Indonesia Banget #27 : Ranting on Rich Children’s Inability To Speak National Language

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This month’s Indonesia Banget is a bit different than all Indonesian Banget post I have written before…this is more like a rant or musing or whatever you like to call it.

As Indonesian, I am really proud of my national language, Bahasa Indonesia, because not all countries in this world have their own language. Look at the closest country to Indonesia, Australia doesn’t have Australian language, they used English…so does America. Many countries in South American used Spanish, another borrowed language. Indonesia has its own language and I believe it’s something to be proud of.

Although I am writing my blog in English but that doesn’t I don’t like my language…I just want my blog to be read by people all around the world, not only in my country. I still have another blog with my National language.

The reason I wrote this post (I have been planning to write this since last year but never really get around it till today) is because of the children in the education center I work for. There are some children of the age 3 to 5 years, they are very fluent in English. At first I was amazed…and then I asked them, “Can you speak Indonesian?” and to my surprise they said they can’t!!

What the hell? << this is my first reaction when they said they CAN’T speak Indonesian language…their own mother’s language!! How can that be??

I know that English is an important language that can carry you everywhere…but no matter how important English is, it’s a shame not to be able to speak your own national language!!

I can understand (a bit) if they can’t speak the language when they live abroad…but they live in Indonesia!!! What’s wrong with their parents?

One boy even refused and scared when someone asked him in Indonesian language.

I really have no respect toward such parents!!

Let’s look at the Japanese and Korean children at the education center I work for, they CAN speak Japanese and Korean fluently even though they are living in another country. They, the Japanese and Korean, amazed me because their parents able to keep their national language despite the fact that they are not living in their own country.

It’s just plain silly if you are an Indonesian living in Indonesia and yet can only speak English!!

One of Indonesian singers I admire the most is Anggun, she is now living in Canada (and quite famous in France) and her 3 year old daughter can speak both Indonesian and English. She proudly said that “My daughter can speak Indonesian because I always talk to her in Bahasa Indonesia” **big round of applause to you Anggun**

I really hope that this phenomenon won’t grow bigger in the future…I hate imagining more and more people unable to speak Bahasa Indonesia. We should be proud of our language just like those Chinese, Korean and Japanese…they are people who are proud to use their language!!

Next month, I will write the usual Indonesia Banget post…no more ranting 😉

37 thoughts on “Indonesia Banget #27 : Ranting on Rich Children’s Inability To Speak National Language

  1. For me this touches home in sort of a backwards way. (But then I’m usually “backwards” on things… d’ohh!! 😉 )

    Despite being a very Japanese looking little girl, I grew up in America, and even though my Mom and Grandma could speak Japanese…. and badly wanted me to learn… I really never did. In school… back in the late 70’s and early 80’s… there wasn’t much effort for kids to learn other languages than English and there was a subtle but pervasive pressure to “fit in” with the other kids so I just dug my heels in and resisted picking it up.

    With my very Asian face, I was already “different” in the eyes of most of the others in school, so there was absolutly no way lil’ Miyuki wanted to make that worse. Other kids can be cruel when they think you don’t belong….. Now, all these years later, I wished I’d done things differently, but that’s the way hindsight goes.

    Are these kids you write about new to Indonesia, maybe raised abroad for lots of years? That could explain a lot. They are lucky they have a good teacher like you who they can speak to surrounded by so many others they can’t understand. That sounds like a scary thing for a child that young. Be patient with them… I know you can maybe teach them to love their “Mother Tongue” as much as you if you try!! 🙂

    1. To be honest Miyuki…Japanese is a lot harder than English. I learned both language by myself and I still haven’t mastered Japanese yet 😦

      No…I can understand if the kinds live in English speaking country than moved to Indonesia, they were born and raise in Indonesia but their parents always talk to them in English. I don’t always teach them because I teach Science and those kids are from Math class, but when I do teach them, I use Bahasa as often as possible…I want them to be able to speak Bahasa too 😉

      I even talked in Bahasa to a Japanese boy who can speak 3 languages, English, Japanese and Bahasa.

  2. It’s a good rant. It makes you really thing about language, culture, and how the world works. I find it very strange that the kids can’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. If they didn’t learn from their parents, you’d think they’d learn from their friends.

    1. The kids are studying at International school, the chance for them to learn Bahasa is even slimmer 😦
      Their parents should be responsible to make them get used with their own language. I mean, I know English is important but along the way they can learn that second language. I still think that Bahasa should be their first language.

  3. That is interesting. With the advent of the internet and global communication now, I think this trend may in fact get worse in the future as people look to connect with as many people as possible. There’s certainly no reason why you can’t speak your native language and English too, and there are probably a lot of advantages to that. I have to say I’m certainly glad you speak & write English as otherwise I never would have been able to get to know you.

    So I guess you teach your students in English, then?

    1. Oh I sure hope it won’t happen Peter!!
      They have got to speak both language! I never learn proper English (meaning with teacher teaching me) till I was in Junior high but I can manage the language as I go along with all my hobbies (Music, Movie and book). I do think that they should learn Bahasa Indonesia first and then learn English. English should be the second language not the other way around.

      I agree that being able to speak English is really good…and the language is really important, but as you have said yourself….there’s no reasons they can’t speak both native and English. I hope as those kids get older they can speak both language equally fluent.

      Same here Peter 🙂 I am glad I finally decided to write my blogs in English (this one used to be in my native language) because I got to meet many wonderful people around the world, and that includes you and the wombies 🙂

      I teach them in English but often mix it with Bahasa, I want them to get used to our native language too.

      1. “I teach them in English but often mix it with Bahasa,” Ha, that’s a smart way to do it! I think it is very good to keep your native language, too, but I wonder if many years from now we will still have so many active languages spoken.

        We have many different nationalities around here. Sometimes I overhear people speaking in another language, and sometimes they go from that to English and back again without seeming to notice. It would be nice to be so fluent to do that.

        1. Thank you Peter 🙂
          Yeah I wonder the same too! I read once that every year, few languages went extinct…I thought that was a very sad news. But in this globalization era, I am surprise if more and more languages are forgotten.

          I agree…it is very nice to be fluent in both native and foreign languages.

  4. Well, yeah I hate it too. I have a niece who could barely speak, but if I said something in English she understood more than when I spoke Indonesian. Her father is American and he and his wife, my cousin, always use English in their house. It’s a sad thing, but the kid will eventually learn that she should use Indonesian language in this land. if not, then it’s only going to give her a hard time with communicating. Good topic though!

    1. Maybe the problem here is the Indonesian Mother!! I don’t know why, maybe there are just too proud to be able to speak other language.

      I have many students from Japanese mother and Indonesian father, and they all can speak Japanese and Indonesian. And then I once had a student with Indonesian mother and Japanese father and he can’t speak Indonesian fluently, only Japanese ^^;

      And then there is a girl in my class that is half Macedonia, and she can speak both English and Macedonian.

      You know what is the saddest part is those pure Indonesian kids can’t speak Indonesian while other kid, who is only 4 years old, and have Indonesian-Canadian parents and he can speak both Indonesian and English really good *shaking my head*

  5. Anggun was rather bad at Eurosong competition earlier this year, but I’d like to hear some of her other songs.
    Languages are being ruined all around the world, not just in your country, Novia, My own language is under a great threat of English and slang words and new generations are less and lesss educated.

    1. I know!! It’s a sad thing when languages are ruined 😦
      I have to admit that I am also not a good person when it comes to keeping a language because I didn’t know how to speak my parents’ traditional language…I should have learned Padang Language since I was a kid.

  6. I think it’s sad that Indo kids living in Jakarta can’t speak their own native language! It’s sad enough that kids who marry Americans living here in the US can’t speak Indonesian, even though their parents do teach them. I think they just refuse to do it for some reason, even those whose parents are BOTH Indonesian. Ah well, I know I’ll be teaching my kids Indonesian as much as I can when I do have one.

    1. Very sad!! 😦
      I wonder what the parents are thinking!! Raising children without letting them know their own native language…what a shame!!

      I am glad you say that Ruth 🙂 you are better than those parents then 🙂

  7. Isn’t it a requirement that kids must speak the Bahasa Indonesia before they can graduate from secondary school? In Malaysia, we have to get at least a good Credit in Bahasa Malaysia before we can receive our O-levels. So I can speak Bahasa Malaysia like natives, Mandarin Chinese and English, with two other dialects. I admit that some people speak broken Bahasa Malaysia, but still other people can understand it.

    It is much more difficult to teach children raise abroad to speak native tongue if you don’t start from age zero. after that they just refuse to talk in native tongue anymore. I love Anggun, so well done to her!

    1. There are two kinds of schools here, one is national school where the lesson is given in Bahasa Indonesia, the other is International school where the lesson is given fully in English. Most Indonesian go to national language…but overly rich people often send their children to international school because they think that kind of school is better than national school. The kids I mentioned above go to international school…hence they are never being taught in Bahasa.

      I think it all depends how their parents educate them…just like in Anggun’s case, she said she always talk in Bahasa to her daughter so that she can speak Bahasa without any hesitation.

  8. I come from a place which has two native languages (French and English) and it makes me ill the only languages offered in public school are English and Spanish. When I went to school, we could choose Spanish, French or Latin and had extra curricular German, Italian, Greek and Russian.

    Now I live somewhere they barely speak English. Everyone looks at me strangely when I speak to my children in French. I think it is very important to keep your native language and teach it to all the natives…and a good portion of the visitors as well! ❤

    1. Where do you come from Red? all this time I thought you are from US! silly me!

      I’d love to study German…but I don’t have the time to learn it 😦

      I completely agree with you!! we should keep our native language no matter what. Being able to speak other language is great but it turns bad if they do not know their own native language.

      1. I am from the US. I am from Louisiana. It is the only state with two official languages. There are still enough of us who do not denounce our heritage and see the value in keeping the native languages. Our government translates all of our documents into the native languages of the true Native Americans. We have large cultures of aboriginals who live in LA, and we embrace them for the value they bring to culture.

        My youngest daughter wants to learn Mandarin and Swedish. It appears we will be studying new languages sooner than later! 😉

        1. Wow…I didn’t know US has a state that has 2 official languages, I thought only Canada has it (in North America). This is an interesting knowledge because I bet no one here in my country knows that!
          How come French can be an official language?

          Mandarin is incredibly difficult! I already have difficult time with Japanese and Mandarin is like 10 times harder

          1. LA was bought from France. The settlers spoke mostly French, and the territory had declared the language. At statehood, LA did not denounce French. The only other state which really should have a second language is Hawai’i. It has a native language other than English.

            She loves the look of Mandarin and uses Google Translate to make the characters. Now, she is having it talk to her. 😉

          2. ah yes Hawaii…I hope the children can still speak their native language, not only English.

            Tell your daugther I said good luck 🙂 it’s always fun learning other language.

  9. I wish when I was a child, when you pick up languages easily, my parents or school ensured that I learned another language. Not to know your own language is sad. One of my good friends is Albanian. Even though she lives in the States with her children, who were born in the States, both of the kids speak English and Albanian.

  10. I wouldn’t have thought tat that existed in Indonesia, people who don’t teach their children their language anymore. On the other hand I find it problematic when I see how many parents from the UK or the US who live here don’t insist the children learn the local language as well. It’s like they ant to colonize us, take the best and then leave again.

    1. I didn’t know such parents exist too till I taught in that place…such a sad situation 😦

      I agree with you on that too…I think everyone who lives in other country should learn a bit about the language at where they are staying..I have high respect toward the foreigners who can speak Indonesia. A British comedian named Bill Bailey can speak Indonesian a bit because he is married to an Indonesian 🙂

  11. I live in vietnam and me kids were born there. I sent them to international school and i speak in englizh not because it’s cooler than bahasa. Mainly because i want to prepare them to live in this environmwnt. I envisage that we will be here for some time so bahasa comes second. Every family has reasons but uaing english for the sake of being cool will be the last thing when comes to kids future.

    1. Hi Asuku,
      I can understand the inability to speak Bahasa when someone live abroad…although I can’t stop admiring they Anggun manages to keep both languages alive in her house, and also so many Japanese who live here I know who can make their children speak both Japanese and English…but still I can understand a bit on parents who live abroad and don’t teach Bahasa to theirchildren…but the case I found here at my work is Indonesian kids who live in Indonesian and have Indonesian parents but can’t speak Indonesian, thatis just too silly for me

    1. Shame on them indeed!! And it’s getting more and more. I am going to teach in an international school next semester and I swear I will only use English when I teach and talk in Indonesian outside the class so that the Indonesian students can get back to their native language

  12. You share the same thought as me! I graduated from an international school in Jakarta and it always surprised me whenever some of my friends/juniors became really proud when they couldn’t speak proper Bahasa Indonesia–or couldn’t speak it at all. There was this one day when I was at the mall and most of the kids saw ALWAYS talked in english with their parents. It made me think of the value of Indonesian language…and what does it mean in today’s society. I’m a full native Indonesia. I

    1. Hi Andari 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your thought. It’s a shame whenever someone becomes so proud when he/she can’t speak Indonesian. I really think those kind of people are silly

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