Bali – What You Can Learn From The Indonesian Language

We arrived to Bali about two weeks ago. It is not our first time on the island of Gods, and it may not be our last. Contrary to our plan of an around-the-world-trip, we have decided to return to Europe after this. We are completely re-thinking our travel ambitions, a process that already started while we were in Busan. Our new strategy is to do things we want to do or to see places we want to see.

We now see traveling as a means to reach our goals and not as a goal in itself.

Today, I’m introducing you to a new way of viewing the world by giving you an insight into what you can learn from the Indonesian language. I learned Indonesian using our brain-friendly language learning method (no grammar, no vocabs, only fun material).


Two things about languages so that you understand how language affects the way you perceive this thing which you call “reality”:

1) Language is not innate. After you’re born, there needs to be someone who teaches you a language (e.g. your parents) for you to become a native speaker. Children who grow up without a (human) language and are then found and taught, less fluently speak one, if fluently at all. If this interests you, look for wild children or wolf children.

2) Your brain interprets every word literally. This follows from 1): After you’re born (and even before that!), you’re brain tries to make sense out of a sheer chaos of sounds that are directed at your little ears. Later on, you “know” a word only because you connected its spoken sound with its meaning. For example, if you say “I feel great!”, then (the unconscious part of) your brain sparks the feeling of you being literally taller than your physical body. Remember that people who feel “great” really grow a couple of centimeters compared to when they’re feeling “not so great”.


Part of the learning and teaching method we use is to look at what native speakers are literally saying. This gives you a first feeling for the language and a first impression of how the language connects ideas. After all, this is what your brain is made for: connecting ideas.

Let’s venture out to explore Indonesian together. How do Indonesians say “Thank you!”?

Terima kasih!

Does it really mean “Thank you!”?

Terima    kasih!
Accept      love!

What a difference! While English speakers stick to “(I) Thank you”, Indonesians say “(I) Accept your love!” Imagine if you were saying this to people everyday. How might this boost your positive energy?


Let’s take a more complex sentence:

Saya bangun pagi-pagi untuk naik puncak gunung untuk menonton matahari terbit.

An English speaker would put it like this:

I got up early to climb up to the mountain peak to watch the sunrise.

Is this equivalent to what Indonesian says here?

Saya                    bangun                  pagi-pagi                     untuk                    naik
   I                        rose                       early*                        to                      up

puncak            gunung            untuk          menonton          matahari            terbit.
  peak           mountain          to               watch                 sun**             rise.

*literally means morning-morning
**literally means eye of the day


What I learned from the way Indonesian talks about “reality” is to think in ideas or concepts instead of details. What I mean thereby is that while thinking I started using only the most essential components to say out loud what I had in mind. In Indonesian,

saya naik puncak

is enough for everyone to understand what you are doing – climbing the mountain – and when you are doing or have done it. There is not even a time indicator in this phrase; still it’s obvious to all Indonesians whether you already climbed or will climb the mountain top. While chattingt they always keep in mind what their conversation is essentially about. Once the topic has been introduced, there is no need to repeat it (like in Western cultures).



One last, beautiful example from my collection of Indonesian proverbs:

Hidup                itu                seperti                mampir              minum             kopi.
 Life                that              like                 stop by              drink           coffee.

Life is like stopping by to drink coffee.

Happy changes,


P.S.: Check out our route map to see where we are!

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