Indonesian born children speaking exclusively English

Helpful Herbert

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One of the kids in my son's school has two Indonesian parents and can only speak English. It is an English-language tuition school but not one of the very expensive ones, so they are not super rich. For some unknown reason they think it is better for him if he only speaks English. I remember his teacher telling me it was cruel. But it is getting much more common now - when kids get taught in English, speak English at home, watch English media like youtube, speak to their school friends in English, where would they actually ever get the chance to speak or learn Indonesian?
 

ChrisTex

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At my school students have to take English, Mandarian, and Bahasa from grades 7 through 12.
 

Nimbus

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One of the kids in my son's school has two Indonesian parents and can only speak English. It is an English-language tuition school but not one of the very expensive ones, so they are not super rich. For some unknown reason they think it is better for him if he only speaks English. I remember his teacher telling me it was cruel. But it is getting much more common now - when kids get taught in English, speak English at home, watch English media like youtube, speak to their school friends in English, where would they actually ever get the chance to speak or learn Indonesian?
There are many Indonesians in Indonesia who think that speaking perfect English with no hint of Indonesian accent is the height of class and the ticket to success. A minority of them think that even a small exposure to Bahasa Indonesia would ‘contaminate’ their kids’ English. This is unfortunate because the real value comes from being a true bilingual.

Their English would still sound stilted to native speakers, but they speak no Indonesian. I think the kids are getting a raw deal.
 

HappyMan

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There are many Indonesians in Indonesia who think that speaking perfect English with no hint of Indonesian accent is the height of class and the ticket to success. A minority of them think that even a small exposure to Bahasa Indonesia would ‘contaminate’ their kids’ English. This is unfortunate because the real value comes from being a true bilingual.

Their English would still sound stilted to native speakers, but they speak no Indonesian. I think the kids are getting a raw deal.
I agree. One of the ex's young cousins is like this, having spent his first school years at an international school in Malaysia and then continued with the English-only education here. He was even more left out at large family functions than I was, as my Indonesian was better than his and none of the other kids spoke English at his level.

I will say that I have noticed my child's English suffer negative effects from his school English teacher. I used to teach his classmates and they all made the same mistake. Now, having never had a problem with this phrase before, he has started saying it wrong. It kinda pisses me off, but overall I prefer he attend a normal-ish local school.
 

Wisnu

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I am not sure if a child lives in Indonesia, both parents are Indonesian, going to schools in Indonesia and s/he cannot speak Indonesian. Meaning s/he was completely isolated from communicating in Indonesian. Everybody around him/her always speak English. Could be the housekeeper and maids also speaks English.
Or it could be that they just want to look great because they always speak English. If they speak Indonesian they will act like Cinta Laura.

We left Indonesia when my younger daughter was 4 years old and she always go to international schools. Even since she was 12 years old she lived in a boarding school where there was not a single Indonesian. Currently she is studying in a small town in America where the Indonesian community is also very few. 18 years living outside Indonesia, she can speak Indonesian very well even though her vocabulary may be more limited than those of those who live in Indonesia all the time. Similarly with her sister, almost 10 years living in UK she speak Indonesian well.
We are not the only one. We know many Indonesian diaspora, their kids has no problem to speak Indonesian. The case is different for kids from mix marriage though.
 

Nimbus

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I agree. One of the ex's young cousins is like this, having spent his first school years at an international school in Malaysia and then continued with the English-only education here. He was even more left out at large family functions than I was, as my Indonesian was better than his and none of the other kids spoke English at his level.

I will say that I have noticed my child's English suffer negative effects from his school English teacher. I used to teach his classmates and they all made the same mistake. Now, having never had a problem with this phrase before, he has started saying it wrong. It kinda pisses me off, but overall I prefer he attend a normal-ish local school.
Here’s the thing: if your ex’s cousin is an Indonesian citizen, the chance of him finding a job and living in an English-speaking country is low. There’s a very high probability that he’ll be working in Indonesia interfacing with Indonesians. He’s gonna have a rough time.

If he goes abroad, he’ll be treated as an Indonesian by other countries, but without being able to network closely with Indonesians there. He’ll have difficulties dealing with Indonesian consular officers as well.

As you mentioned, unless the teachers are native English speakers, their English is probably less than perfect. When you have an English-only school taught by these teachers, you’ll get Indonesian pidgin English.
 

Dharma Police

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One of the kids in my son's school has two Indonesian parents and can only speak English. It is an English-language tuition school but not one of the very expensive ones, so they are not super rich. For some unknown reason they think it is better for him if he only speaks English. I remember his teacher telling me it was cruel. But it is getting much more common now - when kids get taught in English, speak English at home, watch English media like youtube, speak to their school friends in English, where would they actually ever get the chance to speak or learn Indonesian?
There are countless first generation Mexican-Americans like this in L.A. Both parents speak Spanish at home, yet their kids only speak very elementary Spanish. It's more like "Spanglish". Oftentimes their parents speak Spanish to them, and they reply in English with a Chicano accent. You'll hear a conversation go something like:

Parent: ¿Adónde vas?
Child: I'm going to tio's casa con Fernando. Be back before dinner.


It's really not uncommon. And if anyone thinks it's because LA is in the States, it is, but there's so many Latinos there it might as well be Mexico.
 

HappyMan

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Here’s the thing: if your ex’s cousin is an Indonesian citizen, the chance of him finding a job and living in an English-speaking country is low. There’s a very high probability that he’ll be working in Indonesia interfacing with Indonesians. He’s gonna have a rough time.

If he goes abroad, he’ll be treated as an Indonesian by other countries, but without being able to network closely with Indonesians there. He’ll have difficulties dealing with Indonesian consular officers as well.

As you mentioned, unless the teachers are native English speakers, their English is probably less than perfect. When you have an English-only school taught by these teachers, you’ll get Indonesian pidgin English.
Yeah. It is sad. People who do this (deciding their child will focus on only one thing, to the exclusion of everything else) are essentially limiting the opportunities/choices their child will have in the future. When I was younger I thought there was little point to learning things I wasn't interested in, that I didn't see as part of my path through life. It was a great mistake.
There is a huge value in just being able to choose not to do something, whether it be working in a different field or living in a different place. Because of this, I am determined that my child should spend a significant amount of time in the States before he comes of age. I'm fine with him choosing Indonesian citizenship and living here. I just don't want him to do it without understanding his choice. It's just so sad to dispose of half your child's heritage without them getting any clear benefit.
 

dafluff

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I actually have a similar situation. My firstborn was born in Canada and was 5 years old when we returned to Indonesia. At that time she spoke almost exclusively English. This despite me and my wife conversing in Indonesian maybe 80% of the time.

She is now in an English-speaking national plus school but receives BI classes. Maybe 90% of her peers are also BI native speakers. She does well in the BI classes, but no one would confuse her for a native speaker.

Now her two younger sisters were born here. However, due to the influence of their older sister, and Youtube etc, they are almost 100% English speaking. In fact, they got the maids speaking English.

We didn't particularly plan it this way, and we would like for all of them to be fluent in Indonesian, but it sort of just worked out that way. I admit I didn't worry about their BI abilities, figuring eventually they will learn it, but that will not happen without effort from our (their parent's) part.
 

Balifrog

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I think (sincerely) this is very stupid.
I have 3 kids with my ex-Thai wife, all 3 now in their early 20's, they speak and write fluently French, English, Thai.
And their English is without any Thai or French accent. Movies and vide gaming saw to that ....

Which mean they move very at ease in any of those 3 languages environment.
Which is exactly what I wanted.
 

Helpful Herbert

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We didn't particularly plan it this way, and we would like for all of them to be fluent in Indonesian, but it sort of just worked out that way. I admit I didn't worry about their BI abilities, figuring eventually they will learn it, but that will not happen without effort from our (their parent's) part.

I try to make sure my kids get 1/2 hour of active Bahasa Indonesia every single day (not including any school classes there may be). Since the Indonesians in the family don't see it as a problem (probably for the reasons mentioned above of the perceived prestige of speaking English), then it is me as the foreigner who will usually do this, speaking to them, going through a text with them, learning some new words, or putting them in a situation where they need to comunicate in Indonesian (eg going to a local shop).
I have researched the issue and "figuring eventually they will learn it", which was what I also assumed, is unfortunately not regarded as a good strategy in the bilingual community, it needs active input from parents to get to a level of being fairly fluent (if they are lacking the other usual motivations such as friends speaking it, watching media etc.). I hope one day my kids could "nongkrong" with other Indonesians their age, or get a job in the country if they want to, even if they will never sound like native speakers.
 

nd_eric_77

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At my school students have to take English, Mandarian, and Bahasa from grades 7 through 12.
It is similar at my current and former schools. The curriculum is in English. Kids learn Mandarin from nursery to G10 and Bahasa Indonesia from P1 through G12. PPKN is taught in Bahasa Indonesia. 75-80% of my G10 students speak English at home. In my old and current school, WNI students sit for the UN (or whatever they are calling it these days); this is in Bahasa Indonesia, of course. The influence of YouTube, TikTok, Netflix, etc. has aided their fluency in English (though grammar is not affected, and the influence on vocabulary is hit or miss).
This is clearly a class-related phenomenon, and there is a long historical precedent for the wealthier socio-economic classes speaking a different (often more global) language than the middle and lower ones. Just look at the English kings and nobility from 1066 until roughly the end of the Hundred Years War... None of them spoke a word of English. It was all French, all the time. The Russian Czars and their families spoke French until the Napoleonic Wars, and then were multilingual right up until Nicholas II's demise.
 

Nimbus

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It is similar at my current and former schools. The curriculum is in English. Kids learn Mandarin from nursery to G10 and Bahasa Indonesia from P1 through G12. PPKN is taught in Bahasa Indonesia. 75-80% of my G10 students speak English at home. In my old and current school, WNI students sit for the UN (or whatever they are calling it these days); this is in Bahasa Indonesia, of course. The influence of YouTube, TikTok, Netflix, etc. has aided their fluency in English (though grammar is not affected, and the influence on vocabulary is hit or miss).
This is clearly a class-related phenomenon, and there is a long historical precedent for the wealthier socio-economic classes speaking a different (often more global) language than the middle and lower ones. Just look at the English kings and nobility from 1066 until roughly the end of the Hundred Years War... None of them spoke a word of English. It was all French, all the time. The Russian Czars and their families spoke French until the Napoleonic Wars, and then were multilingual right up until Nicholas II's demise.
Yeah, Cinta Laura was widely lampooned for her broken English, yet she remained popular. A lot of Indonesians think it’s cool to be like her.
 

nd_eric_77

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Yeah, Cinta Laura was widely lampooned for her broken English, yet she remained popular. A lot of Indonesians think it’s cool to be like her.
A couple of years ago, one of my G10 students remarked, "When Cinta Laura speaks Bahasa Indonesia, her accent is terrible. It sounds like yours, Mr. Eric." Ouch!
 

Nimbus

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Full disclosure: my daughter speaks limited Indonesian because she spent most of her formative years with Americans. When she was a kid we both had to work and study long hours, so she spent most of the day in daycare or in school. It doesn’t help that we speak 90% English at home. We’re slowly teaching her Indonesian, and I think she mostly understands the language even though she speaks it haltingly. It’s not a huge problem for us because she’s an American living in America with no plan of moving to Indonesia.
 

Nimbus

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A couple of years ago, one of my G10 students remarked, "When Cinta Laura speaks Bahasa Indonesia, her accent is terrible. It sounds like yours, Mr. Eric." Ouch!
My daughter is definitely worse than Cinta Laura.

I, on the other hand, like to think that I can still pass as the average Jakartan. When I was in Jakarta, it was a little weird to hear my old friends sprinkle so many English words in their sentences, actually more than I did. Sure, my Indonesian sounds dated because I’m not hip to the latest slangs, but give me a month and I’ll be indistinguishable from full time locals.
 

HappyMan

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My kid has Mandarin, German, English and Bahasa Indonesia in school. He's in the fourth year, been learning German for two years if I am not mistaken. I started learning German on Duolingo because I thought we could practice it together. I think I surpassed him after less than eight hours of using the app... His Mandarin level is similar, though he was making better progress before the difficult parent of a difficult student got the native speaker fired. I also took Spanish for couple of hours a week for years in school. Don't come at me with Spanish, bro! ('Cause I'll embarrass myself.)

You aren't going to produce a fluent child with a couple of hours a week of language exposure, unless they are a natural born polyglot with a brain that just stores language differently than the rest of us.

We used the Designated-Parent approach for English and Indonesian, but weren't able to convince the grandparents to use Javanese exclusively. He doesn't learn any new grammar in his English classes, though he does pick up some useful clarification and punctuation. He might rarely get a bit of vocab out of it, too. The method has worked for us, but I can see how people with less time in their schedules could find it to be difficult/frustrating.
 
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Pilgrimrunner

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My wife is Indonesian (I'm English) and both my kids were born here. They are growing up learning both Indonesian & English, mainly by me only speaking English with them whilst my wife and her family speaking Indonesian.
They go to a local school which covers English as the second language.
Their accents when speaking English can seem a bit 'strange', a sort of mix between American and Scottish which I'm fine with, all I want is for them to be fluent in both languages and so far so good.
 

harryopal

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Helene Chung is a Tasmanian born Australian who was the ABC's first female correspondent in China- 1983-1986. Unfortunately she spoke no Chinese languages while every new Chinese person she met in China and South East Asia assumed Helene spoke Mandarin or whatever.

However well meaning it may be to deny a child knowledge of the language of their forebears it is a great loss not to have them with a multi lingual ability.
 

Jaime C

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I think it’s a mistake not to take advantage of your native languages. My oldest has English and Spanish, with a little Japanese. When going to University, she was able to get credit for 3-4 years of foreign language by testing for it. It allowed her to graduate a year early.

It‘s also helped her in her job. Living in a state where there are a lot of hispanics, it’s never bad to be able to communicate.

My youngest is bilingual in English and BI. Since she is a Bule looking girl, the looks and reactions she gets when speaking BI are pretty amusing. She can read BI well, but doesn’t write the greatest. That’s one reason I took advantage of the pandemic to spend a lot more time in Indonesia.

As a second grader her written English is getting better. Going back to in person school last month, has been helpful.
 

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