People and their language is a unity that cannot be separated. Being a foreigner in Australia has allowed me to have a greater respect for those who learn Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian).

Janu out the front of Ferny Grove High School. Photo: Janu Muhammad

Janu out the front of Ferny Grove State High School. Photo: Janu Muhammad

Last year I joined a homestay program while I was living in Australia. One morning my host mother (Gwenda) and I had an engagement at Ferny Grove State High School. We planned to go there to teach Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) and introduce Indonesian culture. I wore special clothes that day. I wore traditional cloth from Yogyakarta named jarik, blangkon (on my head), and sorjan. Alex (my host brother) and Gwenda were shocked to see my performance. “Wow you look very nice, all the students want to take photos with you,” Gwenda said. “Thank you for the compliment” I answered quietly. Then we had breakfast, special indomie (the most famous fried noodle from Indonesia) with eggs. Not even three minutes had passed and all the food was gone!

Throughout my travels Gwenda and I started to talk, she started asking questions about the usual surroundings in Indonesia and Yogyakarta. She also brought up the conversation on traditional cloth and culture in my city, Yogyakarta. A few minutes later we arrived at the school.  We walked to the administration office and asked permission to enter the language classes. Along the way a lot of girls looked at me, “What’s wrong with me?” Am I wearing the wrong costume? Gwenda said it was because I looked different.

Finally at 9:30 am we entered the language classes and met Mrs. Nic. She was a friendly teacher I thought. Then we were able to greet the students. They stood and greeted me enthusiastically “Selamat pagi Bu guru,” they said. What? I’m not a mother, I corrected them by saying “Selamat pagi Pak guru” despite the fact that I have not yet become a father. I was honored to attend these classes and meet Australian students who are enthusiastic to learn Bahasa Indonesia. Bu Nic then gave me the opportunity to introduce myself by writing my name on the board. After that we began to discuss the most frequently used word such as selamat pagi (good morning) and apa kabar? (how are you?).

The next session was a film screening. I brought a short video about Yogyakarta. We watched the video and the students began to see a real view of batik with different patterns, wayang (puppets), Borobudur temple, and others via the video. How grateful I am, in their eyes Indonesia is wonderful. After about 4 minutes, the video ended. The students began to mention things in the video. They appreciated what they saw, they seemed to take pride in studying Indonesian!

After that, what all the students had been dreading finally happened. “We have to continue with the listening test,” said Bu Nic. Firstly I helped them to memorise the names of objects in the slide show. First there was a “rat, above, many, palaces, etc.). Finally, we corrected together. All right, all students seemed cheerful as they successfully responded to the challenges set by Bu Nic. They were so excited to be learning Indonesian.

I ended the meeting that morning giving thanks and that hopefully we would meet again in Indonesia. The students applauded as a sign of gratitude. Indeed, it was an extraordinary experience for me to meet them. Teaching Bahasa Indonesia in Ferny Grove State High School that morning gave me the opportunity to introduce Bahasa Indonesia to the world. I am pleased to be able to share and meet them in class. I was grateful, because our language is becoming known in other countries. When I discuss with Bu Nic she explained, “The language (Indonesian) is very important today, especially the close relationship between Indonesia and Australia in many sectors, which ultimately requires us to learn.” There is a positive when Bahasa Indonesia is being studied in Australia. But there is a negative side when our own people (Indonesians) stop studying the language.

I thought, “Oh it turns out there are also benefits to being able to speak Indonesian for Aussies, especially for the Australia-Indonesia relationship.” Then we went home, talked about other interesting things between Indonesia and Australia. Thank you Ferny Grove State High School and the superb students!