I'm learning Indonesian and I was telling myself it's great for an anthropologist to be able to aproach so many aboriginal languages in the group.

Though, I'm not really sure if this could be a real thing. Is it possible to communicate with local tribes in Indonesian. I know Indonesian is still being used more like a formal language (most of the Indonesains speak it as their 2nd language).

  • 1
    What do you mean by "tribe"?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 4, 2017 at 13:28
  • @curiousdannii Hm, I'm not sure myself, partly because I'm not sure how big is the social distinction between "tribes" and "not-tribe societies" in Indonesia.
    – Probably
    Mar 4, 2017 at 13:42
  • But to answer your question, I'm interested in all the populations that live there mostly in the way the had been before the colonization.
    – Probably
    Mar 4, 2017 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


Indonesian being the official language of Indonesia, it is widely spoken, so wherever you are you'd stand a better chance at being understood if you speak Indonesian than if you speak Batak. There is always the chance that if you are dealing with Kombai or Wano people that you may need a different language, but no language is more widely used in Indonesia.

  • Sure but how real is it to use Indonesian in communication with them?
    – Probably
    Mar 4, 2017 at 6:16
  • If the person speaks Indonesian, it is very real. Are you specifically asking about the rate of fluency in Indonesia among minor tribes of Papua?
    – user6726
    Mar 4, 2017 at 6:39
  • I'm rather asking wheter the average fluency among local tribes is big enough to communicate say on the level B1. I've just realized it would be pretty bad to find out that the 10% of Indonesians who don't speak Indonesian are the tribes. Or who doesn't speak Indonesian in Indonesia? Aren't it rather old people?
    – Probably
    Mar 4, 2017 at 13:38
  • Austronesian lects are mostly spoken on the coast. In the mountains -- which is where there is the most language diversity -- it's not nearly as common, especially in PNG. I have no idea how likely it would be in the highlands. However -- most nyuginian speech groups are polyglot, and used to picking up new languages promiscuously. Since Indonesian is such a simple language to learn at an effective level, it's a good start. If you're serious about field work, you'll have to learn several other languages anyway, so might as well start with an easy one.
    – jlawler
    Mar 5, 2017 at 14:44

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