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Indonesia forging partnerships through language skills

Tom Abke

Indonesia is teaching its troops and Defense Ministry employees foreign language skills in hopes of breaking down barriers with international and regional partners.

Indonesia’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Defence, known as Kemhan, are teaching Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and Russian, explained Brig. Gen. Yudhi Candra Jaya, head of the Badiklat Language and Education and Training Center, in a June 2021 podcast, pictured.

Badiklat teaches foreign languages to Indonesian troops and Kemhan employees and holds Indonesian language courses for members of other militaries who attend Indonesia’s defense academies.

Jaya characterized Badiklat’s graduates as national ambassadors and called the school’s role “very strategic” in preparing Indonesia’s defense personnel to fulfill international tasks. United Nations peacekeeping missions are one such task, Dharma Agastia, professor of international relations at Indonesia’s President University, told FORUM.

“The Garuda contingent is perhaps the most famous,” Agastia said, referring to the group of peacekeepers drawn from the Indonesian military who have been deployed to Africa, Bosnia and Lebanon since its first mission in 1956. “Since they need to interact with other peacekeepers from other countries, plus locals, it would make sense for them to be equipped with the necessary language skills.”

Kemhan also hosts bilateral and multilateral exercises with defense partners, where a command of English is vital. Knowledge of other languages enhances the day-to-day interactions with Soldiers from other countries’ armed forces, boosting interoperability, Agastia said.

“As Indonesia seeks to play a larger role regionally and internationally, I believe possessing the necessary language skills is a small yet important investment for the troops,” she said.

Teaching Indonesian to foreign defense personnel is a practice rooted in national tradition, according to Andree Surianta, an analyst with the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies in Jakarta. “When it comes to foreigners in Indonesia, there is a strong push to have them learn Indonesian,” Surianta told FORUM.

Jaya, meanwhile, described Badiklat’s Indonesian language courses as “a gateway for foreign students from the militaries of friendly countries” who seek to study at his country’s numerous military academies and staff and command schools.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.



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