Cultural Language Mistakes

Wide vocabulary, accurate grammar and clear pronunciation are all important when learning English, but we mustn’t forget the importance of cultural awareness and natural communication. Some words and phrases, even though they make sense, might not be appropriate culturally. 

Bahasa Indonesia is a very different language to English, structurally and culturally and there are a few common phrases that often get carried into English, even by high level speakers of English.

Here are a few of the most common cultural language mistakes:


Wow, you can speak bahasa Indonesia, amazing!!!

Avoid expressing strong surprise or amazement for things that some people may consider simple or ordinary, such as using chopsticks, speaking the local language, enjoying local culture etc… as it may sound unintentionally insincere.

Instead,  a more appropriate way to show that you are impressed would be…

“It’s great that you can use chopsticks.”


A: What time do you want to meet?

B: Because I have to work today, so let’s meet at 19:00.

Unless somebody asks you a question with why, avoid using because as a response, as in English, it sounds like you haven’t really understood what the other person just said, or have chosen not to acknowledge it.

A: What time do you want to meet?

B: Well, I have to work today, so let’s meet at 19:00


A: Hi, are you from Indonesia?

B: Of course.

Unless somebody is making a request, or asking a really obvious question, avoid responding with “of course” because it can sound like you think the other person is asking a silly question.

A: Hi, are you from Indonesia?

B: Yeah, that’s right


Is the food delicious?/ I don’t think it’s delicious

Delicious is a word that is often over used by learners of English in Taiwan. English speakers do use this word, but not all the time, especially not in a question or negative form.

Here are some alternatives: 

How’s the food? / Is the food good?

The food wasn’t that good. / The food wasn’t great!