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Gita Riastuti from Parenting Indonesia magazine interviewed me on bilingualism. The fact that  more parents in big cities in Indonesia raise their kids in English is worrying. Especially most of them are not aware of the long term consequence if their Indonesian children possess weak foundation of the mother tongue. 

On my side,  seven years of raising my kids in Indonesian, it becomes clearer that the command of Indonesian language among schoolage children raised abroad is almost non-existence. The older the kids, the harder it is to find other parents who are really committed in raising their kids in the Indonesian language.

A very common example is, whenever I gather with other Indonesians, we parents would chat in Indonesian. But most parents would then switch to English when speaking with their kids. Although it's an Indonesian gathering. Although the parents are 100%  Indonesian.  The reason is: it's simpler to converse in English because their kids' English is more fluent. They wish to keep the Indonesian language but they consider it impossible as their kids read and write in English only (thus leave the Indonesian behind)'. 

Which is not true. NOT TRUE.  If parents are willing, there are many ways to preserve their kids' Indonesian.

Therefore, it's encouraging to know that an Indonesian parenting magazine writes an article on this matter.  Sometime ago, there was also an article reporting that Anggun C Sasmi, an internationally recognized Indonesian singer who lives abroad, raises her kid in mother tongue .

If more Indonesian media feature the importance of mother tongue and if more public figures set examples, probably more parents will follow. 

Below is the article on Parenting Indonesia where my views on multilingualism were quoted. It's written in Indonesian (keep on clicking the picture to get readable letters)

Related articles Femina 2009, Jakarta Post 2008


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 5th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
Good one, San. Totally agree. Sekarang gua bisa jadi contoh gagal berbahasa. Dua2nya jd ga berkembang sempurna krn serba tanggung. Mudah2an belom telat ya :)
Aug. 5th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Kalau mau, pasti bisa laaah :D
Aug. 5th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
You know what's interesting, the woman in the article you posted (hi, Google Translate!) says that nationalism lies in language. So for me it is a mystery why I am so dedicated to speaking only Russian to my son. I don't plan to ever move to Russia, I dislike the country's politics, and am in fact from Ukraine! Yet, I want my son to speak, read, and write Russian. Yes, being bilingual (and multilingual, as he will learn at least one more language in school) is good, and yes, it is helpful with my grandparents, who will not learn English in their 70's, but I think the biggest reason for wanting Will to speak Russian is so that I could share with him the positive aspects of Russian culture,literature, and not as a show of patriotism.
Aug. 5th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
I couldn't fin the word 'nationalism' in the article, but only some sentences saying 'to know more the culture (of Indonesia)' .. so probably it's an error from Google translate? (or I'm the one who miss it?)

In any case, I agree with you (and the article) that raising kids in a language will most likely nurture their love towards the culture and literature associated to the language.

As Russian is one of the recognized language of Ukraine (and becomes one of the school languages?), doesn't Russian become part of Ukrainian culture as well?
Aug. 8th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
Ah, I thought you meant the interview article .. actually the 'nationalism' thing is on the singer article :D!
Aug. 5th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC)
Lo memang idola gue dalam hal mendidik anak2 multi bahasa. Kao Santi bisa, gue juga bisa.. itu moto gue hehehehe... Dulu sempet macet dan putus asa, tapi sekarang udah lancar lagi :) Keep on going, San.. seneng baca berita ttg elo :)

Aug. 5th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Di, saling memberitakan biar tetep ada energi hehehe
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
Encouraging post - I will once more remind my son Ingmar to take your advice at heart :). Otherwise my grandson Kris will speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently in a few years - but no Dutch at all :).

Aug. 5th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
Does Ingmar prefer to speak Indonesian to Dutch?
Aug. 6th, 2011 07:29 am (UTC)
@Santi: No, probably he is not. Sorry for my ambiguous information. However in the all Indonesian environment, including a ( great) Bahasa speaking nanny, and taking into account the limited time the father is able to spend with his son to practice Dutch, only an explicit and systematic program would do ( I guess).

Aug. 6th, 2011 08:13 am (UTC)
Ah I see. It happened to Joseph between the age 0-4 when living in Chicago. At that time, Indonesian was his strongest language as dad was at the office and saw him only some hours per day. BUT .. regular contact from dad (talking, reading books) although only for 2 hours during the weekdays (but the whole day on weekends) plus videos and nursery rhymes in French still gave him a rather strong foundation in French. By the time we moved to Munich, it took him around 5 weeks to adjust to the French school.

So I guess, as you said, if the program is explicit and systematic, Kris' Dutch will still be there!!
Aug. 5th, 2011 08:10 am (UTC)
Too many
There are simply too many (Indonesian) parents who raise their kids in English. I don't understand it. Just like the one we chatted over FB, those who insisted to talk to their sons in English despite their English were far from perfect.

Whatever happened to teaching them the mother tongue? Mother tongue being Indonesian? Hello? Urgh

Aug. 5th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Too many
It's a mindset . Most Indonesians still think that (almost any) foreign culture (and language) is much better than our own :D
Aug. 5th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC)
My parents moved from Taiwan when my sister and I were age 2 and 5, respectively so people are often quite surprised at how well we (still) speak Mandarin. My dad actually banned us from speaking English at home while growing up and we would get 'yelled' at if he heard us speaking English that wasn't related to school or something. I used to think it was a drag but eventually learnt to appreciate this.

Years ago, when I was working as an English assistant in a French high school, I had a half-English, half-Spanish girl in one of my classes, and for someone with an English father, I was really surprised that she couldn't speak English. So, I, being the curious person I am, asked what language she spoke with her parents/at home, I couldn't believe it when she said (only) French!!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 6th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC)
Kudos to your family!! It's a treasure to acquire more than a language, especially if one of them is your parents' mother tongue!

Yeah it's a pity if a bicultural kid from bi/multilingual parents become monolingual.
Aug. 8th, 2011 11:55 am (UTC)
Good stuff! Thanks for sharing this.
Oh yes, Santi. Anggun said "Buat aku nasionalisme terletak dari bahasa."
As Yolachka, I also don't think that nasionalism is one of the reasons why I raise my kids in Indonesian. But as a linguist, I know that they earn a lof ot benefit from being brought up bilingual. The fact that Indonesian and German are from different families of languages (Indo-Germanic and Austronesian) makes it a lot more advantageous for them when they learn these languages as their first language, rather than for example French and Italian or Indonesian and Malaysian. I bet it would then be easier for them to communicate with the teachers and other kids and to learn yet another foreign langauge at school when they have a firm foundation at home from their self-assured parents and not some "mishmash"-languages from insecured parents with lots of mistakes, which they will then find hard to correct later on. Another reason is that I would like to communicate with my kids in my mother tongue without having to think or to translate first.
Furthermore, language is not only a means of communication. It's also a matter political and economic power. Almost all our parents didn't speak their native/regional languages (Javanese, Sundanese, Ambonese, Batak etc.) to us. I think it's because Indonesian language has a lot more power as a national language and those people (our parents) were not aware of the importance of using their native/regional languages. This is a quote from the UNESCO "It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century." And now we have English as a foreign language in Indonesia, which seems very promising for a lot of people to get a good position in their career.
So, yes. Those Indonesians who don't speak their mother tongue to their kids are not really aware of all the advantages of bilingual or multilingual kids and of the problem they and their kids will face later on when their kids grow up. But I don't think it would change anything (not even their mind, ha ha ha...) if we accuse them for not raising their kids in Indonesian language. I think what we could do instead is showing them "the result" of our upbringing, either in written words (like in that article of yours and your book) or in meeting them directly.
Aug. 8th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Ah I thought the word 'nationalism' is on the interview article, while actually it's on Anggun's interview.

Can't agree more, anon!
Fairly Reasonable
Sep. 27th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
Hi Santi,

Found your blog and thought you might have some advice... my wife and I =
live in Quebec but come from Germany (me) and Mexico (her). Currently, =
we are speaking in our respective mother tongues to our 3-month old son. =
I was planning to introduce French later on, through TV and maybe =
additional activities, including reading books and of course, taking =
part in kids activities etc. where the local language is spoken. My wife =
is concerned, however, that he would have major trouble communicating =
with other kids around here by the time he is about 3 years old and that =
this might affect him negatively, in terms of self-esteem etc.

Would that also be a concern of yours? I didn't find anything specific =
to that, but am personally more concerned that it will be difficult to =
maintain our languages vs. the dominant French, which he will be exposed =
to later at school etc. - at least, that's what the literature seems to =

So what would you do? Would you rather start with paternal & maternal =
languages at the expense of the local language, which is our current =
approach? Or would you rather try the paternal language later and I =
would then speak French to him to he picks that up first, and would then =
try to introduce German later, at about 3 years of age? I fear that the =
latter won't work well and that he will then not really learn German at =
all, whereas he'll probably pick up French easily here anyways. As said, =
I don't know if there would be real concerns about him initially not =
being able to communicate with peers in French at age 3-4...

Thanks a lot and sorry for 'abusing you' as an Internet councillor on =
trilingualism :-)

Take care, Martin

Laval, QC
Sep. 28th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Re: Self-esteem
Hi Martin,

I'm not an expert and will share based on our family's experience.

We use the one-parent-one-language system (like what you're doing now) and let our kids learn the school/community language at school.

Yes, I share the same opinion as you: that preserving the minority languages requires some work. That's why my husband and I always raise our kids in our native languages since they were in my belly.

Regarding your wife's concern, you might want to use some strategy. For example: sending your child to a French day care some days a week before he/she starts formal schooling. This is what we did to your children and by the time they are at preschool (3 years old), their ability in the local language was nearly as good as the monolinguals.

Another strategy is to employ baby sitter/nanny that speak French.

Those strategies will help your family to raise children in your native languages while at the same time integrate them to the local language.

Hope that helps.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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