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Miss Indonesia 2009

I was about to write a post on another topic, when my friend the fabulous Rima Fauzi posted an entry titled "Is Fluency in Bahasa Indonesia Still Important To Indonesians?" She related her question to the fact that the newly crowned Miss Indonesia speaks fluent English but hardly speaks her own  language!

Miss Indonesia's first plan is to learn Indonesian

Tue, 06/09/2009 10:47 AM  |  People


JAKARTA: The newly crowned Miss Indonesia Kerenina Sunny Halim might have amazed people with her fluent English, but surprised just as many with her poor ability to speak Indonesian.

On the final night of the Miss Indonesia pageant last week, Kerenina needed a translator to help her understand the judges' questions. Kerenina admits this is a weakness but has promised to improve her Indonesian language skills.

"It's been hard for me *to speak Indonesian*, because I use English every day," says the half-American woman. "But I will learn. Indonesian is an easy language, as long as we're willing to learn."

Kerenina's brother, actor Steve Emmanuel (now Yusuf Iman), reveals that his sister was not exposed to Indonesian as a child because she didn't go to a formal school. "She was with homeschooling," Steve says. "She barely uses Indonesian at home, and doesn't go out often *so she can't practice Indonesian*."

The 23-year-old has also promised to learn more about the local culture in preparing for this year's Miss World competition in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Currently, I don't know much *about Indonesian culture*," says the girlfriend of actor Nino Fernandez. "But within six months, I'm going to learn about it all, because I represent Indonesia at the international level."

Kerenina, who holds six diplomas - in public relations; sales and marketing; primary school teaching; economics; performing arts; and music and art - won the competition over the two other finalists, Viviane (from Bali) and Melati Putri Kusuma Dewi (West Sulawesi). Kerenina impressed the judges with her fluent English, and was considered to meet the contest's criteria of MISS (Manners, Impressive, Smart and Social). - Jakarta Post. The original article is here.

The news raised questions in my mind:
1.She's half Indonesian and seems to have been living in Indonesia forever. How could a person be so isolated from the environment for 23 years of her life? Finally she has a reason to improve her Indonesian and to learn the culture, but if not, will she ever do that?

2. Among tens of other finalists, why did the jury choose her ? Of course she's smart and pretty but I thought  Miss Indonesia must speak fluent Indonesian and know the culture well. Obviously I was wrong. I just wonder how she's going to promote our country with a knowledge she gets in only 6 months.

3. She's  now rich and famous, an icon. Surely people are charmed by her. I'm not so surprised if even more parents from upper middle class are convinced to simply bring-up their Indonesian or half Indonesian kids in English and neglect the Indonesian language. If you read my previous posts, you might understand why this thing worries me so much.

One thing I forgot to mention:
4. "It's been hard for me *to speak Indonesian*, because I use English every day," says the half-American woman. "But I will learn. Indonesian is an easy language, as long as we're willing to learn."  It's a total misconception about the Indonesian language. The colloquial version might appear easy because most Indonesians override all the grammar rules when speaking. However, to function properly in Indonesian, we should also learn the written version, the complicated one. Without knowing the written version, we won't be able to understand the simple advertisements on the street billboards. Further, based on some research, many college students in Australia took the Indonesian language subject based on this wrong assumption. When they found out that it's actually difficult, most of them dropped the class. Miss Indonesia 2009 might find this truth soon when learning the language. But I'm afraid, as an icon, her statement saying 'Indonesian is an easy language' is already in the heads of our people and might lead them to subconsciously belittle our language.

On a slightly different topic, I've been proof reading my nearly published book. Title: "Multilingual Children" (Experience of Mothers Raising their Kids in Many Languages While Maintaining the Indonesian Language).  This book tells the experiences of 9 mothers who live inside and outside Indonesia. It consists of 12 chapters: 9 anthologies and 3 theories and practical tips. In this book, I serve as the first name/editor (I wrote 4 chapters: 1 anthology, 3 theories). We (the writers and publisher) hope it will invite our people to love and preserve the Indonesian language. The plan is to release it at the end of this month.

Related posts:
My articles in Femina magazine, the Jakarta Post, and Wanita Onlline



( 74 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 9th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
Haa...I don't understand how she could win the 'Miss Indonesia' title ? Couldn't agree more with your No.2 thought.
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:43 am (UTC)
Sad but true, no?
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:43 am (UTC)
It's an insult to other candidates who speak fluent Indonesian with maybe a slightly less fluent English.
(no subject) - bmw_service - Jun. 17th, 2009 05:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 9th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
if this is the case, they may as well just let anybody run... the onlything that ties her to indonesia is her dna... and only half of it.

those judges should be ejected from their positions.
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)
It's weird and amusing, isn't it? That article in Jakarta Post got lots of comments similar to yours.
Jun. 10th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
She does not know the language of the country, she is representing?

Where the heck did she live and what sort of people did she grow up with?

My mother tongue is Filipino and even then it has become termed as Taglish. Tagalog/English.

Words just fail me on why she does not know how to speak to other Indonesians.

Jun. 10th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
From what it's known, she's been living in Indonesia all her life. Her mother is American, father Indonesian.

I'm afraid Indonesian will soon become Indolish, following Taglish and Singlish.
Jun. 10th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)
*shrugs* Can't find any flaws in your arguments. In fact, I'm feeling a bit frustrated that a kid can only have two parents, since I want my children (when I get some in the future, that is) to know not only Indonesian and English but also Javanese and at least one other foreign language.

Oh well.
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
LOL... LOL!!
Jun. 10th, 2009 05:06 am (UTC)
I am with you. What a shame that they crown somebody with minimal Indonesian! I guess she won on the impressive list of degree front (how could you have six diplomas when you'relike 23?) Hmm... could be that homeschooling thing she does.

I'm pretty pissed off but then again, deep down, how I wish I was a miss Indonesia 2000! LOL.
Jun. 10th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)
I was wondering the same thing about the diplomas.

And someone who has 6 diplomas really should have been able to learn her own country's language. I guess she never really cared to, which just adds insult to injury.
(no subject) - trilingual - Jun. 10th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - trilingual - Jun. 10th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
It's too much. It's an example of "luar negeri minded" gone wrong, or gone off the limit.

Sudah lama bangsa kita memuja-muja segala sesuatu yang berbau luar negeri mulai dari makanan, bahasa sampai lupa adat dan bahasanya sendiri.

Jadi malu membaca artikel ini dan melihat betapa kayaknya orang2 kita tuh ga punya apresiasi terhadap budaya sendiri. Masa miss Indonesia ga bisa bhs Indonesia, itu kan keterlaluan banget, apalagi dia tinggal di Indonesia seumur hidup.

Unfortunately, things are changing for the worse. Like the trend you've mentioned in your article, Santi on how many parents chose to speak to their children in English even though both parents are Indonesians, send their children to the so-called international schools and limit their children exposure to their own country, language and environment.

Mau kemana ya bangsa ini? Udah beberapa taun lagi bakal punah kali budayanya, dicaplok Malingsia :)
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Bener, bener, setuju. I feel that I've been swimming against the mainstream and wonder if voices of people like us will ever be heard.
Jun. 10th, 2009 06:22 am (UTC)
"How could a person be so isolated from the environment for 23 years of her life?".

I wonder is she a forerunner ( pelopor) of the divide in society, the kind I mentioned in a previous comment (to your article in Femina Magazine)? Or is she proof of an already present separate elitist social class? Or is it just an insignificant accidental case?
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
Re: divide?
It's not a coincidence and she's not the pelopor. She's just a proof of what's happening to our language. Sadly, having her as a public figure might speed up the 'let's forget about Indonesian' process.
Jun. 10th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC)
It is interesting to ponder this in light of the background situation in Germany with politicians trumpeting "Leitkultur" (dominant or leading culture) and foreigners need to learn the language in order to stay. I am for integration and learning the langauage and the culture of the place where you live, but the conservatives here seem to think of foreigners (certain particular foreigners) as some kind of a threat.

Now, the article you mentioned seems to show the opposite extreme: a native citizen who has lived in the country apparently forever and doesn't speak her country's language. I could never imagine a Miss Germany that does not speak German ... much less a Miss America - unthinkable!!!

1. Good for her for winning.
2. Bad for the judges who chose her (what were they thinking)???
3. What was she thinking before she entered the contest? ("Hmmm, if I win, I'll have to do a few things that I haven't gotten arount to in the past 23 years ... learning my country's language and culture!!")
4. Does anyone really believe that she will do eitehr?
5. Won't she be some kind of laughing stock when this story chases her durnig the international competition?

On the other hand, it seems to meet the inellectual level of many beauty queens.
Jun. 10th, 2009 10:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I think the integration policy in Germany is positive and logic. Stereotyping is something we humans love to do. A group of auslanders who repetitively do things against the local norm, most likely will cause locals to stereotype all of us.

Your points 3 to 5: I'm concerned that this year's Miss Indonesia will lower the prestige of my language among young people and parents. If she gets a place in the Miss World race, young girls will dream of becoming like her (simple Indonesian language and culture can be acquired later on in life)
Jun. 10th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
wah...gak salah tuh jury? Namanya juga putri Indonesia so pasti syarat utamanya yg bisa fasih bahasa indonesia,bukannya masih banya putri2 Indonesia yg pintar2 dan cantil2?
Jun. 10th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
Ternyata ngga ada itu syarat untuk berbahasa Ind fasih. Yg ada justru syarat harus fasih bhs inggris.
Jun. 10th, 2009 08:00 am (UTC)
I think spoken Indonesian is quite simple. I know several dutch, british, german, australian and finnish people who speak fluent Indonesian and are able to comprehend written Indonesian (newspapers, books etc).

It's is much simpler than Germanic and Romanic languages which is why it's easier for western europeans to learn Indonesian than Indonesians to learn western european languages (and dont even get me started on eastern european languages)

But whatever the reason, I really don't think we should neglect our language because not only are we Indonesians but also because it's a language that more and more people speak these days (in the melayu group, and speakers of this language have grown in numbers over the years).

Thanks for linking me san, it was nice of you.

Rima - http://rimafauzi.com
Jun. 10th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
Rima, yes, spoken Indonesian might be easy to learn. However, as I said above (and in FB group), we can only function properly if we know both the spoken and written Indonesian. Written Indonesian here doesn't stop in reading skill only, but also writing. Even Indonesians themselves who have Indonesian educations and speak Indonesian all the time claim it difficult to write in proper Indonesian.

Our language might posses different grammatical rules than the Germanic or Romanic languages, however I believe in what John Edwards said that every language has its own difficulty (and simplicity), and that no language is more difficult (or easier) than the others.
Jun. 10th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
Most of Miss Indonesian contestants' fame fade away after sometime. Our people don't think this is an important contest after all.

We have suffered from 'English Syndrome' which, for some people, the way they to look smart and educated.

Thanks for visit my blog Santi. We can share thoughts and information around. Nancy.
Jun. 10th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
She might disappear from the Indonesian public by next year. However, the message our people received is clear: fluency in English is more valuable than in our mother tongue. And this message will stay.
Jun. 10th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC)
I don't even know of the pageant. Or maybe it's just me. Oh well.
But it really is a phenomenon in Indonesia. People who speak fluent English are more respected than those who speak Indonesian. In a hundred years, maybe Indonesians will speak more of fluent English than Indonesian.
I myself was once person who knew little about my own language (because I had to live in different countries due to my father's job), but my parents raised me and my siblings well they taught us good Indonesian.
I'll be waiting for the release of your book! It must be interesting, as your blog is :)
Jun. 11th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
This Miss Indonesia pageant is rather new, it started in 2005. Miss Indonesia is different from Putri Indonesia.

What I'm really curious about, why this English taking over phenomenon happens mostly in South East Asian (and part of South Asian) countries? In Europe, people speak fluent English without it taking over their national/official languages. This is a complex issue related to history etc and to solve this, we should fix other more basic things (like the education, etc).

We might be swimming against the mainstream but we should keep on voicing our thoughts.

Thank you! The cover design is final and the book is planned to be released within 2 weeks. I hope it will be on time :D.
Jun. 10th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC)
From your article and all the comments thus far, I think it's clear that Indonesia is going through the very early stages of a language shift. I'm Singaporean Malay and unfortunately my own people (as well as the Chinese and Indian community here) are already losing their native tongue, thanks to the education system for one. Some go as far as declaring English as their native language. As hard as it is to say, English is taking over the world and there are too few people like you (and me, I hope) who are fighting for the existence of our native tongues.
Jun. 11th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
We are trying to swim against the mainstream. It's tiring but I'm sure we should keep on expressing our ideas!

As I wrote in my reply to the previous comment, I wonder why this English/foreign language phenomenon happens mostly in South East Asia (and maybe a bit in South Asia). It's an elaborate issue and should be seen from different perspective (basic education, etc) if we want to solve it. But of course, it's easier said than done :D.
Jun. 10th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
This is more or less happening all over the world, that the native language slowly gets replaced by English. Sooner or later everyone will speak English as their native language provided that it goes on like this. It's really sad.
Jun. 11th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Yes, English is the lingua franca of the day. People speak English everywhere, but it doesn't mean that it should replace the language of the country. From what I know, in countries like Holland, people speak fluent English as their foreign language without neglecting their commands in Dutch.

Does it happen also in Japan, Korea and China? I haven't dig too deep on this aspect, but I thought people of those countries are very proud of their official languages.
(no subject) - haruhi_shugi - Jun. 11th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jun. 22nd, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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