Speaking English in Indonesia

In Singapore they have Singlish; a highly bastardised form of English popular among the proletariat but a source of long-term embarrassment for the Britisher-than-British Singapore govt.

But not far across the increasingly effluent-filled Java Sea, here in Indonesia, we have something much, much, better.


But while Singlish generally makes sense to those who understand the language, Bollockish is different. Nope, this is not the language of communication but, rather of discommunication; that is the deliberate attempt to make yourself as clear as a Dutchman on psilocybin mushrooms.

An eloquent speaker of this rapidly growing language is Qory Sandioriva, the Indonesian contestant at this year’s Miss Universe contest, who, when asked what was the best advice she could give to a man, replied:

"I think when you down the women can make you up, and I think the women can be said that "I have advice for you" if you way up, you have to be nice with people, include women, so when you down, women can be nice with you.”


Going down? On a woman? What a devil she is!!!

But while Singlish is strictly used in only informal communications, Bollockish is different. You really can find it everywhere.

It’s used in tourism:

And in the construction business:

At much-loved City Hall: The cultural guarantee (of Jakarta) could personally take the form of the object made by humankind, did not move or move that took the form of unity or the group, or a part-a part or the remnants the rest of them, that be aged at least 500 years.

And even as I noticed on Sunday at a well-known Chinese-run hospital in Jakarta’s suburbs:

NB: Are Indonesians really that bad at English? Well, there’s one interesting report recently published (right click, save as) and it shows the average TOEFL test scores for 2009 globally. Indonesia scores a fairly poor 79, which is still way behind many other countries in Asia. No good lah!!!! Time for improvement!!!


  1. I go to mall, yesterday I go to mall, tomorrow I go to mall. My hobbies is watching, going the church and play facebook. I play swimming, cycling and snow. On weekend I sleep.
    Current favourite is yesterday I ate rice maybe. Indoglish is spreading and catching I am afraid. Its everywhere. As for TOEFL, it is concerning. Students want the certificate but not the study that goes with it. I teach TOEFL and some days, well....I going to Bali at plane is what it makes me feel like doing...apa?

  2. In TOEFL Indonesia doesn't do too badly I guess and it's not fair to compare the country with either Malaysia or Singapore. What gets me is bad signs. The bad English can easily be avoided just by getting someone to check it first.

  3. Aduh, jadi malu..
    I dont live in indonesia but there are people in my office whose english is so bad that it's just plain funny.
    some examples can be found here:

  4. I'm sorry..what...??

    Cunt Examination?


    Oh Lord Forgive us.

  5. Construction on progress. Cunt? what? cunt examination? :D

    Oh, shame on Indonesians (including me)! English proficiency is another problem. English is less spoken here because it is not given a special legal status as an official language. You may argue that English is an international language, but here, it is less popular than Bahasa Gaul that employs elo-gue. Education system makes the problem worse. English teachers don't encourage students to speak English well. They only teach students how to use English tenses. Learning English is also discouraged by those stupid ultra-nationalists. They insulted me "Sok Inggris" or "Bule Aspal" when I tried to communicate using English.

    We are improving our Bollockish.

  6. Silahkan anda berbangga bisa berbahasa Inggris :)
    mungkin buat anda bahasa Inggris adalah segalanya.

    saya bangga bisa berbahasa asing, tapi saya lebih bangga mendengar berita ini :
    lebih dari 40 negara di dunia mempelajari Bahasa Indonesia ^__^.

  7. Most of the indonesians simply just don't give a damn on tenses and stuffs. They're easy to give up on something especially english. Once, my native highschool teacher told me that it's totally fine to speak broken english cuz it's not our mother tongue. It's disappointing and embarrassing at the same time to even see as an influential person as MISS INDONESIA to speak english that way. If you want to represent us as a big nation, please study english!!!! It's for your own good!!!!!! Trust me!!!! If not then, another well-known language will be just fine. At least show that you are an international person!!! Get it?!! Stop harassing and embarrassing us!!!


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