How Good Are Indonesians in Speaking English, Their Accent and Fluency?

In the previous article [Read: Is English Widely Spoken in Bali?], we have described about English in Bali. From the article, we know that Bali is Indonesia’s province with the highest English skill level beating Jakarta Capital Region, Yogyakarta Special Region, and East Java. Yet, still not all Balinese speak English. In this article we are going to describe about how good Indonesian people in speaking English, including their accent and fluency.

How about in throughout Indonesia? According to the same survey with previous article, in 2018, Indonesia ranked 51 position out of 88 non-English speaking countries. There are many factors caused this situation. First, we need to know that Indonesians speak at least 2 languages (local language and bahasa Indonesia).

Indonesians are taught English in school but not much into the accents, either British or American accents. Then, their accent (Javanese for instance) gives influences to their way in pronounce English words. English accent is still affected by their respective native languages. Furthermore, English is not main or secondary language. It can be third or even fourth language.


Second, Indonesians do not speak English everyday. Bahasa Indonesia is broadly used. Thus, Indonesians are not accustomed to English except those who are in international school. The number is not huge also. TV programs are delivered in bahasa Indonesia. Indonesians also love to read books in bahasa Indonesia. There are very few people who are able to watch English movies without subtitle.

Bahasa Indonesia Origins

Historically, Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch, unlike their neighbouring countries (Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and Singapore) which was colonized by the British or the Philipines (by the Spain and United States of America). That made its neighboring countries got more advantages over Indonesia. This thing alone have made Indonesia having a late start. Educational regulation made this situation even worse.

Third, we may say that Indonesians are proud of the lingua franca. Sumpah Pemuda (The Youth Pledge) is the cause of this. Also, there are tendency among some people that when one start speaking English, the other would tease him/her as too pretentious. Indonesian also people have tendency to laugh when their fellow makes mistakes. As the impact, they do not want to learn more. They are usually feel embarrassed by their peers when committing grammar, pronunciation, or vocabulary mistakes, so they do not practice it often.

Many native English speakers understand this matter. This is natural and it is the art of learning foreign language, isn’t it? Even Indians who speak English better than Indonesians, they are still stick to their accents. It is not bad to stick with your native accent. It is natural. Accents are just coloring the conversation.