Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sedikit Sedikit...

Sedikit sedikit lama lama akan terbiasa berbicara Bahasa Indonesia. Little by little it will become easier to speak Indonesian.

At least, that's my hope now that I've started my Bahasa Indonesia classes at ICRS. Every Monday and Thursday as of this week I'll be meeting with Mbak Nina for an hour and a half lesson. RD (from Iowa) and Lily (from Burma) are also taking the class. They're both PhD students at ICRS and Lily is actually in my academic writing class. I think this marks the first time I've ever taken a class with one of my own students!

Admittedly, I didn't have high expectations for this class going in. Last year Amber had studied at Wisma Bahasa, the premier language school on Java, and I had hoped that I would be sent there as well. My housemate Anastasia goes to classes there four times a week and meets all sorts of interesting people sponsored by the embassies and big international organizations in Jakarta. What's more, she told me Wisma Bahasa really tailors their lessons to students' ability levels. This sounded perfect to me because I'm what you'd call a 'false beginner' in Indonesian. I've never had a formal class before, but I've lived here for a year so I know a lot of random vocabulary and I can hold basic conversations. But Wisma Bahasa is pretty pricey so ICRS decided to have a current PhD student teach us instead as part of her work-study program. I was a little disappointed to hear this news, especially when I found out I'd be lumped together with actual beginners and that Mbak Nina had never taught a Bahasa course before. How could this be a good thing?

To my great relief, however, the class at ICRS is really exceeding my expectations. It turns out that even though Mbak Nina has never taught Bahasa Indonesia before, she has 10 years of experience teaching English as a foreign language and clearly knows what she's doing. She also speaks Indonesian nice and slowly and with such a beautiful intonation that I find myself wanting to imitate her. It's also working out fine that we're starting the course from scratch. On day one we learned how to introduce ourselves, how to say the letters of the alphabet and how to spell our names. Really basic stuff, but still useful. We're also filling in gaps in our cultural knowledge. For instance, today as we reviewed the material from Monday with flashcards of political leaders around the world, we digressed briefly to talk about Indonesian presidents. So now, for the first time in a year, I actually understand the difference between President Sukarno, who was the first Indonesian president after the country gained its independence in 1945 and regarded as a national hero, and President Suharto, who held the presidency for over 30 years after Sukarno and was seen as corrupt. This distinction is tricky because their names differ by only two letters. 

Having RD and Lily in the class makes it more fun, too. RD's background is in sociology and team building and he is just so supportive of everyone. He's quick to say, 'Thank you, Julianne, for asking that question. I really appreciate it.' Or if Lily or I say something correct, he'll quickly congratulate us with a Bagus! (Good!). I'm also fascinated by watching him learn Indonesian because he's never studied a second language before. Watching him struggle slightly through these first few lessons really makes me appreciate how my previous experience with language learning really does make learning additional languages easier.  

I'm really happy to be back in the language classroom again as a learner. Taking language classes as been a hobby for most of my adult life, be it French, German, Spanish or Swiss German. I love those little moments when the light bulb goes off and you finally understand something you didn't before. I also like guessing spelling and meaning correctly and having it confirmed by the teacher. Most of all, I like the digressions and the cultural tidbits and sharing the learning experience with others. It's too bad I didn't have this opportunity last year, but I'll try to make the most of it this year.


  1. Fantastic, Jules! I do enjoy learning the language, even if my 'classroom' is usually in the back seat of a cab. ;)

  2. Km beruntung bisa masuk kelas itu, krn ku sedikit malang, hanyalah ada kelas u BIPA (Bahasa Indonesia untuk Penurutan Asing) dan beberapa kelas di Fakultas Bahasa Indonesia. Ku sdh minta ijin masuk kelas "Analyses Kesalahan Berbahasa Indonesia," dan pasti boleh masuk kelas ku tak bisa ngerti p.r.nya!

    Semoga berhasil sama pembelajaranmu. Mudah-mudahan, kita kan ngobrol bersama2, pake bahasa Indonesia aja!

    P.S. I love the new pic!

  3. Hey Jonthon! It might be a while before we can talk together in Indonesian. I had to use Google Translate to understand your comment ;-) It worked...more or less! Sounds like you're having trouble finding a suitable Bahasa class. Sorry to hear that! At least you have a very good base already.