Basic Indonesian
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  • Basic Indonesian
  • Stuart Robson, Yacinta Kurniasih
  • Published by: Tuttle Publishing
  • Level: Beginner
  • First Published in: 2010

This is a user–friendly and comprehensive beginner Indonesian textbook. This flexible language book can be used by students enrolled in university language courses or expatriates living in Indonesia. Basic Indonesian is the perfect course book for any absolute beginner who wants to get started on learning Indonesian.

REVIEW BY Tyler Follis Book EXPERT
Review posted: 20/12/2013
Have you used this book?

What first caught my eye about Basic Indonesian was that each lesson begins with a comic demonstrating the language from the main reading passage. I thought this was an interesting addition to a language textbook, and I was eager to try the course out for myself. Unfortunately, upon using the book I found myself wondering if the comics were just a ploy to distract you from the frustrating lack of organization in this book. There are a lot of frustrating areas in this book that I feel could have been remedied with a bit of extra effort from the authors, but ultimately I think can still prove a useful tool for beginners in Indonesian.

The course is organized into 28 lessons which follow the same basic format:

· Reading Passage (often part narrative, part dialogue)

· Wordlist

· Cultural Notes (not present in every lesson)

· Language Notes (i.e. Grammar)

· Exercises

As I said above, each reading passage also has a comic on the opposing page which demonstrates parts of the reading passage with a series of scenes using illustrated characters. The same characters are used throughout the course, which I think is a great feature for any language course. All the reading passages have corresponding recordings which are provided on a CD that comes with the book. The recordings are good quality, but the speech often sounds slow and unnatural.

"When using this book I quickly learned that it would be easier for me to create my own wordlists and simply use a dictionary to look up any of the words I didn't know."

The reading passages themselves are not too bad. I found them to be decently interesting and easy to follow, especially when following along with the comic. The big problem comes with the wordlist. I honestly don't know what inspired the authors to go against the already established conventions that most language texts follow, but it is seriously frustrating. First of all, they alphabetize all the new terms that come up in the lessons. This isn't a huge deal, but it's far less convenient than if the terms were presented in the order they appear, so that students can simply find words as they go along instead of having to scour through a list. What's more frustrating is that they decided to not include any terms in the wordlist that are present in the language notes section. The publishers must have really been trying to save ink or something, because I think it's absolutely ridiculous that, from the very first lesson, you can't have all your vocabulary presented to you in one place. When I couldn't find one of the terms I was looking for in neither the wordlist, nor the language notes, I thought to myself, “no problem, I will just check the glossary at the back of the book!” Here's a surprise though – there is no glossary at the back of the book! I seriously could not believe that, not only would they not include all of the terms in the wordlists, but they didn't even bother providing a glossary (considered standard on 99% of language books) to make up for it. When using this book I quickly learned that it would be easier for me to create my own wordlists and simply use a dictionary to look up any of the words I didn't know. I was able to work through the book this way without too much trouble, but it's just a lot of extra work that the student has to do that could have been provided by the book itself.

I really liked the grammar sections in this book. They uses examples to get the point across, and the authors talk to the student directly, giving them not only an “academic” understanding of the grammar, but practical advice on what it means to them and how they can understand it on their own terms. The formatting isn't too bad, and there is little wasted space. I didn't really feel like the authors missed anything too critical, but Indonesian grammar is pretty easy in the first place.

The exercises are relatively few in numbers, and don't go too deep when it comes to getting the students to manipulate the language. There are reading, listening, writing, and some grammar exercises, but I feel like most of the exercises simply asked the student to answer a question. Along with these, there are some of my least favorite exercises, like word searches and simple matching, but these were fortunately kept to a minimum. There are a lot of blank spaces and pictures in the book, but for the most part I felt like they were relevant and helped enhance the quality of the book, as opposed to simply taking up space.

Aside from the drawbacks I discussed above, the only other real thing this book is lacking is a healthy amount of input for the students to take in. I feel like most introductory language books probably have twice as much content in terms of reading and listening passages, which means that students using this book will have limited opportunities to see the vocabulary that they are learning “in action”. With that said, I think that this can be a pretty fun book to use, if you can get past the initial frustrations, and it can serve a fair role in helping establish a good foundation in Indonesian for beginners.

For instructors: I recommend seeking/creating more reading and listening passages for students to study with outside of class so that they can get a better feel of the language with more exposure.



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