Indonesian looks easy to start with – no special writing system, no tones, verbs don’t show tense, nouns and pronouns don’t show gender, number or case (meaning that "I," "me" and "my" can all be expressed with one word, saya). Things start getting complicated pretty quickly, however, in terms of word order, politeness levels (you use saya if you’re being formal, aku if you’re close friends with someone), LOTS of different words for "you," and assorted prefixes and suffixes that change nouns into verbs and vice versa. If you take this class, you must resign yourself to the fact that I will use (and explain) terms like "transitive verb" and expect you not to faint in horror.
On the other hand, when you’re actually speaking a foreign language (or your own), you can’t be thinking about grammar all the time. Speaking a language requires lots and lots of practice, lots and lots of listening and reading, and a willingness to commit the time needed to do this. If you've ever played a sport or a musical instrument, you have an idea of how this works: you can talk yourself blue in the face about the correct way to throw a baseball or chord a guitar, but it gets you nowhere unless you practice throwing the ball or playing the guitar. Some people are better at this than others, but in most cases patience, persistence and discipline will yield results.
FLIN 103-104 is an intensive course, so things move along quickly, but many students find it easier to learn a language when it meets every day. Class time is used, to the greatest degree possible, for giving you the chance to try out the stuff you’ve been practicing with your classmates, and for letting you ask about the puzzling parts of the whole process; but you will not succeed in this course unless you spend at least an hour a day outside of class, working on the language – practicing, doing exercises, and so on.
The course books I use for first and second year come from the Keren! series. These are used in Australia and have CDs (which are also available on the computers in the Language Learning Center), or you can check them out here: wps.pearsoned.com.au/keren1. I also make liberal use of internet materials, both on www.seasite.niu.edu/Indonesian and the more course-specific www.seasite.niu.edu/flin, both of which allow students to get a much fuller exposure to Indonesian language and culture than would be possible otherwise.
The Indonesian language and incredibly varied culture are very much worth finding out about. In terms of population, Indonesia ranks fourth in the world, and it is often called the world’s largest Muslim country. There are also large populations of other religions, including Christian and Hindu, the latter most notably on the island of Bali. The people are humorous and friendly, and love it when foreigners speak even imperfect Indonesian, which you should be able to do after taking this course.