English-Speaking Indonesians

For almost 5 months of being “exchanged” here in USM, almost every exchange student say this: “Your English is very good. Do you speak English everyday in Indonesia?”

Usually I would answer with an awkward laugh and say, “Hahahaha… Thank you, but I don’t speak English in everyday life back home.”

The next thought that come to my mind is this: was that a compliment or was that a code for saying “oh, finally, I can speak to an Indonesian.” As a cynical person, I don’t take compliments very well, so I usually go with the latter idea.

Here is the bitter truth that, regrettably, must be revealed: if you travel to Indonesia, and don’t know any local friends, you’ll probably get lost. Almost each part of Indonesia have their own local language, that sometimes, even Indonesians can’t speak to fellow Indonesians cause they can’t speak the local language. English won’t do so good either, even if you’re in a big city. This is quite disappointing, at least for me, because there are so many beautiful views in Indonesia, that can only be reached if you have a local friend there.

So what’s the problem here?

Well, I don’t want to blame the government or the teachers. Me being able to speak and write English is because of my English teachers (and my love for games and books, but that’s another story).

In my own opinion and experience, the problem with most Indonesians is that they don’t have enough courage to practice foreign languages! When we learn a new language, the first thing we do is pick up a pen, write the new vocabularies, and start memorizing for the test next week. Of course, written languages are important, but what’s the point of learning a language if you don’t get to use it to SPEAK to other people from different countries?

Learning a language is not just about being able to write in other language, but also the ability to LISTEN and RESPOND to what they’re saying. If you don’t use it, then what’s the point of learning a new language anyway? It’s not about the grammar mistakes that you make, but it’s about conveying your opinion so that other people understands what you mean. As long as they understand, they won’t care about how many grammar mistakes you made.

The good thing about being an Indonesian is that I don’t have a certain accent that makes it harder for me to learn a new language. Have a listen to Indian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, or Thais when they talk, and they all have different accents. Which is cool and unique, but sometimes can be very hard when it comes to learning a certain language.

So, fellow Indonesians, still afraid to speak in foreign languages?

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