My mother tongue is Indonesian or Bahasa Indonesia as we say it here. But honestly I prefer to speak in English, because in English there are many words that have much deeper meaning than in Indonesian.
But let me take you back to the time when I hated the English language.
My Mum used to work in the US Embassy at the Information Service before she got married and had my brother, David, and me. My Dad worked in a British-Indonesian insurance company. So you can imagine the “English atmosphere” at home. Both my parents, especially my Dad, would not answer us if we didn’t at least try to speak in English. When we were still in kindergarten I remember when we asked him something in Indonesian, he wouldn’t answer us but instead replied, “Pardon?” “Sorry?” or “Excuse me?” In a way, you can say that my brother and I were forced to speak English. It used to make me really mad. I thought, Oh come on! We live in Ja-kar-ta, In-do-ne-sia…why do we need English? I assumed people would find us snobs because we talked in a foreign language but actually from here. But did that stop my Dad? Of course not.
He bought us books, cassettes and videos, all in English, to help us learn. Surprisingly, we loved them! I especially loved the set of encyclopedias, where I learned so many different things. From that day on I could not take my eyes off of books written in English. My parents also let us watch some British TV shows (with them, of course); my favorite was “Mind Your Language”. It’s a story about Mr. Brown, a young teacher who taught English to a class full of hilarious foreign students. I loved each and every episode, and still do.
In my early teens, when I was about 13, Mum gave me books by Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights) and Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice). These became the core of my ultimate adoration for English Literature. As I got older I also read the works of William Shakespeare, John Donne, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Sylvia Plath and many more. On a side note, not only my parents but I also have my grandparents to thank because they were all avid readers and writers, and I am forever grateful how God used them to pass their love of the written word down to my generation.
Growing up our English got better and better, even surpassing Dad and Mum. They asked questions to us regarding the dear language that they taught us. But my parents always said that that was their goal: for their children to be much better than them.
Later in life, turned out that Dad was SO right for being SO determined for us to learn English, because it became a universal language.
Most importantly, I believe God gave the wisdom to my parents to teach us English, because now we use English in our daily lives. My brother has been living in Melbourne for 16 years; he definitely uses his English there. I live in Jakarta, but I work in a company where understanding English is crucial, both oral and written. And on weekends I translate English-speaking pastors from The Netherlands, UK and US at Indonesian fellowships and churches.
And not just that. Now I also have many friends (some of them even become my BFFs) from many parts of the world via social media because I can communicate in English.
Thank God my parents taught us English!
(In Memoriam ~ PAPA ~ 1944-2005 … Thank you for your determination.)
“My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother. For they are a [victor’s] chaplet (garland) of grace upon your head and chains and pendants [of gold worn by kings] for your neck.” – Proverbs 1: 8-9 / Amplified Bible (AMP)
[March 3, 2012]