Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world, and a member of the G20 group of major economies. So it should come as no surprise that Prime Minister David Cameron is starting his business tour of South East Asia there.
Commencing his visit, Cameron stressed the importance of the area for UK business growth: “Over the next 20 years, 90% of global growth is expected to come from outside Europe, and Britain must be poised to take advantage. That’s why I’m delighted to be taking British businesses to this vast and dynamic market, securing deals worth over £750m and creating opportunities for hard-working people back at home.”
So what language is needed to reach this market of 255 million people in Indonesia?
Indonesia is a diverse nation bringing together thousands of islands, where hundreds of local languages are spoken. In fact the country’s motto translates as “Unity in Diversity”. However, in business, education and the media, the language of “Bahasa Indonesia” dominates. The name means simply the language of Indonesia, and therefore is often referred to in English simply as “Indonesian”. It has been the country’s official language since independence in 1945. Although most formal education and national media is conducted in Indonesian, many are bilingual being also fluent in their regional language.
English is also widely spoken, but Indonesian is without doubt now the dominant language of business. For instance, a double sided business card showing an Indonesian translation may not be strictly necessary but it shows willing and a degree of respect. Remember to include a job title to enhance your status.
Indonesian is closely related to Malay. In fact opinion differs as to whether each should be classed as a dialect of the other or as closely related but distinct languages. The language is written in the Latin alphabet (i.e. the same as English) with some words using an accented é. This makes the technical side of website localisation straightforward while permitting Indonesian typesetting to match exactly with the English font use.
Other countries targeted
In addition to Indonesia, David Cameron will visit Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore as part of a focus on forging economic links with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (What is Asean?)