Free Indonesian Language Classes Offered at the Ash Center

December 19, 2014
Free Indonesian Language Classes Offered at the Ash Center

By Maisie O’Brien, Communications Coordinator

“Nama saya Cengiz. Saya dari Turkey,” repeats Cengiz Cemaloglu, a Harvard College first year and student in the free not-for-credit Bahasa Indonesian language class offered at the Ash Center through the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Hello Cengiz from Turkey,” says Kurniawan, the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) leading the class. The first FLTA instructor to serve at Harvard, Kurniawan keeps the class flexible and engaging, tailoring lessons to the needs and interests of current students. He focuses on basic aspects of the language and incorporates knowledge of cultural mores into each lesson.

“Many of the students want to do field research in Indonesia,” says Kurniawan, “So I’ve designed the class toward casual as opposed to formal conversation. I teach day-to-day discourse, beginning with introductions, greetings, pronouns, and question words. I also help explain some cultural things that aren’t really in text books, so that when my students come to Indonesia they will know how to engage with Indonesian people because many of our customs and mannerisms are completely different.”

The class is divided into beginner and intermediate sections with the beginner class having little or no prior knowledge of the language and the intermediate class consisting of students who may have worked or studied in the region. Approximately seven students attend each class and several meet individually with Kurniawan during his office hours.

“Kurniawan’s classes have been so enjoyable and educational,” says Ali Barron, an Indonesian Program assistant at the Ash Center. “Professor Rosengard, [director of the Indonesia Program] saw that a lot of students and faculty members were doing research in Indonesia and wanted to start a non-credit Bahasa Indonesian course so they’d have the basic skills to get around. Beyond that, it’s great because Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and we’ve been able to share knowledge of this rich language and culture with a larger audience.”

The Ash Center’s Indonesian language classes are the first not-for-credit Indonesian language classes offered at Harvard. The first for-credit classes were offered this fall through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and taught by Veronika Kusumaryati.

Cengiz, who has visited Indonesia, has been attending Kurniawan’s beginner class on a weekly basis and believes the language skills he is acquiring will come in handy when he returns to the country someday. “Indonesia is a very surreal, magical place,” he says. “There are so many things happening there that are unlikely to happen anywhere else. I’d like to live, work, or visit there and the class has helped me a lot. Kurniawan really takes care of us and answers all of our questions. I’m really enjoying it.”

James Evans, a communications professional with an interest in Asia and experience working in Beijing, describes the class saying: “There’s a real mix of people with all sorts of different backgrounds and reasons for taking it. I know a lot of people really like the atmosphere and our teacher is great. I think some people wouldn’t necessarily think of learning Indonesian, but saw the opportunity and have really started to engage with it.”

Prior to teaching at the Ash Center, Kurniawan taught English and Indonesian language instruction at a mining company in Indonesia. He describes his passion for teaching as a way to give back. “I believe that when you teach other people, you’re doing a good deed,” he says. “The people you’ve taught take the knowledge you’ve given them and transfer it into other good deeds, which are then multiplied and expanded – it’s rewarding all around.”

Indonesian language classes are offered every Friday in room 226 at the Ash Center. The beginner class runs from 2:30-3:30 and the intermediate class runs from 3:30-4:30. Drop-ins are welcome. For more information on Indonesian language classes offered at the Ash Center, contact Kurniawan at