this. I said, you know, absolutely immigrants need to learn English, but we also need to learn foreign languages.[...] We should want our children to have more skills. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s a good thing,” he said.

    While the Obama campaign says that Obama speaks a little bit of Indonesian, Obama himself admits that he isn’t bilingual.

    “I know because I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing!” he said.

  2. Peter said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    No answers or clues, I am afraid, but what I also have wondered about is what is meant by "Indonesian" in his case. Because he was at school in Jakarta would that have meant "Indonesian" or "Javanese" or something else?

  3. Joshua said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

    From what I can find, the language Obama would have been taught in school in Jakarta would have been standard Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), the country's language of formal education. I've seen some indication that his stepfather Lolo Soetoro was ethnically Javanese, although that doesn't establish the extent to which he would have used that language compared to Indonesian and English. But at any rate, the only language of Indonesia that Obama himself has ever been identified as having learned was Indonesian.

  4. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 12:09 am

    From the Chicago Tribune (Mar. 25, 2007):

    Teachers, former playmates and friends recall a boy who never fully grasped their language and who was very quiet as a result. But one word Obama learned quickly in his new home was curang, which means "cheater."

    When kids teased him, Obama yelled back, "Curang, curang!" When a friend gave him shrimp paste instead of chocolate, he yelled, "Curang, curang!"

    [...]

    Obama has claimed on numerous occasions to have become fluent in Indonesian in six months. Yet those who knew him disputed that during recent interviews.

    Israella Pareira Darmawan, Obama's 1st-grade teacher, said she attempted to help him learn the Indonesian language by going over pronunciation and vowel sounds. He struggled greatly with the foreign language, she said, and with his studies as a result.

  5. Bill Poser said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 12:33 am

    Ben,

    Interesting, but then it isn't clear to what extent the description of his Indonesian as very limited applies past the first grade, which would have been his first year in Indonesia. Certainly an English-speaking child would struggle when put into an Indonesian-speaking environment, but he might have learned quite a lot by the end of four years.

  6. Doctor Deaf said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 7:51 am

    Why do we have to speculate about the level of his ability? Can't we ask him, (via his campaign)? By 'we' I mean Mark.

  7. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 8:13 am

    I assumed that the first excerpted line from the Trib ("Teachers, former playmates and friends recall a boy who never fully grasped their language and who was very quiet as a result") referred to his entire time in Indonesia, but they only quote his first-grade teacher, so it's difficult to say.

    An article from Bloomberg (Dec. 31, 2007) refers to Obama's "broken Indonesian" and describes another "curang" incident:

    Obama had the same penchant for calling out bad behavior when he was with his friends. "We played marbles out on a dirt field. We could never cheat him. We did try but he always found out," says Zulfan Adi, 47, a freelance tourist guide who still lives down the street from Obama's old house in a lower-middle class neighborhood in South Jakarta. "He used to say, 'Kamu curang, kamu curang!'" ("You cheat, you cheat!")

    (Kamu is the familiar second-person pronoun, and curang means 'dishonest' — together it's "You are dishonest" or "You are a cheater." There is no copula in colloquial Indonesian, so there's nothing "broken" about that sentence.)

  8. Doctor Deaf said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    Sorry. I meant Bill, not Mark.

  9. Thomas said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    From Snopes.com:
    We are unaware of Barack Obama's ever having claimed he was "fluent" in any Indonesian language (beyond the level of competence that could reasonably be expected of the non-native child speaker he was at the time he lived in that country). He did acquire (and apparently still has) a passable command of Bahasa, as Time magazine noted in a 2007 article:

    When prominent Indonesians visit the U.S., the first person they want to meet is Obama, says Parnohadiningrat Sudjadnan, the Indonesian ambassador to the U.S. "Back home people think of him as one of us, or at least one who understands us," he says, adding that they are delighted to find that Obama speaks passable Bahasa, the language spoken in Indonesia and Malaysia.

  10. Bill Poser said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

    Okay, I've sent a query to the Obama Campaign. Of course, they may not get back to me as quickly as, say, the New York Times.

  11. Bill Poser said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

    I've also sent a query to the McCain campaign (about Senator McCain's language ability, not Obama's). Now that I think of it, maybe the best way to get fast results would be to ask the McCain campaign about Obama and the Obama campaign about McCain? Hmm.

  12. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    July 12, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

    Re: that Chicago Tribune article, it's pretty easy to acquire a language in six months in an immersive environment. My family lived in Italy for six months when I was nine, and though when we went in January I had never studied Italian, by April or May I could converse easily, and never spoke English with my friends or at school. We left in June, and I wouldn't say that I was fluent (and obviously didn't acquire a lot of adult vocabulary/syntactic structures), but after 3-4 months I could say everything I needed to say and I could follow any conversation, though of course there were always some words I wasn't sure of.

    There's also the issue of how you define fluency. I deal with plenty of non-native English speakers who are fully capable of pariticipating in any conversation, including those dealing with technical or scientific topics, who I might be tempted to say are not completely "fluent" speakers because of the many errors they still make. However, they are able to express themselves to their own satisfaction and understand native speakers to everyone's satisfaction. A lot of times fluency is in the eye of the beholder. A native speaker is going to be much more harsh judgin a non-native speaker, especially if said non-native speaker has a thick accent or makes widespread pronunciation errors.

  13. Doctor Deaf said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 11:27 am

    I think of fluent as meaning that the words flow, with or without mistakes.

    @Bill, With all ten thousand LL readers holding our breath the campaigns jolly well ought to give a quick response (quick responses?).

  14. Kris said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

    This article (http://www.rileks.com/lifestyle/?act=detail&artid=31102006117237) doesn't mention his current language abilities, but it has a paragraph on his time at SDN Menteng 01. It says that he never learnt to speak to Bahasa Indonesia fluently, but he was at ease talking with his school mates ("meski tak bisa bahasa Indonesia lancar, Barry mudah bergaul dengan teman-teman seangkatan bahkan seniornya"). And it does mention that he "could never shut up" and was elected class president (pemimpin regu).

  15. Kris said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

    @Joshua:

    A comment on the Javanese situation: A vast percentage of Indonesians are bilingual, they learn the language of their parents before learning the national language at school. Jakarta is in the Sundanese speaking western part of Java, even though it is surrounded by pockets of Javanese speaking areas. Due to various factors, however, it is very diverse and has a considerable number of people with Bahasa Indonesia as their mother tongue (in fact this map refers to a "Malay-based creole", though I believe this refers to the Betawis, and does not reflect the langauge situation in today's Jakarta). Of course Jakartans of Javanese origins are likely to keep using Javanese as well, but no clear statement can be made as far as Obama's playmates are concerned. Also, it is interesting to note that nowadays (starting in 1994) Indonesia has implemented a local content curriculum ("mulok", from "muatan lokal") so that across the country children are required to somewhat learn the local language, whatever their origin, but that was long after Obama's time there. But as far as I know, there's no local language taught in Jakarta schools.

  16. Kris said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 12:04 am

    @Thomas: also let's take the words of the Indonesian ambassador with a grain of salt. It's the polite thing to do in Indonesia, especially regarding a powerful person that has some kind of connection to the country. Even if (and I don't know, that's after all the mystery we're trying to solve here) he only spoke a few phrases, it is perfectly conceivable for the Indonesian ambassador to utter the exactly same words.

  17. Indonesisch-Blog said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 3:08 am

    [...] Es ist vielen bekannt, daß Obama, obwohl in Hawai’i geboren, vier Jahre seiner Kindheit in Jakarta verbracht hat. Seine Mutter hatte nach der Scheidung von seinem kenianischen Vater einen Javaner geheiratet. Nun wurde auf dem Language Blog die Frage aufgeworfen, wie es denn um Obamas Indonesisch steht. [...]

  18. Doctor Deaf said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

    Indonesisch-Blog ends their blog piece with: Der Languagelog hat eine Anfrage an die Obama-Kampagne geschickt (und auch an die von McCain über dessen Sprachfähigkeiten). Wir sind gespannt.

    The international community is waiting for an answer…Oh, wait, I forgot! McCain and Obama don't speak German.

  19. Bill Poser said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    I have not yet received a response to my queries to the Obama and McCain campaigns. (I wonder if this is related to the fact that my endorsement of Obama last year did not make the national news. Or any other news…)

  20. Kris said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 2:36 am

    I'd like to amend my first comment citing the Indonesian article on Obama. It seems that I was too hasty in going over it and provided too loose a translation. So here goes:

    "meski tak bisa bahasa Indonesia lancar, Barry mudah bergaul dengan teman-teman seangkatan bahkan seniornya" means "although he couldn't speak Indonesian fluently, Barry was at ease hanging out with friends, from the same year, as well as students older than him".

    And "pemimpin regu" was used in the context of the boy scouts (Pramuka), so I guess that would make him a squad leader, patrol leader or whatever these are called….

    But I'd still maintain that this excerpt would speak for a certain language ability: "Pokoknya anaknya tak bisa diam, hiperaktif dan sering bertanya,” terang Bandung." "He was basically a kid that couldn't shut up, was hyperactive and often asked questions"

  21. Bill Poser said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

    Kris,

    Thanks, that does suggest that as a child he could speak reasonably well.

    I wonder if "boy scouts" is the right translation for "Pramuka". Obama left Indonesia when he was ten, which in the US is not old enough to be a Boy Scout. In the US at that age he would have been a Cub Scout. But scouting may not have the same organization in Indonesia.

  22. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

    Pramuka covers the age ranges of both Cub Scouts (Siaga – age 7 to 10) and Boy Scouts (Penggalang – age 11 to 15).

  23. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

    On July 11, according to CBS News, Obama said: "I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing!" But on July 24, he told ABC's Jake Tapper, "My German is not real good. I can speak Bahasi Indonesian [sic] but I don't think…there would be a lot of appeal to that." I presume Tapper misheard Obama using the correct name of the language, Bahasa Indonesia.

  24. Suardi ardi Asep said,

    July 27, 2008 @ 5:23 am

    I am indonesian , have german wife, we`ve lived indonesia in Bandung for one year, our son was 1 and half yaer at that time. Actually his first language was indonesian mixed with sundanesse. When we moved back to germany my wife and i seldom spook indonesian to him, even now we nearly never talked in indonesian, my son has grown and now 11 years old, speaks German, but he still can understand indonesian a bit, eventhough just children or simple indonesian sentenses, and he`s forgeten many, because he never use it. and I think barack Obama also has simillar case with my son, but the time obama learned indonesian is in the years which children can learn a lot of vocabulars,and even he`s lived for 4 and half years, went to indonesian school and obama`s playmate were local children …so his indonesian language were probably very good. Barack`s mother could speak indonesian fluently, his half sister speaks indonesia like native speaker, and i believe they comunicated each other every now and then in indonesian . And my prediction toward his capabillity in indonesian language is Barack can just speak simple indonesian to get along with people.

  25. Jens Fiederer said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    Just a data point – I came to Guam from Germany when I was 10, knowing only "Mommy", "Daddy", and "I love you" (plus the spellings of "General Store", "Saloon", "Sheriff", and "Jail" from a cowboy figure playset I had). Before I left Guam when I was 12, I won a spelling bee in English.

    Kids learn fast when they are young, and have to.

  26. Imants said,

    October 22, 2008 @ 8:15 am

    I agree with what Suardi Asep said. Although Obama was in Indonesia only for less than five years, he lived there in an age range where someone could learn a language quickly. He also went to Indonesian schools and played with local kids. He may not be fluent in Indonesian, but he probably still understands it, even though not on a higher level.
    As for which language is spoken in Jakarta. It is Indonesian. Jakarta has been a "melting pot" and so most people use Indonesian and most of the people born in Jakarta have Indonesian as their mother tongue. Some of them may still understand a regional language or dialect their (grand)parents speak.
    One last thing: The language is called either "Indonesian" or "Bahasa Indonesia". Saying a single word "Bahasa" to refer to the language doesn't make sense since "bahasa" only means "language".
    Indonesian (language) = Bahasa Indonesia
    English (language) = Bahasa Inggris
    German (language) = Bahasa Jerman
    and so on.

  27. Ben Depok said,

    November 1, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

    I would like to join in all this speculation and contribute my own two cents. I am a native English speaker and have lived in Indonesia for just two years. I moved here at the age of 27. In that short time I have achieved what many would consider fluency in the language, i.e. proper pronunciation, convincing Indonesian accent, and a enough vocabulary to communicate casually and formally with both friends and business associates. In my experience of language learning (Spanish and French) Bahasa Indonesia, is probably the easiest language to learn; no real tense variation and few grammatical rules, leave a student of the language free to to focus on the study of vocabulary and pronunciation. While my experience may be different than Obama's, I can only imagine a child of 6 years old, a prime language absorbing age, would be much more proficient after 4 years in Jakarta surrounded by friends and family that only spoke Indonesian, not to mention his schooling, than I am at my age living in Bali surrounded by people that mostly speak English. Granted, Obama has not lived in Indonesia for nearly 40 years, so his Indonesian is probably a bit rusty, but with a sister who is half-Indonesian, I imagine his Indonesian has been used more than a few times since his life in Indonesia. Speculation is of course prone to being false, but I have to say that I would be shocked if the Ambassador was wrong and the Senator's Indonesian was not passable.

  28. Setengah Mateng! | Obama Did It said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 4:16 am

    [...] Obama CAN speak Indonesian language. ← Akhirnya RUU Porno itu Disahkan [...]

  29. bloon said,

    November 26, 2008 @ 6:45 am

    On his way from Lima to Jakarta, Indonesian President SBY stop for refueling in US. President Obama called President SBY for 6 minutes. According to Indonesian President spokesman, President Obama can speak using Bahasa Indonesia fluently without foreign accent.

    President Obama missed Indonesian food and fruit: Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice), Bakso (Meatball) and Rambutan (fruit). He plan to visit Indonesia in 2009 or 2010.

  30. Jane said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 2:09 am

    People, it's called modesty. Fluency in a second or third language does not come easily. The question is, what do we mean by "fluency"? In my definition, fluency is being able to speak just like the natives and that takes at least 5-7 years while living in the country of the language you're learning. How many of us can speak like native speakers in a language that is not our own? In the context of Indonesian, formal, government language is probably the easiest to learn for foreigners. It is bounded by rules, so it is easier to study and understand; by that, I mean, the formality of it meets the expectations of foreigners who are trained to think in correct grammar. However, informal, conversational language of Indonesian is a lot harder for foreigners because there's a spontaneity to it that cannot be learned by textbooks. Not all foreigners can handle conversing with Indonesians because the everyday language of Indonesian is always developing, very fluid. I'm proud that my president, Barack Obama, can speak conversational Indonesian. I'm sure it would be hard for him to keep up with the language because there is no use for it here in the US, but the fact that he has family members who speak it fluently adds much to our assumptions about his comprehension skills. I'm also proud that he can speak an Asian language. Indonesian has no connections to English, which actually makes it harder to learn (English and German come from the same language group, so it is actually way easier for Americans to learn German).

  31. Suardi said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

    Barack Obama might speak Bahasa Indonesia better than some indonesian, as i consider most of indonesian are bilingual, but it doesnt mean that all people can express everything in indonesia and even to talk about politic. many people who live in the remote area speak very limited indonesia, eventhougt they might understand it very well. but still they are not better than any foreigner who learn indonesia for a few years. Indonesian who can be claimed to be able to speak fluent indonesia is a person who is rich with vocabularies and can respond question spontaneous, and of course most of people who atttended indonesian School. So Obama might speak better indonesia than indonesian people who live in the remote Kampung.

  32. CK in Dallas said,

    January 8, 2009 @ 2:53 am

    Doesn't his sister speak Indonesian? And wouldn't he speak it with her from time to time?

  33. Peter Phwan said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

    Yes, President-elect Obama does speak Bahasa Indonesia! How come? He spoke with me!

    I met him during his early rally in San Francisco in September 7, 2007. Kemala Harris and women coalition were there to endorse him. This was the time where not all Americans knew who Obama was.

    After delivering his speech, I came to the podium where many others flocked. I was very curious from early on after reading his books to try his Bahasa Indonesia. I speak Indonesian myself.

    I just simply called "Mas Barry, apakabar?". Mas is a Indonesian word to use to call older brother. "Apakabar" is How are you?.

    Sure enough, Mas Barry immediately looked at me with surprise (everybody spoke English and managed to shake hand with the superstar).

    Then, almost no accent, Obama said, "Baik". (Baik means good, you say it like "bike").

    I said, "Mas, saya dari Indonesia" (Mas, I am from Indonesia)

    To my surprise, he asked me, "Dari mana?" (Where from).

    And I said, "Saya dari Jakarta" (I am from Jakarta).

    As you know, Obama could not stay too long around the podium. He had to go for another campaign.

    It was indeed short conversatin. But I was happy and impressed after this conversation. Yes, the 44th President of United States speaks Bahasa Indonesia.

    Maya Soetoro Ng speaks Bahasa Indonesia? Of course! She speaks some Javanese, too.

  34. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    Thanks especially to commenters bloon and Peter Phwan. I've written a follow-up post here.

  35. Papa_Melaka said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

    Saya gembira yang amerika mempunyai seorang president yang boleh berbicara dalam bahasa indonesia/melayu.

  36. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

    Translating Papa_Melaka: I am happy that America has a president that can speak in Indonesian/Malay.

    (But I think it should be "Saya gembira bahwa…" instead of "Saya gembira yang…" since bahwa is a complementizer and yang is a relativizer. Also, I believe boleh = 'can' is a Malaysian Malay shibboleth, as in Indonesian Malay boleh tends to be restricted to 'may' while bisa or dapat is used for 'can'.)

  37. mer said,

    January 25, 2009 @ 1:14 am

    i am indonesian and i want to 'straighten' things up here…

    being able to say 'terimakasih' (thank you) 'apa kabar' (how are you), 'dari mana' (from where) and being able to answer those questions…. is not a sign of fluency. foreigners who learn for one-two days will be able to say that… in his recent conversation with a State Dept staff who speaks Indonesian fluently, Obama switched to English just after terimakasih dan apakabar… and yes, Obama himself said that he is not bilingual.

    the assumption that most indonesians don't speak fluent Indonesian is wrong. except for very older generation who lives in rural areas, most indonesians speak indonesian fluently, including poor ones. when i was little i lived in poor area and 100% of my neighbors spoke indonesian in addition to local language, Sundanese.

    and btw (Kris), Sundanese isn't spoken in Jakarta, people there speak mostly Betawinese. Sundanese language is spoken in West Java among Sundanese people (that's including myself), around Bandung and nearby cities.

  38. tanty said,

    January 28, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

    Hi All,

    just want to share some things related to Obama's ability in speaking Bahasa Indonesia. In many interviews with Maya Soetoro Ng that been broadcasted on some TV programs, she clearly stated that actually Obama still can speaks Bahasa Indonesia quite well. Especially for simple daily conversation. She once mentioned during the interview that she was actually surprise also when one day, Obama called her and said " Maya, sini, sini, pijat sini" while pointing at his back. Means "Maya, come here, massage here". And then when Maya gave him massage on his back, he commented again in Bahasa Indonesia "Wow, tangannya kuat sekali ya.." Means "Wow, your hands are strong".
    So I believe, he is not only able to greet people in Bahasa Indonesia, but for some other words also that use on daily conversational.
    Anyway, I am Indonesian and I am big fan of Obama, so I am really excited about on how things really connected. He is absolutely a President for everyone… :)

  39. Kipas Angin said,

    February 18, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    For those of you who are emphasizing that Obama rarely uses his Indonesian and saying that the few words of Indonesian that he uttered does not mean fluency, although you are probably right (that he's not fluent NOW), I think there are many inactive brain nerves in mr. Obama's brain that can easily be reactivated or make him capable of Indonesian once again if he listens to Indonesian enough. This is probably is what is important for Indonesians.

    I had a Chinese friend who only lived for 1 year in Germany when he was 5 yrs old. When he returned to Germany after all those years at the age of 23, he said it was as if everything came back from the back of his head; he spoke German like a native speaker in terms of pronounciation and grammar. Most importantly I think is that he had (in my opinion) a feel of how to manoeuver his German, some thing that foreign-language learners acquire only after learning a foreign language for years (or if the language that he is learning is somewhat close to his native language). And I would think that this is also the case with mr. Barack Obama. Unless maybe that at a certain age, some nerves in the brain that haven't been used for a long time will lose their capability.

    I don't think the 'curang' incident would represent mr. Obama's Indonesian language capability fairly. I think it's just one of those things that stuck into those people's minds because it was one strange thing that he used to do. I also made such silly mistakes. I lived in the US for only one year in 2nd-3rd grade. Although I could basically say anything I want without any difficulty and understood that 'he' is for males and 'she' is for females, I would always confuse 'he' and 'she' when talked and my friends would laugh. It was only much later that I stopped making this mistake. Nevertheless, I was fluent then during that one year.

    I agree with both Ryan Denzer (and Dr. Deaf too) that fluency is in the eyes of the beholder. Indonesians get very excited to hear foreigners speak in Indonesian. For example if an Indonesian asks a non-Indonesian ,"Can you speak Indonesian?" and the person answers in Indonesian, "Yes, I can, but I still have to learn much more." (Iya, tapi saya masih harus belajar lebih banyak lagi.) The Indonesian would then say, "Wow, you speak very well/you're very fluent!!" (Wah, lancar sekali! Wah, bagus bahasa Indonesianya!) On the other hand, I don't think Americans would feel the same way.

  40. Kipas Angin said,

    February 18, 2009 @ 11:40 am

    @mer: Suardi never said that most Indonesians are not fluent in Indonesian, he's only saying that people in the remote areas can't speak Indonesian. And I think it's true. My cousin who grew up in a Sundanese Village said to me that the people there can speak Indonesian pretty well, but said that a village further uphill understands it very little and can only speak Sundanese. And what about Kajang and Badui people who due to their religion have very little to no expose to the outside world. And what about Dayak tribes in Kalimantan, Anak Dalam in Sumatra and Papuans who still live deep within forests and other forest and mountain peoples like them where Indonesian public schools are still not available. Don't be surprised that some Sangir and Talaud people can speak Tagalog/Filipino better than Indonesian, because they do business with Filipinos and hardly receive Indonesian TV-broadcast.

    And even then, every region have developed their own version of Indonesian spoken amongst themselves to suited for their own tongue, that can be difficult for outsiders. For example, a Makassarese would say, "Napukulkaq bapakku" to mean "Ayahku memukulku"(My father hit me). You may say, "Is that even Indonesian?" Yes, it is a version of their 'Indonesian' suited for communication between ethnic groups in South Sulawesi. But is this still Indonesian? Can you consider this as Indonesian if REAL fluent speakers of Indonesian have trouble understanding it? There are other versions of 'Indonesian' that I know of in some provinces in the east. And chances are, those who have a low education level and are in remote areas speak the other version of 'Indonesian' and not the real Indonesian. My point is, you can't deny that there are some of us who sadly can't even speak our national language due to poverty, remoteness, lack of schools, etc. And the fact that your poor fellow villagers can speak Indonesian, is not a valid argument that would go for all Indonesians.

  41. Papa_Melaka said,

    April 19, 2009 @ 5:41 am

    zimmer maafkan saya…saya bercakap loghat melayu /malaysia…terima kasih kerana membetulkan sebutan saya..
    terima kasih

  42. Lia said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

    An Indonesian tv station, RCTI got an exclusive interview with Obama yesterday. I saw the clip today and yes, from what I saw he can speak conversational Indonesian with almost no foreign accent. The full interview (most of it in English, of course) will be aired on Monday, and the reporter said that when he chatted in Indonesian with Obama before the interview started, it felt like "speaking with your neighbor somewhere in Jakarta". That's fantastic! Can't wait to see the whole interview.

  43. Mack said,

    May 26, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    Thank you, Lia. I just found the interview on YouTube after reading your comment.

  44. maureen said,

    November 10, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    Hearing President Obama speaking the Indonesian language, to any degree at all, triggers the thought, "George Bush spent a part of his childhood in Paris, with plenty of financial ability to access good French education. Has he ever been heard to speak any French? Did he ever make any French friends comparable to the Jokartan friends of Barack Obama, who could be referenced for information?" Maybe it's in the biography.

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