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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



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)

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