As an Indonesian, my initial thought was, why would Australians need to learn Bahasa Indonesia? Wouldn’t it be easier if I just communicate with them in English? Though my way of thinking was dead wrong. It turns out that Australians need to learn Bahasa Indonesia, like Indonesians need to learn English, to equally have the freedom to learn foreign languages and get to know each other better. 

Doing an ACICIS program is one of many ways for Australians to learn Bahasa Indonesia. Through its programs, ACICIS has been strengthening people-to-people connections between Australia and Indonesia for the past 27 years! They achieve this by facilitating life-changing academic experiences for young Australians to get to know their closest neighbour – Indonesia. 

On a more micro-level operation, ACICIS’ Marketing & Student Recruitment (MSR team) interpreted the phrase ‘freedom to learn Bahasa Indonesia’ differently. They initiated the Bahasa Sesh segment via ACICIS’ social channels in early 2022. It started as a weekly static graphic containing words in Bahasa Indonesia, their meaning and how to use it in a sentence. The MSR team hoped that while ACICIS followers were scrolling through news, adverts and gossip on a Saturday morning, that they would also learn one word in Bahasa Indonesia. 

After consistently running the segment for 8 months, the Bahasa Sesh initiative evolved into a more lively medium — video. It was a collaborative effort amongst ACICIS staff to record themselves sharing one word in Bahasa Indonesia, its meaning and how to use it. This originated from MSR’s idea that learning languages might be best delivered in an informal and conversational setting. At this point we started to get the true sense of social media — to be social. Talking about Bahasa Indonesia, learning about it unconsciously.

Each year, on 28 October, Indonesia celebrates ‘Youth Pledge Day’, or in Bahasa Indonesia, ‘Hari Sumpah Pemuda’. This date marks the day back in 1928, when a group of young Indonesian nationalists declared the “Sumpah Pemuda” for the first time. They proclaimed three ideas that went on to underwrite the establishment of the Indonesian republic: one motherland, one nation and one language.

Emphasising the “one language” part of the pledge, the young nationalists declared “We the sons and daughters of Indonesia, uphold the language of unity, Bahasa Indonesia.” Because of this pivotal historical event, in Indonesia, October is often referred to as “Bulan Bahasa” or “Language Month”. During this month, campaigns, competitions and activities are often held to express the love for—and appreciation of—the nation-building role that Bahasa Indonesia has played in uniting Indonesia’s 270 million people into a single country. 

As October was fast approaching, bringing with it the euphoria of the Youth Pledge Day and Bulan Bahasa, we wanted to get involved — and we did – by initiating The 2022 Bahasa Sesh Challenge. ACICIS challenged all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over to share their favourite word in Bahasa Indonesia through video form on social media. The grand prize was valued at over $3,000 AUD! Our vision was, that if the challenge went well, there would be lots of words in Bahasa Indonesia floating around on social media, everyone could learn from each and have fun at the same time. Picturesque.

There were a lot of surprises as the challenge went on. ACICIS received nearly 50 submissions from a wide range of demographics: past ACICIS students, academics and even diplomats!

We were delighted to see so many submissions from the tightly-knit ACICIS alumni community. Their skills still prominently intact.

Tim Flicker

Katrina Jade

Rosie Bendo

It was also wonderful to see several academics contributing to this challenge. Showing their fun side! 

Dr Natali Pearson

Dr Elisabeth Kramer

Yacinta Kurniasih

Last but not least, we were thrilled to see these below big names in Australia-Indonesia relations, also contributing to the challenge! We really appreciate their time and energy spent on creating such fantastic videos.

The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia,
Penny Williams

The High Commissioner to Brunei and ACICIS alumnus,
Luke Arnold

The Indonesian Consulate General in WA,
Listiana Operananta

It was rather surprising to see that statistically half of the participants were not actually eligible for the prize. It seems that their contributions were solely to provide more fun and inspiring resources for Australians to learn Bahasa Indonesia. These participants certainly showed the gotong royong in learning Bahasa Indonesia. 

A further little surprise, was that our friend at ABC News also wrote a piece about the Bahasa Sesh Challenge. Read the article here.

Watching how the Bahasa Sesh has evolved this year is something everyone at ACICIS is grateful for! But we still have work to do. Going forward into 2023, ACICIS is challenged to create even more engaging and fun ways to learn Bahasa Indonesia. Follow ACICIS’ socials to stay updated and improve your language skills in an engaging way. Watch the full collection of the 2022 Bahasa Sesh Challenge submission here. Terima kasih!

Fauzan Riza Adinugraha

ACICIS Marketing and Student Recruitment Officer