Café-style conversations key
to learning Indonesian in capital

It’s fair to say Wellingtonians love their coffee, so it’s probably no surprise that an Indonesian language and culture group with a name that literally translates to "Coffee Shop" is going to be a hit in the capital.
Leanring language basics

Volunteers teaching students the basics at Warung Kopi's four-week beginner course

Warung Kopi Wellington was established in 2013 and has thrived under the stewardship of Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network member Carina Esguerra.

The group, which meet at least twice monthly, is for people keen to learn or practise Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian language.

Language learning material is provided, native speaker volunteers are on hand to help untangle grammar, and a four-week beginner’s course has been created to kick-start students’ learning of the language.

But it’s far from being some sort of regimented school-room environment.

In Indonesia, a “Warung Kopi” is a place to hang out and talk about anything from politics to entertainment, Carina says. "It’s a place to relax and socialise." So, that’s the vibe the creators of Warung Kopi Wellington strive for with their group.

Alongside the more formal language-learning sessions, regular social events are run.

There are cooking classes led by volunteers or in collaboration with the popular Garuda Foodtruck, which serves up Indonesian street food to Wellington diners, and recently a member of the group opened their home to celebrate Lebaran, the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

On the menu: opor ayam, a coconut milk-based curry, and the festive kolak dessert drink, made with mixed fruit, kumara and tapioca, along with other traditional Indonesian food.

It’s about placing value on the social side of language education, Carina says.

"It's helped me meet so many amazing people from diverse backgrounds that I would never have met otherwise. It (the social aspect of language learning) creates a much stronger connection with people straight away."

It’s also the best way to learn, she reckons.

“Especially if you're not in a country that speaks the language. The more you're surrounded by it in real life, the easier it is to pick up and put into context.”

Warung Kopi Wellington regular Claire Achmad, who is also a member of the Leadership Network, says her involvement with the group has helped her connect with her Indonesian heritage.

Her father is Indonesian, so she grew up knowing some language basics.

“But it’s only in the past five years that I’ve made a conscious decision as an adult to be more intentional about expanding my language capability. This has been at the same time as I have tried to learn more about my Indonesian heritage.”

Bapak Bee from Garuda Food Truck teaching Warung Kopi members how to cook some of the dishes from South Sulawesi - his home province in Indonesia

The regular Warung Kopi Wellington gatherings have supported her in both respects, Claire says.

“Learning Bahasa Indonesia has been important for my exploration of my cultural identity as a part Indonesian, part Kiwi, and for deepening my Indonesian identity.

“At the broader level, I think that learning Indonesian will continue to be really helpful in the future given Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region and its influence is growing.”

Attendance is free or by way of koha, thanks to dedicated volunteers. They want to make the learning of Bahasa Indonesia accessible to anyone keen to give it a try, Carina says.

“Everyone who joins, especially the volunteer teachers, are so lovely and generous with their time and it adds to the experience of not just learning a language, but also another culture and way of life.”