By Maria T. Prawati
“I actually don’t have Indonesian blood whatsoever. So, I’m actually German, Japanese and Chinese.” These two sentences are quoted from Agnez Mo during her interview with Kevan Kenney which set ablaze Indonesian viewers. Somehow the tickle is not on the interview but a response over the interview from a radio jockey (RJ) saying, “No wonder Agnez Mo speaks English fluently.” The statement implies that only those outside of Indonesia can speak fluent English. Similar tone comes from Ibnutama (2017). In the article he explicates his life as Indonesian speaking fluent English in Indonesia. The main intrigue for him is his position as pariah in Indonesia, in his own country because English is his primary language. He said, “I go to restaurants and to shops speaking in choppy Indonesian or hearing choppy English from the staff. The staff regularly look at me as an oddball. ‘Sombong [snob]’ as whispered by the staff to themselves.” In both cases the doubt is whether you are still Indonesians as you speak fluent English, and whether you lose your identity as Indonesians when learning English.
In this case learning English is considerably subtractive, connected with one culture and one identity only (monolingual-monocultural-monoidentity). The language is analogically portrayed as “Naga”, which gobbles up local language and culture and becomes the source of national disintegration (Coleman, 2016). However, reflecting the above stories and departing from English as global language shall transform our perspective toward English as additive (Bunce et.al, 2016), since it adds diversity to national language and culture and a communication tool to express local identity to global world. With the new paradigm that learning English adds one’s language, culture and identity, cosmopolitan identity such Agnez Mo and Ibnutama can be more accepted and accommodated.
In cosmopolitan identity, hybridity and differences are not simply accepted but communicated to get rid of a world in which Others are truly noncitizens (Hills, 2008, p. 8). One person can be part of more than one language, cultures, and identities without being fixed-bounded by nationality. It means it is possible to be like “kentang” as he/she employes English. The analogy “kentang” expresses dynamicity of potatoes, which is dark and brown on the outside white on the inside or such as “Indonesian at heart but global in mindset” (Helnywati & Manara, 2019). Allowing such dynamic thoughts and selves create chances for Indonesians to be called as English speakers. Even further, the idea allows us to create our own version of Indonesian-English (Indolish) language and culture identity.
Bunce, P., Phillipson, R., Rapatahana, V., & Tupas, R. (Eds.). (2016). Why English?: confronting the hydra. Multilingual Matters.
Coleman, H. (2016). 4 The English Language as Naga in Indonesia1. Why English?: Confronting the Hydra, 13, 59.
Helnywati, H., & Manara, C. (2019). “I’m like kentang”: Bilingual Indonesians construction of identity in the era of transnationalism. Indonesian JELT, 14(2), 167-185.
Ibnutama, E. (2017) Does an Indonesian who doesn’t speak the language belong in the country?, The Jakarta Post,30 Nov. Available at: https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2017/11/30/does-an-indonesian-who-doesnt-speak-the-language-belong-in-the-country.html. Accessed: 29 November 2019
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