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My latest publication in Femina Magazine No.18/XXXVII (2-8 May 2009), in the Indonesian language. Femina is a women's magazine circulated in my country.

Background of the article: Parents of upper-middle class in big cities in Indonesia have the tendencies to speak in mixed Indonesian-English languages or even (almost) 100% English to their kids, although both parents are Indonesians. Nowadays, it's very common to hear parents code-switch between English and Indonesian or use a broken English while speaking to their very young kids. Further, those who can afford private educations send their kids to bilingual English-Indonesian or English-only schools.

These trends create a rather bizarre phenomenon: a growing number of children in big cities in Indonesia have a low command of Indonesian language. This can happen because parents think it is enough for their kids to acquire the Indonesian language merely through the environment, while recent research on multilingualism actually advices parents to develop their kids' mother tongue both through informal exchanges with themselves and formal education.

My article highlights the importance of mother tongue for Indonesian children, not only because of the obvious fact that they are Indonesians and live in Indonesia, but also because fluency in the mother tongue serves as a foundation for a good foreign language acquisition.

Want to know more? Just read the article below!

artikel-santi2 artikel-santi3


( 71 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 19th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
Congrats, Santi ! Gua mau dong artikel lengkapnya. Itu gua udah baca, tp sepotong, yg sebelah kanan ga lengkap. Gua pengen kasih liat jg ke Brian, supaya dia jd sadar pentingnya kita ngomong bhs Indo ke anak2. Gua udah coba terus buat ngomong lebih banyak Indo ke anak2, tp mrk kurang ngerti. Malu sendiri deh gua waktu baca artikel elo, sadar kalo selama ini kita salah, dan anak2 yg jadi korban. Mudah2an belum terlambat untuk memulai ya. Keep writing ! :)
May. 20th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Cin. Semoga berhasil ya :D.
May. 19th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you San buat artikelnya. Memang betul,mendidik anak untuk menjadi multi-lingual perlu konsistensi dari orang tua dan penekanan bahasa ibu sejak dini. Saudara sepupu saya tidak sadar dengan konsep ini, sehingga dia mendidik anak2nya dengan bahasa campur2. Hasilnya....anak keduanya TIDAK bisa berbicara bahasa Indonesia (hanya mengerti), dan berbahasa Inggris dengan lancar, padahal dia tinggal di INDONESIA. Nah loh....!! Ironis bukan?
Orang tua memang punya harapan agar anak2nya bisa kerja dan tinggal diluar negeri, tapi kurang menekankan bahasa ibu adalah hal yang sangat disayangkan.

May. 20th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
Iya sayang, ya Let. Yg saya perhatikan, banyak diantara kita yang 'ignorant' mgn hal ini. Perbahasaan dianggap sepele dan dicari jalan keluar yg praktis saja, tanpa benar2 memikirkan efek jangka panjangnya. Banyak yang belum sepenuhnya menyadari bahwa bahasa bukan saja mgn komunikasi antar manusia, tapi juga membentuk jalan pikiran si pemakai bahasa tsb. Jika kemampuan bhs Ind si anak terus menurun, bagaimana nanti efeknya ke si anak setelah dewasa? Dia lahir dan besar di Ind, ortunya dua2nya orang Ind, tapi bhs Indnya kayak orang asing.
May. 20th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)
Hey san.. congrats ya artikelnya udah dimuat.. I like your points, they are all true (at least I think so) but unfortunately not a lot of people know that.
I find many Indonesians here who have kids but refuse to speak Indonesian with their children. As a result, the kids can only speak french, and it's such a shame to see half indo kids not being able to speak or understand Indonesian at all..

May. 20th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Even worse .. those in Indonesia are doing the same thing .. Indonesian kids in Indonesia who hardly speak the language :D.
Thanks, Rim.
May. 20th, 2009 01:16 pm (UTC)
Love the article, San

Mengena sekali tepatnya buat para ibu2 Indonesia yang ngesok2an ngajakin anaknya ngomong bhs Inggris padahal bapak ibu orang Indonesia dan tinggal di Indonesia. You can always learn foreign language later like we all did.

I admire you for bringing forth this kind of subject and write about it persistently.
May. 20th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
Actually learning a foreign language when young is a very good thing. However neglecting our kid's mother tongue isn't a good idea at all.
Thank you, Va .. I'm a language freak, remember? LOL.
May. 20th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
I forgot to mention that the last comment was from me!
May. 20th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
Ooh I guessed it already!!
May. 20th, 2009 01:22 pm (UTC)
jadi mikir
selamat ya mbak, artikelmu dimuat.
jd mikir, untuk apa ya dr kecil2 udah diajarin inggris? toh tinggal di indo, iyalah kalo nantinya mau disekolahin di luar. tp kan bisa sambil jalan, masa kecil dinikmati dulu.
beda ceritanya kalo kayak kita yg tinggal di negara asing dan gak mau anak lepas dr akar kita...
May. 20th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: jadi mikir
Sebenernya belajar bahasa asing sejak masih kecil sih bagus banget ya .. itu kan jadi aset buat masa depan si anak. Tapi kalau fokusnya ke bhs asing doang sementara bhs Ind jadi ketinggalan, ya jangan ampe dong hehehe.
May. 21st, 2009 09:16 am (UTC)
congrads on getting your article published. :)

From Dominique's Desk
May. 23rd, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
Many thanks, Dominique!
May. 21st, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
great article, San.
i'll ask for your advice when my time comes... :p

btw, i'll email you.... about the trip :)
May. 23rd, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Re: great
Thank you, Teh. With your brainy brain, you don't need any advice from me heheh.
Got it and have replied!!
May. 22nd, 2009 07:36 am (UTC)
I wonder why some parents seem to be embarassed about their children using Bahasa these days that they send their children to international school and force them to learn English, Mandarin and whatelses.

The ironic thing is that when the parents realise how quickly their children learn, and when they have to help their children do their homework, it's all in english so that the parents are forced to take some english courses because their english is limited, therefore creating unecessary problems to themselves.

- Therry -

May. 23rd, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Article
Actually if parents send their kids to a good international school, most likely it will give lots advantages to the kids. The worrying part is when the international schooling alienate those kids from being an 'ordinary' Indonesian ..such as the declining fluency of their mother tongue that is.

This international schooling is a new trend. Most just follow the steps of their friends and neighbors without really knowing the consequences.
May. 23rd, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Selamat ya! Yane is sending me the article via email, but you've got it!

Anyway, it's off topic but, have you come across instances when you think/feel that other people think you're rude for speaking Indonesians with your friends (not with your kids) in public?

Just think of the opposite, say you're at an Indonesian gatherings (arisan whatever) where most ppl are fluent in English. But then you have two Indonesian women chatting hush hush in French/German and no one else knows what they're talking about and start thinking that they're gossiping about people in the room right?

Halah... off topic. :)

May. 23rd, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Sama2, Katz.

Mmmm as I told you during our chat, I never encountered or thought or felt that people considered as rude for speaking my language. Maybe because we always said it out loud (instead of whispering) which made people around me feel relaxed? I don't know.
May. 23rd, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
Gratuliere liebe Santi !!!
Great writting San ... you are very consistent in doing, writting, reading, researching multilingual motherhood, great job !!

regards, Anky
May. 23rd, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Gratuliere liebe Santi !!!
Vielen Dank, mbak Anky!
May. 23rd, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Most of the time, parents forget the reason why they need their children to speak foreign language and why their children need to speak it as soon as they are born. (To be able to be part of the globalized world? Sure. Which world?) What I'm so concerned about this issue is not only parents forget the why, they also forget the forget the effects of mixing the languages to their children.

I'm wondering if those 'mixed' languages contribute to the tantrum period of a child....

May. 23rd, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Right!
If you're talking about the 'terrible two' and 'trouble three' periods of balita, it happens to every kid whether or not he/she speaks one, two, three or ten languages. It might add-up more crankiness to kids whose parents are not consistent in arranging their days (and languages).

We parents always have big plans for our kids. Too bad we sometimes forget to see the whole picture and the long term effect before engaging our kids into a scheme.
May. 24th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)
sllightly off topic
I'm sorry: I have to limit myself to the introduction, in which you observe that the upper strata in Indonesia speak English of sorts at home (so, I will be slightly off topic, I'm afraid).

If this "English disease" becomes a widespread sociological phenomenon, it is pretty worrying. The divide in society between rich and poor, between he have and have not, may become irrevocable. It at least will hamper social mobility. The language, English versus Bahasa Indonesia, should not be used as a tool to secure the own privileged position.

It reminds too much of centuries when the European elites spoke French (as opposed to the common people who spoke Swedish, German, Dutch, Italian etc)using it as one of the means to underline the distance between them and the paupers. That period ended in an orgy of bloodshed in a lot of countries.

An open dynamic society can do without this kind of harmful methods to distinguish oneself.

May. 27th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
Re: sllightly off topic
Colson, I'm glad to get this comment of yours. You're the first one who also look far to the future from this language topic.

My angle: actually those upper middle class kids have all access to everything good (nutrition, education, etc). However, if parents are unaware of the importance of a strong acquisition of the mother tongue (reading, writing, speaking), their kids might have identity crisis not only during their teens, but also when adult (For example: Who am I? Where do I belong? Am I Indonesian? Yes I was raised in Indonesia but I could hardly speak the language. Where should I go? To the USA where people speak English? I didn't grow up over there. I don't belong to the USA. etc).

I believe self-identity is very important and those who don't know who they are might have difficulty to contribute to their surroundings. If that really happens, my country might loose those who are actually able to liberate Indonesia from this never-ending poverty.
(Deleted comment)
Re: sllightly off topic - trilingual - Jun. 4th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 24th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)

Congrats for you! Would you get the magazine for your own collection? Your article is well writen and easy to follow and yet it is supported by theories.

I hope this article will contribute something good on this matter.

Petje af voor jou.

May. 27th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Congrats!
Thanks, Yen. I do hope I have shared something useful :D.
May. 30th, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
good job
Hallo Santi,

Thanks for sharing your experience.. I occasionally follow your writing and find them useful.

Keep it up with the good work


PS: just in case you haven't seen this link..
May. 31st, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: good job
Sama2, Djon, and thanks for the link.
May. 31st, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
congratulations on getting the article published!
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: congratulations
Thanks :D.
Jun. 1st, 2009 10:21 am (UTC)
Hi Santi, congratulations on the occasion of a huge publication that you did, it looks colourful enough, never mind that I don't read the language.
I have to say that I kinda got confused with a couple of things that you relate to, e.g. your use of the term "mother tongue". Wouldn't generally your first language be your mother tongue? If so, why do you think English is worse then any other language (by no means I'm advocating for it here though :))
Also, is there any background to suggest that people educated in languages other then the one of the country where they were born would suffer from identity crisis?
The only problem I can really see here is Indonesian loosing its status in its own country to become the language of those "who cannot afford" - but that is a different subject, isn't it?
Apologies if you already got this covered in the article, I just want to ask you for your vision in case you didn't. Thanks!
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, I actually explained everything in my article :D.

Some English language sources of my article can be found here http://trilingual.livejournal.com/tag/books+on+multilingualism

Your questions are actually related to each other.

First of all, the importance of raising kids in the mother tongue is related to the cognitive skill. We will explain basic things to our kids better in our mother language (vocabs, grammar, structure) because we acquire it the most. Kids who got clear, concise and deep explanations will also have a good cognitive understanding. This cognitive understanding is universal, which means it serves as a foundation for learning another language or more complicated concepts during their whole life. On the other hand, parents raising their kids in a foreign language (foreign= non native) will most likely explain things with less rich vocabs, grammar and structure which will also influence kid's cognitive understanding. A low cognitive skill affect the learning ability in the future.

Second. Language is part of one's identity. It's the key to know a culture and to get close to the people. For example, it would be weird to have a man with American passport, born and live in the US the whole life, speak fluent Italian, but without proper acquisition of American English (reading, writing, speaking). What is he? American? Italian? He's been watching Italian channel through satellite all his life. He knows English only when buying things at the supermarket. He's been living in a very exclusive Italian community yet he never went to Italy.

In the longer run, it will affect the country as a whole. If their educated people don't speak the language of the country properly, how will they feel about the country? Not being able to read the history, understanding the people, reading the news, they will have a distant and foreign feeling towards the country they were born and live in all their lives. What will a country become when their educated people don't know where they belong?

(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jun. 1st, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - estranic - Jun. 1st, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - trilingual - Jun. 2nd, 2009 07:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - estranic - Jun. 2nd, 2009 10:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 1st, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
interesting stuff...
I found your lj via the "featured journals" on the home page, and if you don't mind, I'd like to friend you. I couldn't read the article as I don't speak indonesian, but I'm half Filipina, and grew up in Manila. I can definitely relate to the issue of upper-class families rearing their children to speak primarily in English, and how over the long run that does create a sort of cultural blind spot for subsequent generations. When my dad was growing up, people in the private schools were actually not allowed to speak Tagalog or any of the local dialects in the classrooms, and were instead pushed towards speaking English and Spanish. As a result, my dad is more comfortable speaking english than he is Tagalog (his mother tongue at home was Visayan), and many Filipino kids in Manila struggle with learning the language, partly because the written form, which adheres to the more historical roots of the language, and the spoken form, which has been significantly infiltrated by English and Spanish, are so different from one another. I agree with you that language is a critical part of one's identity, and the comments you made regarding cognition, etc. Being a native English speaker msyelf, it's not a matter of English being better than any of these other languages, it's a matter of other languages being diminished because they're percieved as profitable. English language novels written by Filipinos are far more pervasive in book stores, for example, than materials written in the numerous dialects/languages within the Philippines, and I feel as though the erosion of those languages is a terrible shame.

Good luck with your German classes. :-)
Jun. 1st, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting stuff...
Thank you for sharing this story. The spoken Indonesian language also differs from the written. One can speak fluent Indonesian without understanding a single written word.

My people need to understand the importance of mother tongue. I've seen examples too many where Indonesian parents abroad speak English or the local languages to their kids. If the upper-middle class Indonesians stop passing on the language, both domestically and abroad, soon my country will also have a gap like in the Philippines.

It's very nice to meet you. You're also on my list.

(Deleted comment)
Jun. 3rd, 2009 10:41 am (UTC)
Re: off-topic !alert
No, I currently live in Germany. Internet globalizes the journalistic world as well.

Honestly I don't know any book to relearn my language. Amazon.com might help you better. Reading Indonesian literature will also sharpen your sense of the formal language.

French R? It's like gargling water in your throat.
Jun. 3rd, 2009 08:04 am (UTC)
wow keren bgt Sant... hebat deh!
Pas liburan kemaren gue jg tercengang2 kok org2 di mall ngomong sm anak2nya pake bhs Inggris...
Mana belepotan pula...

Boleh gue copy en gue share ga?
hehe... gue bisanya cuma copy artikel lo doang ye.. hehe... jd malu...


Jun. 3rd, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
Hoi Trid! Udah lama juga blog MP elo ngga diapdet ya. Ah hebat apaan .. cuman share pemikiran aja.
Silahkan kalau mau dishare di MP .. cuman ya siap2 aja kali ya bakalan diomelin orang lagi hehehhehehe.
Jun. 3rd, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
ive never knew that this is actualy happening in Indonesia, it almost sounds as if our language is mixing with English (ironically we have a little bit of Dutch in it already don't you think?).

I am Indonesian but i have lived my life overseas. It is really difficult for me to interact with my people back at home.

This is my first time commenting by the way, so please don't chastise me hehe.

Jun. 3rd, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Re: hello
Indonesian language absorbs words from many other languages, like yes Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, and currently the strongest is English. The Centre of the Indonesian Language actually actively creates the 'real' Indonesian words for those new foreign terms, unfortunately they don't publish them well enough. The result: the fast paced media just absorb those foreign words as they are, by just slightly change some letters. One example: 'computer' becomes 'komputer' (while actually the Language Center has created a specific word 'apurwa' for computer).

I can relate to you. It's easier for us to connect with Indonesians from the same background than with those who never leave the country.
Re: hello - projectfalcon - Jun. 4th, 2009 10:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: hello - trilingual - Jun. 4th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: hello - projectfalcon - Jun. 4th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: hello - trilingual - Jun. 4th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 3rd, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
Wow, your life is so amazing! Does your father work for the Indonesian foreign affair?
You're obviously talented. I guess it's never too late to master your parents' language.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 4th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
Good for you! It's never too late to relearn one of your languages!! If there is no Urdu (or Urdish?) speaking community around, reading literature is as good.

When time permits, I might translate the article into English.

Good luck!!
Jun. 4th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
That's really interesting. Shame I can't read the article because I don't speak Indonesian. Your journal is really interesting me though, I love languages. My first language is English and I've been learning Mandarin for 5 years, have taught myself some Korean and Japanese and just started French at uni this year...Hopefully i'll actually be having Korean and Japanese lessons soon. Anyone who is multi-lingual amazes me. You're awesome, I hope I can be like you one day!
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
I cannot imagine teaching myself Korean or Japanese! You must be very gifted in language!
Jun. 4th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
I found your journal from LB spotlight and I couldn't agree more with your article!

I did notice back home I often saw parents (especially in Jakarta) speaking broken English to their children and I was rather horrified that those kids might grow up speaking bad English (and bad Indonesian, too).

I also heard it is becoming a trend now to give the babysitters English lessons (my apology if it has been discussed in the article or here, I'm currently not wearing my glasses). A friend of mine overheard one of these babysitter said "No where where yah!" (a very crude translation of "Jangan kemana mana yah!") instead of the proper expression.

I tend to think English as a very complex language (although others seem to disagree) and its oversimplification in various ways that worries me.

I'm not sure if you're continuing your research topic but I hope you are.
Jun. 4th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Eww that's really awful! I've also heard a baby sitter shout "To here, to here" (ke sini, ke sini) when calling the kid.

You got it right. In big cities in Indonesia, many parents don't see the whole picture of the impact of raising kids in a (wrong) foreign language. It's worrying as it might affect the future of our nation (like I already discussed in some threads above).

Thank you for your encouragement. In between being a mom, my research is on going.
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