Why I Regret Not Learning Indonesian

This is a journal entry that contains personal opinion.

Last year, I was privileged to visit Sentosa, a beautiful small town in Indonesia. Back then, I had no knowledge about Indonesia except for the fact that its capital is Jakarta and we were going to a city called Balikpapan. This trip wasn’t for travel; in fact, it was for a mission trip, a trip Christians take to spread Christianity. Due to this, I mostly spent more time socializing and talking with the people instead of traveling Indonesia’s famous sceneries.

I sang my last song of 2015 and my first song of 2016 in Indonesian, sitting on a green bench with my family. Because we were guests in this village, we shook hands with every single person who came to the New Year’s service. Man, it hurt to even smile after taking so many photos.

I spent such a great time with the locals and I even made some friends who were my age. Despite the language barrier, we talked about everything from school, sports, books, and even about boys. Spending just a few days with the new friends I made, I slowly started learning their language, and I taught them some trending slangs that us teenagers use.

Why I regret not learning Indonesian, despite talking with the locals just fine with a language barrier, is that there’s always a limit. Even if we understand each other, at the end, we probably don’t understand what they fully mean.

Each language in this world has its flow – whether it’s an expression that is only used in its country or a slang, it’s a part of the country’s culture. Even after a year, I always think to myself, “What if we actually fully understood each other?”. If I just took a little more effort to learn about their culture, learn their language and customs, communication would have been so much more unchallenging. Regardless of the different cultures we grew up in, if we had just a little more than basic knowledge of each other’s cultures, the times I spent with the Indonesian locals could have been much better.

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I’m not saying that language blocked me from having a great time in Indonesia – it was actually one of my best moments of my life. I had a blast spending time with little kids, teenagers my age, and even grandparents who gave me a small smile even when I couldn’t understand what they were saying. The (motor) bike ride I had with a friend to go to a local market where she bought me candy and other memories as such are unforgettable.

Walking around the small village, making small talks with local girls and boys, and trying my best to get over the language barrier allowed me to appreciate every culture I encountered.

This became an amazing lesson to me – I started to love all the languages and cultures that I encountered thereafter, and I developed an adoration of learning different languages. It’s good to know how to speak basic sentences with multiple languages since you never know where you will use them.

In fact, after I came back from the week trip in the village, I started learning how to speak basic sentences in Indonesian and I was able to buy the groceries with my mom in a local supermarket for dinner. Here’s a pat on the back for myself.

Not only was my trip to Sentosa an eye-opener for different cultures, it allowed me to love and care for the people around me. I’m very thankful for the amazing opportunities I had, and I can’t wait for Summer break to come so that I can go traveling whenever I want.

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