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There are about 583 languages spoken by as many distinct ethnic groups across the archipelago. There are five main language groups on Sumatera alone, six on Sulawesi and three on Java. One small island, Alor, in Nusa Tenggara has seven different language groups. The Balinese speak their own language, and many local languages are further divided by special forms for addressing someone of the inferior, equal or superior social status. Adding even more spice to this linguistic stew, all these languages are also spoken in a number of different local dialects.


Bahasa Indonesia, the official national language, is akin to Malay, and is written in Roman script and based on European orthography. English is the most widely used foreign language for business and travel alike. Wherever  you go  you will be greeted by the familiar “Hello Mr.!”, (regardless of your sex), end even if your travels  take you ‘off the beaten track’ it is not uncommon to find Indonesian with a decent command of the English language. In some of the bigger cities and tourist destinations Dutch is still used, and the influence of Ducth in Bahasa Indonesia is still quite obvious. French is increasing its popularity at the better hotels and restaurants.