“Being able to speak English is not the
same as being an outsider”: narratives
of complexities of ELT and the
maintenance of Indonesian language
and identities
Christine Manara
Payap University, Chiang Mai
1. Introduction:
2. Globalization and ELT in Indonesia
3. The study
4. Analysis and Discussions
5. Closing remarks
What is globalization?
Birch (2009, p. 8):
The expanding interdependence or
interconnectedness among people,
institutions, and organizations across
the globe and the repercussions of that
Globalization flow is more intensified by
digital technology development
(Canagarajah, 2006).
Languages and cultures contact or
interaction is natural.
English (at the moment) is used as the
lingua franca for this globalization
“Languages, communities, and cultures
have become hybrid” (2006, p. 24).
It creates complex, fluid, and tense
multidimensional relations between the
local and the global.
Globalization and English
English is often positioned as the lingua
franca for this globalization process.
It is used in intercultural communication
with speakers of various backgrounds;
It has gone through localization and
hybridization in different contexts to serve
their local needs and purposes;
A shift of paradigm in ELT that includes the
complexities of global and local interrelations
English in Indonesia
English has no official status;
English status in Indonesia: high
exposure (English learned as an
additional language) to very low
exposure to English (English learned as
a Foreign Language);
English is a required subject starting
from grade 7,
Since the mid 1990s, English is allowed
to be taught as an elective subject at the
elementary school level (Kasmaini,
English in Indonesian Education system
(cf. Coleman)
English as the first foreign language to
be taught at schools (1950s) (Buchori,
Language of instruction: Bahasa
Dardjowidjojo (2000): English is allowed
to be used as a medium of instruction in
EMI boom: National plus and
international schools (late 1990s)
(R)SBI boom (early 2000’s/2003 – 2012)
General Research Questions:
How do teachers’ understand the
interdependency of globalisation and
English? ( and how do they feel about
What are the teachers’ opinion of how
English should be taught in today’s
globalized era in their specific context?
What are their idea of a competent
English user in the globalized era?
What are other related matters that the
teachers consider important in ELT
The Study
5 teacher educators
13 English language educators (primary
to tertiary school levels) who are studying
at the MA in English applied Linguistic
Program in a private university in Jakarta
Teaching experiences ranging from 3 – 25
Teachers teaching context: Jakarta (the
capital city of Indonesia)
The study
- Based on a larger qualitative narrative-
based study
- In-depth and individual interviews; each
interview was 45 – 60 min.
- Participants were interviewed in the
language they chose (English; a mixture
of English, Indonesian, and occasionally
local Jakartanese dialect)
- Interpretive framework (Denzin, 1989)
- Interview responses as narrative
- A discussion on commonalities and
diversities of ideas, teaching beliefs,
issues, and imagination (Wenger,
Data analysis and Discussion:
Participants show high awareness of
the strong current of globalization in
their local context;
English is often perceived and
positioned as the lingua franca of
The urgency of mastering English is
heightened in almost all sectors
(education, economic, politics, social,
technology, etc.)
Data analysis and Discussion:
Education institutions offering
programs with EMI (English as the
Medium of Instruction) is increasing.
At primary and secondary school levels,
this has often been done through
monolingual approach in practice.
Imported curriculum is depicted as more
prestigious than the national curriculum
The marketization of “English as the
global currency”
Excerpt 1:
Globalization in Jakarta can be seen from the
mushrooming of national plus schools. I
remember seeing a real-estate advertisement
in one of our local TV that is selling their
residency by saying “we also have an American
Style school”. So, as if it is promoting, “We are
local no more, come and live here because we
have an American-based school” (Melati).
Excerpt 2
Perhaps, this is at pre-school level so their English ability is
not yet developed. But at the first grade primary level, it
[student’s English use] is more obvious. So, please excuse
their Bahasa Indonesia [laugh]. So when it’s Bahasa
Indonesia lesson, it seems like a foreigner learning Bahasa
Indonesia. This is in the international school setting [I
taught]. …So there are subjects like Bahasa Indonesia,
citizenship, so these subjects still use Bahasa Indonesia as
the medium of instruction. These are still under the national
curriculum, but other subjects are following imported
curriculum like Cambridge for example. …They still have to
take UAN [National Final Examination], like for the primary
school level, this is the context I know so well. At grade 4, 5,
and 6, Bahasa Indonesia subject will be given. So all
together maths, Bahasa Indonesia, English and social
science. (Widya)
Excerpt 3
…the school usually asks the parents “which scheme
they would like to take for their children after finishing
primary level: “Are you planning for international
scheme?” So the certificate will be Cambridge certificate,
or both: national and international because sometimes
parents haven’t got a clear picture yet, “Are my children
going to study abroad, or at the international or national
school in Indonesia?” So, I feel sorry for the children. I
mean they study all the core subjects in English, and
have gotten used to it. Then, they have to switch to
Bahasa Indonesia because the national exam is using
Bahasa Indonesia. This also means that the teachers
have to work extra hard [to prepare the students for the
exam]. (Widya)
Data analysis and Discussion:
Monolingual (English) practice:
English is used as the medium of
instruction (MOI) since the earliest
positioning English as the language of
educational setting (inside and outside
of the classroom)
English as the common discursive
practice at school --- Indonesian as the
uncommon one (MOI for the non-core
subjects, introduced at a later level)
Excerpt 4:
…when I attended an education expo and saw the presentations by
different schools in Jakarta, it was so horrifying to me. For example,
there’s a national plus school in South Jakarta. And the presentation
said something like “we, here, teach your children to sharpen their
soft skills that has never been offered in other local Indonesian
schools before, such as problem-solving and others. Soft-skills will be
needed in the working world later because when they grow up in the
future they will have to compete with people from other countries. So
we have to prepare our children from now on.” And they also
showcased some students from elementary to secondary level who
did an excellent presentation in English. They don’t even sound like
Indonesians and they have never lived abroad. So I guess I wasn’t
the only one who was worried, “So, what should I do now?” I mean,
“Is it really going to be this scary?” because these types of schools
are very expensive. So we as parents have to think about it. “Okay,
how much money do I have to earn each month for my child’s
education like this to prepare him for the globalized era?” These are
the key words they used. (Melati)
Melati’s narrative
The booming of EMI schools or programs
creates a social gap: the advantaged and
A better English learning opportunity for those
who can afford it (elitist education)
better opportunities
better future
Most participants realized the importance of
mastering English to be able to have access to
and participate in the globalization process
and the threat of this exploitation to
Indonesian languages and identities (losing
the local to go global).
Excerpt 5:
My nieces and nephews, so the generation after mine,
most of my nieces and nephews study at the international
schools and their first language, or if you want to call it as
their mother tongue,… is not Bahasa Indonesia, …but
English. Even those who didn’t go to international
schools, they are not really interested in learning Bahasa
Indonesia. And, this is not only happening within my own
family circle – my nieces and nephews – but also among
their peers’ circles. …they are not interested to explore
how Bahasa Indonesia has developed like today’s
technology advancement. …They would say /donlot/ just
simply because it’s easier to pronounce, even though
they pronounce it incorrectly, instead of using
“mengunduh”. So that’s what worries me about
globalization from our linguistic aspect. (Iyenk)
Data analysis and Discussion:
The monolingual belief in learning English
threatened the existence of Indonesian
Bahasa Indonesia is no longer attractive to
younger generation;
Heightened awareness of nationalism
A fear of language shift phenomenon among
the younger generations;
A call for a way of learning a new language
without excluding other existing languages;
Learning a new language through
understanding one’s (linguistic) self
Excerpt 6
Honestly, my deepest concern is with the
future of Bahasa Indonesia because I know
that today those who are literate in English
are smaller in number than those who are
not. And sadly, these English literate people
are those who come from higher social
economic community. So, in the future, I
worry that these English literate but illiterate
in Bahasa Indonesia people will be in the
position as the decision makers of the
country. This worries me so much. (Iyenk)
Iyenk’s narrative
Elitism in education
Attitudes towards English and
Indonesian languages
linguistic hierarchy
Certain communities may have more
opportunities / paths to certain
Language policy and planning that
may threat the existence of
Indonesian languages
Investing in English
access to globalization process
the medium of multicultural and
multilingual identities
 the medium of self-actualization
 the medium of international
Excerpt 7
In the companies that I’m teaching, there are still some
people who think that when someone is using English,
he’s a show off. So this way of thinking still exist. …I’m
teaching in two places, and it is so hard to break this
perceptions. … Even those who have a BA and MA
degree, they also have the same perception. Let alone
the marginal ones. I felt like screaming to them, “No, No,
using English is not the same as being a show off. It’s a
must to learn it. It’s an international language and you
have to be able to communicate with the language”. It’s
so hard…. I don’t know how to open their eyes and say,
“Being able to speak the language is not the same as
being an outsider”. We only need the language [as an
instrument] to communicate. …I mean, wow, globalization
is here but there are still some people in Jakarta who still
think that “O, Bahasa Indonesia is enough for me”.
Melati’s narrative: A different teaching
Institutional culture: a government-owned
company, secured job, reluctant to move
outside their comfort zone.
Bahasa Indonesia is still the dominant and
official language at work.
A new language presence = a foreign
language (an outsider’s language)
Melati’s view: English as an extension of
one’s (professional, linguistic, cultural,
etc.) self
Excerpt 8: the struggle of finding the right balance
If we look back to RSBI as an example, English lesson was studied starting
from the first grade of elementary school, even from kindergarten, I’m really
against that. I mean children have not yet mastered their national language
or local languages. Therefore, the death of languages, especially local
languages, will soon take place. And, for the national language, I worry that
our children’s sense of nationalism will decrease since they are not
accustomed to it. If I’m not mistaken the SEAMEO [South East Asian Minister
of Education Organization] suggested English can be used starting from the
fourth grade to teach science and math. But here, it starts even earlier, even
parents seem to be so proud if their children or grandchildren speaks English
better than Bahasa Indonesia. I’m really concerned about this. My biggest
concern with RSBI was that national language is being used lesser and
lesser in the classrooms. Even in their daily lives, they [students] tend to use
English while their surrounding, I mean they are not aware that, for example,
they are in a public bus or at other [daily] contexts. So it would create a gap
between those who speaks English and those who don’t. I think that would
create a social gap, not only in educational setting but also social
stratifications. ….This really happens, lab school students, for example, they
still use English after school and they speak fluently. (Nila)
Excerpt 8: the struggle of finding the right
In relation to 2013 national curriculum, it is actually like a swing
of the pendulum to the other end. So, from one extreme end to
another. In my opinion, I think it is better to go back to the
normal [balance]. What I meant by normal here is, for example,
English for first till third grade should lead to having fun with
English. But, I think English is better taught as a lesson starting
from the fourth grade, so it’s at the stage where they have
already mastered their national language. So, I imagine it
should go to this direction instead of allocating English lesson
as an extra-curricular subject. … So, it’s like a swing of a
pendulum. (Nila)
The struggle of finding the right
Early exposure is important
High exposure and opportunity to use
English are crucial
Monolingual approach to English (by
excluding other languages) is not the
appropriate method
Language policy leads to certain language
attitudes among stakeholders
Teaching English by taking into account
children’s first language development
The struggle of finding the right
providing high exposure / maintaining
Bahasa Indonesia existence
Porous border (trans-national) /
maintaining border (revitalization of
EMI schools or programs / 2013 national
curriculum (resisting EMI)
Defining competency
 What are the teacher’s idea of a
competent English user in the
globalized era?
A competent English user
People can be considered to be competent [English user] when they
could function accordingly to their contexts. For example, if one of my
students is expected to take over his father’s business and able to
expand the business, well at least they could use their language in
this business context. So, he is competent when he is able to
function accordingly to what he is working on (Roselyn)
I believe every one has a campaign [mission] in life. …for example, a
person who is campaigning “hard work” as a value. So, if language is
not used to campaign this message, then this person is not a
competent language user. (Iyenk)
Competent, it’s true that what is expected is a person who can
communicate their thoughts and ideas, or negotiating or debating
with their interlocutors in English. I think those are the expectations,
especially when dealing with any political or economical matters. I
think these are what need to be master significantly. (Nila)
Teachers’ view of competence:
Beyond linguistic knowledge and
language skills mastery
Intercultural competence (Iyenk’s
Professional English user (a competent
English user in their field, using English
to communicate their thoughts, to
negotiate, to function professionally in
their field)
Able to develop oneself through and in
English (self-actualization)
Models of competent English users
Most participants mentioned their
previous English teachers (bilingual
English users) as models of
competent English users.
One participant mentioned a well-known
Indonesian news person, Desi Anwar,
as her best model of an Indonesian
competent English user.
Excerpt 10
She is Russian. …people call her, an English Guru, even the
lecturers who are native speakers of English also call her, an
English Guru. I was only taught by her for two weeks and I
agree that she is an English Guru. So, she can appropriate her
self and language. When I heard her talking with a PhD, and
professors, I could not even understand what they are taling
about because she is using terms from translation book that I
read in my first semester. It was a very sophisticated language,
but when she was teaching us in class, she spoke differently.
So, she switch her English to our level. …She is actually not a
bilingual from childhood. …I really admire her and she is what I
considered to be a very competent English user. She could
positioned herself and appropriate her English eloquently.
…So, my friends and I would talk and said, “Wow, it would be
cool if we could be that way”. I mean her vocabulary is very
rich. (Roselyn)
Excerpt 11
I’m going to take, Desi Anwar, as an example [of a
competent English user]. I really admire her, because…
not only she is an excellent speaker, but the way she
interviewed people is very critical, sharp, and …how do I
say it, if we look at how she speaks and tells the news,
and how she elicits information from her interviewees, I
can see she is brilliant. ... Perhaps, her language may
seem more complicated compared to others [news
broadcasters] but she is a great English speaker. And she
interviewed a lot of international speakers and she is so
confident in eliciting information. I mean her English is
great! (Emiliana)
Models of competent English users
traditional view of ELT:
- The best model
(imagined community)
is the Native-Speaker
of English (NSE)
English competence =
native-like speakers of
Communication goals:
to communicate with
Teachers narratives:
- The best model (imagined
community) is bilingual
English users
Competence in their
field and able to use
their English in the field
accordingly to contexts
and their discursive
to communicate with
wider world
The story so far
Teachers narratives:
- Complex inter-relations of global
and local needs, multiple languages
existence and competition
- Tensions in creating English
speaking environment / maintaining
Indonesian languages
- Awareness of linguistic realities and
of sense of nationalism
Re-imagining ELT
Trans-nationality (Risager, 2007):
- Acknowledging the dynamicity of
languages in their teaching contexts
- Understanding one’s self (Iyenk’s, Nila’s,
and Melati’s narratives) in learning a new
Trans-languaging competence (Garcia, 2009):
- Awareness of multiple discursive practice
that exist in their teaching context;
- the skills and ability to engage in these
various discursive practices as the goal of
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Questions and feedback
Thank you
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