An English-Unfriendly Country Namely Indonesia

Magelang's elementary school students greet Slovakia President Ivan Gašparovič on his visiting in Borobudur temple last 2011.

Magelang elementary school students greet Slovakia President Ivan Gašparovič on his visiting in Borobudur temple last 2011.

By: Sahrudin – @SahrudinSaja

FIRST of all, please try to put yourself into my mental process of switching from Bahasa Indonesia, my mother tongue to English.

You, native speakers and I are completely different since the beginning. You acquired English in early childhood. Your father, mother, as well as sister and brother, everybody speak English. They kidding you, and they scolding you using English.

And I?

Well, Indonesia is generally not an English-friendly country. (It’s about language, not people). We Indonesians even call it strangers language.

(Almost) nobody, I mean local people to engage in an English conversation in the market or in a public transportation.

It takes courage to do that. People will have problem getting around using English almost everywhere in this country.

If my partner and I converse in English as quickly and as smoothly as native speakers, maybe the people around us will show us good responses. Someone will probably say: “Wow, you are so great! Teach me, teach me English!”

But I can’t imagine how they would react if they hear I am talking to my friend using English haltingly. Perhaps they will ridicule me: “Sudahlah, tidak usah bergaya. Kalian itu ngobrol pakai bahasa kalian sendiri sajalah…” (Oh come on, speak your own language, please…)

You can’t imagine how hard it must be to learn to talk comfortably in a second language.

As a matter of fact, many of Indonesia’s government officials can’t even speak English well, let alone ordinary people like me.

Since it is not widely spoken here, it is so hard (almost impossible!) to meet someone speaking perfect English grammar.

Take an example Bali Island, Indonesia’s main tourism center, where many people talk English fluently. You can try to ask someone you meet in Bali to make 10 or 20 English sentences in a certain amount of time (minutes).

You will soon know what is it like their English grammar.

However, it is always stressful to tell someone that they made a mistake. You may be afraid of an awkward social situation.

When I make a mistake, you will probably pretend that nothing has happened.

As long as you can understand what I mean, you will completely ignore all my mistakes in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

So that is why I am writing this today.

I am not complaining. I just want to share something that so far we have been facing.

It is because of second language, especially English, becomes one of Indonesia’s determinants of competitiveness not only in the tourism but all industries.

How can this country compete, let’s say deal with other countries, while at the same time not improving its people’s second language ability?

I am totally not interested to involve our government in this situation. For me, the government is simply a bunch of people with their own political interests rather than willingness to give intellectual, moral, and social examples to citizens.

I am more attentive to go into Indonesia’s mass media and how far their role in spreading “English viruses” to audience.

Today, there are only two English-language daily newspapers in the country inhabited by more than 250 million people. They are The Jakarta Post, and The Jakarta Globe. It contrasts with hundreds of Bahasa Indonesia-language dailies still exist.

It has been reported that both the Post and the Globe are currently publishing between 40,000 to 50,000 copies per day. It means, the figures are much less than one-tenth of daily circulation of some big Bahasa Indonesia-language newspapers like Kompas and Jawa Pos.

Is that a shocking comparison?

Not really. You know why.

What about Indonesia’s televisions programs?

As far as I know, state-owned TVRI has its English-language news broadcast. Metro TV, self-proclaimed Indonesia’s first 24-hour news channel airs Indonesia Now and World News.

None of the programs are aired in primetime. I have no idea whether any other TV’s English-language shows or not.

All of the facts lead me to conclude that because Indonesia is not an English-friendly country, it is not a good idea to run an English-language mass media here.

Otherwise, due to so few people of Indonesia are able to speak English well so far, while at the same time considering that it is important, becoming an English teacher or tutor may be financially favorable.***


2 responses to “An English-Unfriendly Country Namely Indonesia

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