Sunday, 11 May 2008


My blog post about The British Council and the Tools for Intercultural Dialogue gained a comment from a reader that I was exaggerating the importance of English language. My article for that I also posted here in my blog gained another kind of comment, different...but a bit similar in essence. The commentator hoped that there will be no "forcing" of one's culture dominating others' cultures. He preferred to use the translators help in international discussion to show the equality of valuing others' cultures (meaning languages).

I wrote down the outcomes of intercultural dialogue programme in that article:
1. Strengthen understanding and level of trust between people in the UK and other societies.
2. Strengthen the consensus for rejecting extremism in all its forms.
3. Increase the ability of individuals and organisations to contribute to positive social change and the strengthening of civil society.
4. Increase the use of English as a tool for international communication and intercultural understanding.

The reader from wikimu pointed out the outcome no. 4 as the possibility of forcing a culture from a stronger nation to dominate the culture of the weaker nations.

Jean-Jacques Subrenat had posted in his blog Serenidee (in the year 2006) the highlight on the media and linguistic diversity and on the linguistic diversity in regional integration. He was also mentioning about the cost efficiency of linguistic diversity, in this case for European Union. I did not know before that translation is also considered as unworthy cost.

When I wrote my blog posts I did not have any prejudice feeling about forcing one's culture on others. I was thinking about exchanging cultures, enriching our knowledge with others' cultures while at the same time increasing our pride in our own culture.

Another Indonesian contributor for Ohmynews International, Lily Yulianti, was once upload in her local citizen journalism website Panyingkul, some pictures she had taken in Seoul in her article about how English language spread with louder voice. Look at those photos in the article, without even understand our bahasa Indonesia, you'll grab the essence of why David Graddol in his book "English Next" has said that "the enemy of the English language is the language itself".

I think it is important that the ESL speakers are trained to be equally capable to use the language correctly. By training local teachers to use the language correctly it would do a great deal for the education development in the country.

A contributor for the Jakarta Post has mentioned the importance of checking on the teachers from international schools. It is so true that in some cases "These teachers need training and that training may not just be in language skills. They may also need pedagogical training to allow them to adapt to international styles and methods of educating." Bringing more native speakers might not be the good solution for us, but enriching the local teachers might be a valuable asset for the future of our education. While taking the international styles and method of educating to enrich our own education style we are also enriching our human resources.

I remember how pak Harto (Soeharto), our former president used only Bahasa Indonesia in international meetings. We used to compare him with our first president who delivered his international speeches in English. Reading some books about Soeharto, I found out that it could also be his nationalism way of showing out our national language. He claimed it that way (but we, as students, used to doubt his ability in speaking English). Now, I realized that for some people it is really important to have their national language taken as equal as other international languages.

Ohmynews International Citizen Reporters' Forum was my first experience in an international meeting using a translation headphone. It was nice hearing the direct translation through the headphones. I did even try to hear the Korean translation of an English presentation just to fulfill my curiousity.

I am still thinking that English language can be a bridge to the global world. And it would not stop me from admiring the richness of other languages. Indonesia has more than 550 dialects (and/or traditional languages), we do need to help keeping it from extinction (which might be a very hard task to fulfill). Bahasa Indonesia is the bridge in the archipelago, and English (for me) is another bridge to the global world. So I do hope this "bridge" would not ruin the "two lands" connected through its presence.

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