Languages and populations of Indonesia: things to know

September 25, 2019

"Unity in diversity", this is the Indonesian motto par excellence. Indonesia is composed of over 13 thousand islands, inhabited by over 200 ethnic groups.

Indonesia floating market boats

Are you planning a trip to Indonesia? Prepare to be fascinated not only by the beaches and the wilderness, but also by the unforgettable meeting with the local population, indeed, with the local populations, as the archipelago of Indonesia is inhabited by different ethnic groups with their own customs and traditions.

It will be an unforgettable adventure, you will not regret having chosen this destination!

The Indonesians: one population, different cultures

Indonesia consists of over 13,400 islands, inhabited by over 200 million people, belonging to over 200 ethnic groups. Each of these groups has different traditions and languages. The Javanese population is the largest, with over 70 million individuals, followed by the Sundanese of Java, about 30 million.

Bali boys playing with water, Indonesia
Boys playing with water in Bali.

For the most part, the population is of Islamic religion, with the exception of Bali, where Hinduism prevails. There are also Christian minorities, Catholic or Protestant, for example Minahasa in North Sulawesi, in the Toraja mountains in South Sulawesi, in the islands of Nusatenggara east and in most of Papua and on the island of Nias in North Sumatra.

Religion is deeply felt by the Indonesian population and there is tolerance and respect between people of different creeds. The values of the nation are expressed by Pancasila, namely believing in one god, promoting a just and civilized society, supporting the unity of Indonesia, maintaining democracy through shared decisions and respecting social justice for all. The Indonesian motto par excellence is "unity in diversity".

Languages, dialects and pronunciation

In Indonesia, many languages and dialects are spoken, although the Bahasa is the official language of the nation, used throughout the country, for official communications, in mass media and schools. However, the different ethnic groups also have their own languages and dialects, many of them Chinese, for example in Medan and Pontianak. The most important dialects are the Javanese and the Sundanese.

Vegetable market in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Buying and selling at a vegetable market in Ubud, Indonesia.

Most of the population understands English and speaks it at an elementary level. The Indonesian pronunciation is simple, the words are pronounced more or less as they are written.

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