4 Best Ways to Learn Indonesian Online for Free

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
Learning Indonesian online has never been so easy. There are so many websites, apps and videos available for free that the real problem is to identify the right one for you.

Before choosing, you should ask yourself a few questions:

How serious are you about learning Indonesian?
Do you want to become fluent or do you only want to learn the basics?

Do you want free lessons or are you ready to pay for a subscription?
The advantage of paying sites is that you'll usually get a complete program that you can follow every day. By investing money, you will feel more motivated as well.

Without paying, you'll need to stick to trial offers with a limited number of free lessons. That's fine for a beginner, but it can be annoying as you make progress.

Do you prefer learning through an app or a website?
If you don't have too much time to spare, using a mobile app is a convenient way to learn. You can practice for a few minutes from everywhere, for instance while commuting.

Websites are better if you can sit in front of your computer for at least 30 minutes straight, several times per week. The ones I tried have a rich content, requiring focus and sustained efforts, but they are recommended if you intend to become fluent.

Do you learn better through reading texts and written exercises or through listening and talking?
The learning process of each individual is different. Personally, I need to write things down to memorize them. I would never make progress by just listening to a podcast for instance. If you are unsure about his, maybe you can try a few methods and judge for yourself which one is the most effective.

4 free ways to learn Indonesian online
Based on the questions above, you should be able to identify what is the best way for you to learn Indonesian online. The particularities of each are described below:

Free apps (with premium features)
On both Android and iPhone, you will find plenty of free applications that are quite similar from one another.

They tend to ignore grammar to focus on helping you learn vocabulary lists. In general, the first lessons are free, but you must pay to have access to everything.

Honestly, I don't think you can reach a fluent level in Indonesian only by using these. They can complement proper online courses or help you learn words, but at a certain point, you might need to upgrade to a proper learning method.

Still, for busy expats or travelers who can't dedicate too much time to learning Indonesian, they will do the trick. Since Bahasa Indonesia does not have a very complex grammar, just learning words will prove useful in your daily interactions with Indonesians.

Note that all the free apps listed below have both a trial mode and a paying mode. Without paying, you can only access a certain number of lessons.

→ Babbel (Itunes and Android)
25 free lessons (1 in each category including grammar). It is perfect for beginners, less for the others. Each exercise lasts about 5 minutes. To make you memorize words, Babbel combines listening, writing, reading and playing. It is quite fun and it does not require a lot of efforts.

For access to the 300+ exercises (including grammar), you must subscribe. 12$ per a month, 24$ for 3 months. If you don't subscribe immediately, they will send you a promo offer within a few days with up to 50% discount.

If you are considering paying for an app, Babbel is probably the best one on the market.

→ Mondly (Itunes and Android)
It is similar to Babbel with a focus on learning words. Typically, an exercise starts with a dialogue, followed by exercises that help you memorize a few key words and sentences.

Price: IDR69,000IDR ($5) for 1 month or IDR300,000 ($22) for 12 months with access to 600 lessons.

→ Fun Easy Learn (Android)
The beginner level is accessible for free and it contains a lot of interesting words by categories. Some mistakes in the translations and some irrelevant words.

To unlock levels and disable ads completely, you need to pay a one-time fee of $18.

→ Learn Indonesian Like a Native (Android)
This app is free and makes money with ads. It contains several errors and some formal expressions that, unlike the name of the app would suggest, are not actually spoken by natives. Its content is also quite limited, but I guess it's enough for tourists who plan on visiting the country and need some travel-related vocabulary.

→ Learn Indonesian Fast with LingoLinks.biz (Android)
This is an interesting and innovative app for those who have trouble learning the traditional way. Lingo Links help you memorize words by creating short stories and inserting the pronunciation of the Indonesian word inside it. For instance, to learn "Terima kasih" (Thank you), you should imagine that, while riding a taxi, you damaged a seat. As you left, the driver said: "Thank you for tearing my car seat" (which sounds like "Terima Kasih").

The free version contains only about 100 phrases and words. To get access to 300 more, you have to pay $5.

Free websites (with or without premium features)
You can download a few apps to help you learn Indonesian vocabulary and to practice your oral skills, but I think you can only make real progress with proper websites.

The reason for that is that they allow for more complex and longer lessons. It is a method similar to what you would do in a classroom with a teacher and a guidebook. You start with a dialog, then learn specific words related to that dialog, and you finally you do grammar exercises. Lessons after lessons, the difficulty increases, and the path should ultimately lead you to fluency.

Below are the best websites for learning Indonesian. Some of them are 100% free while other (unfortunately the best ones) require a subscription to access some of their content.

→ IndonesianPod101
Learn Indonesian with IndonesianPod101.com
60-day money back guarantee with IndonesianPod101
This website, recommended by the New York Times, the BBC and Newsweek, is part of a larger group offering several other language methods (Spanish, French, etc). It is very complete and certainly the best for those who want to reach a fluent level in Indonesian.

There are so many resources on IndonesianPod101 that it can be confusing at first. You have videos, podcasts, texts, games (flashcards), wordlists, a dedicated app (Iphone and Android), a grammar bank, etc. You can even ask for a private teacher tutorial if you need (and if you are a member).

The best way to start is to click on "Learning Path", then to choose your level (Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced) and the theme you want to work on (travel, daily life, etc). In total, there are 500+ lessons.

Contrary to an app like Babbel, IndonesianPod requires more efforts and commitment. I would say you should spend at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week, to see some results.

Upgrading to paying version?
Even without paying, you have access to a wealth of free resources on IndonesiaPod101. You can also use their free 7-day trial (without a credit card needed).

If you want to be serious about learning Indonesian though, it is probably useful to get a membership.

For just $4 per month, you get access to ALL their lessons.
For $10 per month, you get access to an additional 2000 word-lists, all the grammar points, HD video lessons, the full app, voice recording tools, etc.
For $23 per month, you get access to a teacher for 1-on-1 guidance.

Each subscription comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.

→ LearningIndonesian.com
This website is the second best for learning Indonesian. It is much more simple compared to IndonesianPod101: 32 basic audio lessons in its free version, and 72 for paying members only.

When you register for free, you will receive by email a valuable learning guide to be used as a support for the online podcast. It is very useful for beginners and by the time you're done, you should be able to speak decent conversational Indonesian.

The paying version is quite expensive ($149) but you can take advantage of the 30-day no-question money back guarantee. During that time, you can do at least 20 free lessons and then decide if it's worth to continue paying or not.

→ BahasaKita and Learn Indonesian by MyLanguage.org
These two websites are the best I could find that are completely FREE. Of course, the quality cannot be compared to IndonesianPod101 or LearningIndonesian.com (no exercises, no audio or video, a limited number of lessons, few vocabulary lists), but they will do the trick for those who want to learn Indonesian without spending any money.

Note that BahasaKita also offers some paid tutoring via Skype.

Free Youtube channels and podcasts
There are numerous YouTube channels dedicated to learning Indonesian online.

The best one actually belongs to IndonesianPod101. Their videos are short, varied and with a clear sound.
I also like some channels that are run by Indonesian amateurs. Yahya Zakaria has around 25 videos that are fun to watch and useful for those who want to work on their pronunciation.
Ina Carolina is also a great teacher, but her lessons are a bit complicated. I only recommend them for advanced learners, especially those who need a better understanding of Indonesian grammar.
Online Teacher/Skype Tutors/Penpals
Finally, another great way to learn Indonesian online is to find locals with whom you can talk. It is the fastest and least boring way to becoming fluent.

You can easily meet Indonesian girls or guys who will be willing to have conversations with you by phone or WhatsApp. My advice would be to create a profile on dating sites and apps like IndonesianCupid, Badoo, Tinder. Just say that you are looking for someone to practice Indonesian. You will have no problem getting plenty of answers.

If you want real teachers, you can also try online tutoring services such as Preply, Verbling or Italki.

Those sites help you connect with native teachers, with prices starting at $4 for a 1-hour session.

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