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14 January 2018 – 9:17 pm | One Comment

Someone asked our 6.5yo Brie about her recent Mount Lawu hike:
‘So did you enjoy it?’
And … Brie shook her head.
‘Oops!’, the man smiled and looked at Wilson. ☺️

To us, it is okay if our kids …

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Home » Daily, Inspirational, Parenting, Video

Parenting : Why We Teach Bahasa Indonesia to Our Kids (And a Video of them singing ‘Indonesia Raya’)

18 August 20117 Comments

[In red and white, the Indonesian flag’s colour!]

I was recently asked by at least three people about our kids and how they speak in Bahasa Indonesia to each other.

The questions were more about : WHY we teach them Bahasa Indonesia, and aren’t we worried that they can’t cope with the english-speaking schools here.

Since today is Indonesia’s Independence Day, I thought it’s ‘timely’ to share our answers (read: our personal take) to the two questions above today =)

Here they are.

> WHY do we teach our children Bahasa Indonesia? (Especially since they’re born in Singapore and have always lived in Singapore)

I’d say, why not?

Wilson and I were born in Indonesia. We speak to each other in Bahasa all the time. We go to an Indonesian-speaking church service. We have Indonesian friends here in Singapore. We love Indonesian food. Our parents all live in Jakarta too.

So, it’s only natural for us to teach our children Bahasa Indonesia.

We wish for our children to communicate and relate well with their grandparents, cousins and relatives back in Indonesia. We want them to know that their parents were born there and Bahasa Indonesia is their ‘mother tongue’. We also wish for them (in years and years to come) to actually ‘understand’ what’s being said and shared during the Indonesian-speaking service we attend every Sunday.

Wilson and I also believe that the more language one can master, the better too, as it will allow them to reach out, communicate and relate to MORE people, more communities, around the world.

[The best people who can teach them a ‘foreign language’ – a language that’s not commonly spoken in the country they live in –  from day one are their parents, yes? =) ]

If Wilson and I could speak any OTHER languages, we would definitely pass them on to our kids too! Too bad we’re stuck with just English and Bahasa Indonesia so far (Okay, and a liiiiittttle bit of Mandarin. Anya and Vai know Mandarin so much better than us though by now, haha)

> Are you not worried that your children will find it difficult to speak English when they enter nursery school?

We believe children are really like a sponge. They absorb knowledge and information very fast and well. When it’s time for our children to enter school (eg. Nursery school, when a child turns 4yo in that particular year), we believe that they WILL learn how to converse in English, how to write in English, etc.

We saw it happen when both Anya and Vai started going to N2 (Nursery 2).

In their first 2-3 weeks of school, … yes, they spoke in ‘mixed languages’ =)

Vai, for example, did say something like this: ‘Mommy, di kelas tadi so cold, Vai mau wear jacket besok!’


But you know what, after that initial 2 – 4 weeks, our kids started speaking English at school.

With NO problems.

They continue speaking to us in Bahasa Indonesia though (and I guess it’s because it’s something that we do since the kids were born).

There’s one interesting thing I noticed though: Anya and Vai always speak in Bahasa to each other, but somehow when they’re with their friends (even if they’re Indonesian friends), everyone automatically speak in English to one another.

Perhaps they kinda feel like they’re with their school friends, and at school, everybody speaks English to each other?


We don’t just teach our kids to speak in Bahasa Indonesia. We also introduce them to some Indonesian folklore stories, Indonesian songs and of course the National Anthem – Indonesia Raya =)

And, to close today’s post, I’d like to share with you this video we made today.

It’s of Anya and Vai attempting to sing ‘Indonesia Raya’ (only the reffrain) earlier today =)

Enjoy the clip!


  • hadi says:

    What if you can speak one of Indonesian regional language? Would you speak to your kids in that language too? Do you think trilingual is a good idea?

    More than half of my conversation with my parents are in regional language (even until now). The rest is a mix between Indonesian and Mandarin.

  • Linda says:

    Hi, do you have any recommendation for tutor/school that teaches bahasa for primary school going children?

  • kris says:

    Halo Leonny,

    salam kenal, saya Kris, dan saya juga punya balita usia 2 thn. Masih bingung nih mo membesarkan dia sbg bilingual speaker (saya tinggal di singapura, indonesian citizen. 4thn disini). Bisa share? di rumah kalian komunikasi dalam bahasa Indonesia, atau bahasa Inggris? atau kamu berbahasa Indonesia, dan suami berbahasa inggris (atau sebaliknya), atau bagaimana? masih bingung nih.

    thanks yah

    • Leonny says:

      Hi Kris,

      Salam kenal! =)

      Saya ada share ttg approach kami dalam ajarin anak2 di reply utk komentar di atas.

      Intinya, kami percaya kalau anak2 itu pd dasarnya cepat sekali nangkep bahasa. Dan karena mereka tinggal di Singapore dan orang2 berbhs inggris, justru itu kami harus ajarkan bicara bahasa indonesia, karena ga akan ada orang lain lagi yang bisa ajarin mereka berbhs indo kecuali ortunya sendiri.

      (kalau tinggalnya di indo, then kami akan ajarkan mereka bhs inggris, karena mereka otomatis pasti bisa bhs indo dari teman2 sekolah dll, tapi kalau bhs inggris, itu additional yg bisa kita bantu dengan exposure bhs itu di rumah).

      Dan mmg benar, waktu Anya dan Vai pertama masuk N2 (thn itu mereka usia 4th), dlm 2 mg pertama mereka agak kecampur ngomongnya, tapi setelah itu mereka bisa bhs inggris dengan tidak ada masalah sama sekali =)

      Dan sekarang, mereka berdua fasih bhs indo (gaya bicara sehari2 tapi yah, belum bhs baku =), dan mereka fasih bicara bahasa inggris (karena di skolah pasti dapat bhs inggris, dari guru dan percakapan dgn teman2). Dan utk mandarin, mereka belajar di sekolah juga, tapi sayangnya ga bisa ada conversation di rumah, karena kaminya berdua hopeless dengan bhs chinese =)

      Smg nolong ya… =)

  • JAIME says:

    most interesting.are they able to read bahasa indonesia?
    i am born a malaysian..and my hubby too..hence our mandarin is only passable…so i also grapple wiht the fact that what languages should i expose my children..

    wishful thinking, i wish they do well in english and mandarin (though not much help from us) and speak a bit of malay and one or two chinese dialect being a cantonese and my hubby being a hokkien…
    however sadly, all we speak at home mostly is english..including the grandparents also tend to speak with my elder boy in english and english only thinking that he only understand that language..

    perhaps its a little too he is already 28 months old and speak in very understandable english and doesnt even switch to mandarin in most cases..but i wish that he is multilingual n we can provide that platform of learning as well…

    how do you teach them? speak purely in bahasa indonesia since birth? mixed it with english?

    i recently taught him burung kakak tua..i was overjoyed he learn the whole song…that would definitely give him an edge because i am sure not many chinese preschool kids know that song..maybe the next song will be the malaysia national anthem for the coming independence day

    • Leonny says:

      Hi Jaime,

      I just saw how I haven’t replied your comment. So sorry about it … =( Thanks heaps for sharing and for leaving a comment on my blog yeah.

      As to your question, how do I teach them speak Bahasa Indonesia, etc …:

      Yes, we speak to them in Bahasa Indonesia since birth. My hubby and I also speak in Bahasa to each other.

      We introduce English words to the kids if the word is simpler to be said in English than in Bahasa.

      Eg. We refer to the sun as ‘Sun’, and not ‘matahari’, as it’s more ‘mouthful’ to say ‘matahari’. So we’d be speaking in Bahasa, and we’d insert english words in our sentences.

      Then, when the child is a little bigger, eg. 2-3 years old, we teach them what ‘sun’ is in another language (in this case, what it is called in Bahasa). This way, they’ll know the word in 2 languages =)

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