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Arabic script is not a new thing for most Indonesian, especially Muslims. This is because Arabic is also a religious language. Therefore, a lot of Indonesian Muslims have learned it at schools. As for non-Muslim Indonesian, they may not have learned it but they have seen it written mostly in the mosques.
The Latin alphabet is not the only writing system used in Indonesia. Indonesia has more than 700 local languages, and most of them have their writing systems, such as the Batak, Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, and Lontara scripts.
The Dutch governed Indonesia for around 3.5 centuries, as a result, the Indonesian language received a lot of Dutch loanwords. Moreover, the Dutch linguists also introduced the Dutch spelling Latin alphabet to Indonesia.
As an Indonesian and a language enthusiast, Arabic cannot get away from my sight. It has always been on my wishlist of target languages. I dream to speak all the official languages of the United Nations, which includes Arabic. But Arabic is not an easy language for me, from the aspect of writing and grammar. That’s why I cannot just learn basic phrases without even knowing how to read it.
I find it difficult to learn the Arabic script without knowing the language because Arabic is only written with consonants! That means I won’t have an idea of how to read a word because there is no vowel.
After researching for a long time, I finally found out that Malaysia and Brunei use Arabic script to write the Malay language. As an Indonesian, I also know Malay quite well because Indonesian and Malay languages come from the same origin. I thought to myself, it would be easier to learn Arabic script with a language that I already know.
The Arabic script used to write Malay is called Jawi. I tried it for some time and I feel that I am progressing quite fast. It is because I have known the language, and I can guess the Arabic letter that I don’t know from the context. If I can do it, I believe all Indonesian can do it too. So, my recommendation for any Indonesian who wants to learn Arabic script faster is to start learning Jawi. There are lots of resources available, such as online text converters and mobile apps.