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:



A: Ok, I see, is that what you mean?

B: No no no no.

Unless you are trying to be very assertive or insistent, responding with “no!” or “no no no” can sound a bit direct and rude. It is better to use a softer, longer response.

A: Ok, I see, is that what you mean?

B: Errr, no, not really…



They’re going to live in a hotel down town. 

In English, we use ‘live’ to show we reside somewhere permanently and ‘stay’ to show we will reside there temporarily.

So instead we can say:

They’re going to stay in a hotel down town.



Wow, so high!

There are many expressions that are used in song lyrics or poetry, but that do not sound natural or appropriate in spoken English. For example ‘so high!’

Here are a few more natural expressions:

This is great/ I’m having a great time/ Wow, what a great evening!



Hi, I am Tom (when you answer the phone)

When we talk on the phone, we say ‘it is…’ or ‘this is…’ but not ‘I am…’

For example: “Hi, this is Tom”


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