Bid to rejuvenate Indonesian language learning

February 8, 2011

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Language experts will gather in Perth this week in a bid to rejuvenate Indonesian language learning in Australia.

Over the past decade, numbers of people studying Indonesian – designated by the Commonwealth Government as a ‘nationally strategic language’ – have been plummeting.

This week’s three-day meeting at Murdoch University aims to find ways of addressing the problem, which experts say will seriously disadvantage Australia’s relationships with its nearest neighbour in years to come.

Organiser Professor David T Hill, Chair of South East Asian Studies at Murdoch and an expert in Indonesian studies, said that while Government recognised the strategic importance of Indonesian, not enough had been done to actively promote learning of the language at school and university level.

“While Indonesian is still a major language in our schools, research has found that enrolments are declining nationally by an average of 10,000 students every year,” he said.

“The number of university students studying Indonesian has also been declining steadily and relentlessly for the last decade – there was a 30 per cent drop nationally from 2001 to 2009. At least five university Indonesian programs have closed in the last eight years.

“If we do not intervene, the consequence is clear: Indonesian programs will continue to close, retiring staff will not be replaced, enrolments will continue to fall.  At the same time, government departments and businesses that recruit Indonesian-speaking graduates are having difficulty securing new staff with advanced language skills.

“Our future relies on our ability to work positively with Asia. If Australia cannot relate effectively to its closest neighbour we will pay a heavy cost in lost opportunities.”

The meeting, the National Colloquium on the Future of Indonesian in Australian Universities, will bring together language experts and those who rely on the skills of Indonesian language graduates to discuss ways of increasing the number of people studying Indonesian at university level. Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia, Primo Alui Joelianto, will be among those attending.

With the support of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Professor Hill has produced a discussion paper, designed to spark debate at the event. He sets out 22 ideas for reinvigorating Indonesian language learning, from simply rebranding Indonesian teaching units to make them more attractive to potential students to an Indonesia-based ‘virtual classroom’.

He said: “We hope to develop some concrete strategies for improving the situation. We have to take the initiative, even if that is confronting for us, our colleagues, our universities and for the government which sets education policy. It is in Australia’s national interest to support this.”

Media contact: Jo Manning
Tel: (08) 9360 2474  |  Mobile: 0408 201 309  |  Email:
Categories: Asia Research Centre Research, General, International, Research, Teaching and Learning
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Comments (4 responses)

The Gendut Man February 8, 2011

Have you examined the shift from Indonesian to Mandarin due to our media and governance ties?

Since Paul Keating have any of our PMs forced any strong policies on the nation regarding Indonesia? It has mainly been the strengthening of ties between India and China. Indonesia has taken a back seat :(

Fascinating research :)

All the best with your quest!

translation agency February 8, 2011

Learning another language is difficult,but if we need to study more we can be competitive in other counties.Language is important especially in dealing business.In studying languages in universities we should see to it that our student are attentive and listening to us,but if not professors should put some technique on how to be more interesting.I agree of the design given by the Australian learning and teaching councils professors.They such give a proper technique in dealing that kind of situation.

Bob February 12, 2011

IMO, it is inefficient to learn a language in a class, especially for adults. A better way would be: 1 semester or 1 year of introduction and a thorough study of the language's grammar and syntax, followed by scholarships to study in the country.

Go to a language class and what do you do? You practice speaking in hypothetical situations where you are in the country. Really, why keep it hypothetical? Pay people to learn there. Sure it's expensive, but I think it's worth it.

Well done to the good professor for his activities in solving the problem.

aufhoeren zu rauchen October 31, 2011

Learning a language can only really be achieved by surrounding yourself with it 24/7 and that means living in the country itself. Anyone who supports the ongoing development of any local language (i.e. not one of the major world languages) is to be applauded – diversity brings enlightenment and cultural awareness, something we Australians have forgotten these past years. Thanks

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