Even by the standards of United States Presidents, Barack Obama has led a pretty unusual life. His early experiences included a childhood plunge into internationalism in the form of not just his Kenyan father but his Indonesian stepfather, to whose homeland the family moved when Obama was six years old. For the next four years, the young future Commander in Chief attended local schools in Jakarta, and the language he picked up then has stuck with him today. It certainly served him well when he returned to Indonesia as President to give the speech above, in which he talks about his love for that country and his belief in its importance to the future, speaking bits and pieces in Indonesian throughout — and drawing great applause each time.
If you want to be like Barry and meet with a similarly rapturous reception when next you give a public address in the Emerald of the Equator, start by learning the basics of the Indonesian language at our Free Foreign Language Lessons page. There, you’ll find a wealth of podcasts like Learning Indonesian (iTunes), Indonesianpod101 (iTunes), and Indonesian Survival Phrases (iTunes). [Advanced learners might prefer tuning in to news-in-Indonesian podcasts from SBS (iTunes) and NHK World (iTunes) radio.] Indonesianpod101 even has a Youtube page with video lessons like the one just above.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming President, you may still have plenty of reasons to learn Indonesian. With its familiar alphabet and simple grammar without tenses, gender forms, noun cases, and the like, it ranks as one of the very easiest languages in which to attain fluency. I know an American college professor in South Korea who constantly urges his students to study Indonesian, since it offers the “golden tip” of a wedge into the rest of Asia: master it, and you’ll have built up momentum to learn the other, more complicated languages of the region, from Mandarin to Cantonese to Japanese and beyond — all of which you can also begin studying at, of course, our Free Language Lessons page.
If your linguistic interests slant toward Europe rather than Asia, don’t worry, we’ve still got your back: our lists include learning resources for languages of that continent as major as Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, English, and German to niche languages like Catalan, Finnish, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian. If you notice we’ve missed any language you’ve harbored a burning desire to learn, drop us a line so we can start gathering podcasts, videos, and PDFs on it. In the meantime, surely the Free Language Lessons page offers you something to start on and get that incomparable feeling of breaking into a new language for the first time. Semoga beruntung, as we say in Jakarta!
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.