Learning a language is kid’s play – a review of some Indonesian resources

How exactly does your child teach themselves Indonesian? Well, ideally they’re living in Indonesia and speaking and listening to Indonesian every day. But what if your child doesn’t seem interested in using Indonesian? My now six-year-old son just didn’t want to practice any Indonesian when we first came to live in Bali. Bit by bit he has become interested in learning words and started to enjoy surprising people by using Indonesian unexpectedly. Some of these resources have also helped.

Another activity I love seeing my son involved in is anything he can do by himself (screens aside). We have countless activity books in our house – mazes, dot-to-dots, colour by numbers, colour by stickers, sticker books. You name it we probably have it.

Spanish Club by Rush Sharp and Rosi McNab, published by Collins, 2009. Perfect for starting kids as young as five or six learning Spanish.

Spanish Club by Rush Sharp and Rosi McNab, published by Collins, 2009. Perfect for starting kids as young as five or six learning Spanish.

But where are the activity books for learning Indonesian? We have a fantastic one for Spanish called Spanish Club that regularly gets pulled out and a little bit more gets filled in each time. Most of it gets done without involvement from me and the stickers have been great at giving him confidence with reading before moving on to writing.

If only there was an Indonesian Club!

Here are a few interactive resources we’ve tried out:

Indonesian for Kids Flash Cards and More Indonesian for Kids Flash Cards by Linda Hibbs, Tuttle Publishing.

Indonesian For Kids Flash CardsFlash cards don’t sound particularly exciting but my son loves them. He spreads them out and puts each one on top of its picture on the wall chart (he spreads it out on the floor). There are 64 cards, each one with a picture and printed on strong glossy card. They are very basic words and we found that both our children already knew most of them: colours, numbers especially.

Indonesian flash cardsHe likes them so much I had to buy him the second set which he now plays with as well. He recently quizzed my mother on all 128 words – she did okay. Some of the more advanced words are verbs like melihat, pergi and tutup. It’s a very useful selection of words.

Each set of flash cards is accompanied by a CD which we haven’t used much though some of the songs are good. Before the songs come on, though, there are pronunciation exercises which are not very interesting.

Each set also has a learning guide which has the potential to be a very useful resource. Unfortunately, the format lets it down. It has been printed cheaply in black and white with few images, and in a small size to fit in the box. There are some fun games described but no room for interactive activities. Published in 2009, they are aimed at ages 4–12 and beyond. This has been the best investment I’ve made into Indonesian resources for the children.

My Indonesia-English E-Book made by Earnest Creation Co.Indo-English e-book

So, it looks bright and colourful but it is mostly useless. However, I bought this from Hardy’s Supermarket with only a faint hope it might prove useful. It is mostly in English but with many simple words in Indonesian. There are also recordings and a choice between Indonesian or English language but it is not especially easy to use.

E-book pageWhen I asked my son what words he learnt from it, he said ‘biola’. Yep, not exactly high-frequency words. More like: let’s recycle the pictures for the English words and move them around a bit.

Look at the World: Sea – Lihat Sekelilingmu: Laut, text by Anna Casalis and translated into Indonesian by Gramedia

LautSurprisingly, this has been a big hit in my house. My youngest son regularly chooses it as his bedtime story. As it’s a lift-the-flap encyclopaedia-type book, there is not much story, but there is plenty of scope to read the Indonesian as well as the English words for each item in this book and quiz the kids on all the different words.

Laut pagesI don’t usually read out what is written under the flaps but it’s good practice for me as well, as the explanations are all in Indonesian and use a lot of vocabulary I’m not familiar with.

Kamus Stiker Interaktif by Alf Yogi S, published by BIP part of Gramedia

Interactive Indonesian Sticker Book DictionaryThis is another one I bought at Gramedia and I was excited to find it  (though I still didn’t get my hopes up). My kids love sticker books and I hadn’t seen a single other sticker book for Indonesian. It is all about learning vocab which isn’t a bad thing. There are 360 stickers and each one has to be matched with a word with the colour giving it a clue. The word is written in English, Indonesian and Mandarin.

Interactive Sticker book pagesThe words are in alphabetical order (by English unfortunately) and despite it being repetitive, my son was charging along with this book and maybe even learning a few words along the way. He got up to the letter P, and then the colour of the stickers stopped matching the spot on which to put them and it was all over. He abandoned it and hasn’t looked at it since. Sigh.

The Big Bali Book: Activities for all the family by Tara and Shaan Peckham, 2011

This has a lot of activities in here but not many are suitable for the 4-6 age group. They are mostly letter and word games interspersed with information about Balinese culture, history and geography.

Primary Indonesian Workbook 2 by Kathryn Methven and Lousie Robertson, Five Senses, 1999

If it had been available I would have bought Workbook 1 but I could only find this one. But judging from this workbook it probably wouldn’t have been very interesting for younger children either.

I’ve recently heard of a new book called My Awesome Bali Adventure: A travel journal for kids so look out for a review when I get my hands on a copy.

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Names not to have in Indonesia

Following on from my last post about words that look the same in Indonesian and English but have different meanings, here is a list of names that look or sound the same in both languages but mean very different things.

Carlie – it is a very pretty name but it sounds like the Indonesian word for stream. Ooh, that sounds pretty too, you think! Maybe not when you see the globby green-slime covered waterway opposite our house that is our local kali.

Dan – what a lot of people called Dan there are in Indonesia! Hang on, it just means ‘and’.

Gorden – curtain (ok, I’m cheating here as the name is usually spelt Gordon, but it’s very close).

Lucky – why is this not a good name? Well, it’s totally fine actually, unless you’re a girl. More one to keep in mind when it comes to naming your dog, as opposed to your children. But even so, it’s worth knowing you’ll sound like you’re calling out ‘boy!’

Mara – an old family friend has this name, not very common I know. But I can’t help wondering when she visits Bali and is introduced, if people look at her twice and wonder … ‘is she really angry? She doesn’t look marah.’

Marie – the French way of saying this name sounds quite like mari, let’s go or go on then. Thus: ‘Mari Marie!’

Sandysandi kata means password so does it mean your name is a secret?

Summer – while not a widely used name anyway, you still need to be wary as it sounds like an exceptionally common word in Indonesian – sama – which means same or likewise. So introducing yourself as Summer could have people thinking you have the same name as them. ‘What a coincidence! Your name is Wayan too?!’

Tanya – in Indonesia, tanya means to ask, so you could enjoy a laugh with an exchange like this one.

Mau ke mana besok? Tanya Tanya.
[Where do you want to go tomorrow? Ask Tanya.]

Tim – which tim are you part of? One of the many words that Indonesian has taken from English, it means team.

I’m sure I’ve missed many many funny examples of names and words that have different meanings in these two languages. What are some you’ve come across?

Words I’ve learnt from subtitles

Picard Laksanakan

Like pretty much everyone in Indonesia I watch a lot of subtitled television. Most of it is in English with Indonesian subtitles but occasionally I stumble across something more exotic. My semi-regular indulgence is when the boys go to sleep and I’m alone in the living room. That’s when I get to watch my favourite Latin American soapies or telenovelas.

My favourite is Corazon Indomable (Wild at Heart) from Mexico. I get to listen to Spanish and read the Indonesian. It’s like eating a fluffy pavlova with some salsa on top, and sambal on the side.

But, more often than not, I’m reading Indonesian subtitles for an American show and this has helped me somewhat in my language acquisition. Not, I have to say, as much as actually talking to people, but seeing the same words used over and over has aided my memory.

One word I would never have learnt were it not for subtitles is astaga. Many exclamations and expressions of surprise – Good heavens! Crikey! and so on – are translated as astaga! But I have never ever heard someone use this in real life. I feel like I’m on an Indonesian sinetron (soap opera) myself when I use it so I tend not to.

Check out the very funny How to Act Indonesian – 5 signs it’s a sinetron to get an idea of what a sinetron is like.

Check out the very funny How to Act Indonesian – 5 signs it’s a sinetron to get an idea of what a sinetron is like.

Adil is another word I’ve learnt from the subtitles. It means fair. And the phrase ‘it’s not fair’ must get used a lot in American dramas as I’m pretty familiar with its equivalent, tidak adil. This phrase I count as a useful acquisition.

Brengsek is just about the closest thing to a swear word that I know in Indonesian. I think it’s my gender, maybe my age, and certainly the circles that I mix in, but I don’t seem to be picking up swear words. Brengsek means jerk so I occasionally use this when there’s a particularly good example of mindless motorbike riding right in front of our car.

I can’t leave out sial though. It’s the word that is used in subtitles whenever people swear in English. Damn, drat, shit all translate as sial. Do people actually use it? Not that I’ve heard. It means unfortunate.

Another word I have to thank American TV for is laksanakan. We grew very fond of this phrase through watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise point to the monitor and say … laksanakan (see image at top). That’s a rough translation of make it so, in case you don’t remember. For a while my husband got a kick out of jumping in the car and saying to our driver: ‘The office! Laksanakan!’ Sadly other people just looked at him strangely if he said it and it hasn’t caught on. Not surprising when you realise it also translates as implemented. Now that’s an English word lacking romance.

I haven’t even started on the staggering eccentricities of pirated DVD subtitles. Sometimes they seem to belong to another movie altogether. And often everything is literally translated including names like Pat and Bob.

As I’m still trying hard to improve my Indonesian, every bit of Indonesian language around is useful, even if I do have to be careful before I start talking like subtitles.

What words have you learnt from television subtitles?

Best and worst of Indonesian picture books (continued)

In contrast to the books in the previous post, the following books were published first in Indonesia though not all were written in Indonesian. Petualangan Anak Indonesia coverDespite its publisher having an English name (Great! Publisher) Petualangan Anak Indonesia is currently published only in Indonesian, though (just to confuse you) the author is Australian. Its English title is Indoventurers and there is an English version that the author Nicholas Mark has offered to email upon request. He has also developed a Teacher’s Guide and worksheets.

This book is much longer and is for more advanced readers of Indonesian. Along with plenty of action in the three separate stories and the vivid illustrations, the book has plenty of local content. The Monkey Forest in Ubud is featured in the Bali story and Borobodur is featured in the Yogyakarta story where the race is on to save the city from an eruption from Mount Merapi. There is also a story set in Sumatra. Indoventurers page

All three are fantasy stories set somewhere in the realm, or fringe, of Indonesian myth, making them an interesting read. Apart from the fantasy elements, the stories are set in contemporary Indonesia and portray familiar characters and scenes. Another interesting note is that the author wrote it while on a university exchange in Yogyakarta when his story written for an assignment caught the interest of a local publisher.

Publishers website: galangpress.com Or contact Nicholas Mark on nicholaspetermark@gmail.com

Sea garden covers

The Sea Garden Series of books by Papa Ine is in two languages with the stated aim of helping Indonesian children learn English. Unfortunately, the translation from Indonesian has not been very successful and the poor English badly lets down the books.

The books have very bright and engaging illustrations and all the characters are animals that can be found in Indonesian waters. I was interested to see a sun fish character, not often seen in children’s stories. Some of the names are based on Indonesian words, such as Kepit being the name for the crab character (kepiting).

Sea Garden pagesPublished by PT Bumi Aksara Group bumiaksara.co.id

Murti Bunanta books

Murti Bunanta is an institution in the world of children’s books in Indonesia. She has written more than 30 books and has received many awards. Many of her books are Indonesian folk tales such as Princess Kemang (Putri Kemang), a folktale from Bengkulu. This is a lovely example of a bilingual book. It features beautiful illustrations from Hardiyono and a story of the adventures of a princess set in some mythical time in Indonesian history. Putri Kemang pagesIt is quite long but I do like this story for several reasons, one of which is that the main character is a princess who is independent and very physically capable and ends up choosing her own husband. The English translation is also very good, thanks to Margaret Mead MacDonald, herself a well-known author and storyteller, who was the English language consultant on the book. Plus the illustrations make it a delight to read.

Published by Grasindo, part of PT Gramedia. www.grasindo.org

The Tiny Boy and other tales from Indonesia is not a bilingual book but I included it as another example of Murti Bunanta’s work. This has been published by Groundwood in the US and is a beautiful book, also with illustrations by Hardiyono.

Bunanta dictionary  page

Another book she published locally is My first dictionary – colour, published by the Murti Bunanta Foundation and illustrated by Aldriana A. Amir. With only nine colours, it’s not quite long enough to be a stand-alone book and may have been better sold with the others in the First Dictionary series. Another 21 titles by Murti Bunanta are listed in the back.

Maggie Dunkle books Penyu dan Lumba LumbaCerita Monyet dari Bali – Monkey Tales from Bali is by Maggie Dunkle, an Australian children’s author who lived several years in Bali until she passed away in 2012. This is set in the Ubud Monkey Forest and I really like the story of the family of monkeys and the simple black and white illustrations by Asroel. It is aimed at beginner readers and the way the words are arranged on the page. The Indonesian translation below each phrase makes it easy to follow the translation.

Maggie Dunkle also wrote Penyu dan Lumba-Lumba, Turtle and Dolphin, a book in the Clean Bali Series (there is one other in the series). In this book the animals worry about the rubbish in their oceans and on their beaches and are then surprised when they witness a group of children cleaning up a beach. It is a book in three languages as it includes Balinese. The illustrations by Margiyono are colourful and the message is a good one, but it is not a book I read over and over.

Penyu page Both are published by Saritaksu. Saritaksu.com

Our Jakarta Series booksOur Jakarta Series is a set of 30 early readers written by Australian teacher Michelle Dudley while she was living in Jakarta. Originally only in English, they have been translated and published as bilingual books. The series consists of 10 books in each of the three levels. One of these was the very first book my five-year-old son read in Indonesian. Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of titles like My Driver and My Cook. But after thinking about it, it makes sense to have these books for expat children. Reading them with my children while we are living in Indonesia works fine. If we were reading them in Australia having never lived in Indonesia, some might feel a little out of place but the majority would be perfect for young children wherever they may live. Overall they give a good look at life in Jakarta through the eyes of a small expat child. The Car Trip is something Jakartan residents know all too well. What’s in my Lunchbook is cute and shows the variety of cultures at an international school through the contents of kids’ lunchboxes.

Available by emailing jakartaseries@gmail.com

Best and worst of bilingual Indonesian picture books

It’s wonderful to live in Indonesia and be able to pick up a new bilingual book at a bookshop whenever the mood takes me. It’s not that easy, however, to find quality books where the English is correct, the story is interesting to both the children and me, and, one of the more important points, has some Indonesian context. To start with, let’s take a look at some of the popular examples of bilingual books.

Indonesian bilingual picture booksOne series of good quality bilingual books come from Erlangga for Kids and includes Go to Sleep You Crazy Sheep, and Quiet! As they were written in English the language in English is impeccable and the Indonesian translation seems very good. Unfortunately, the rhyme of the You Crazy Sheep is not able to be carried across, making it nicer to be read in English.

Published by Erlangga for Kids and first published by Little Tiger Press in the UK.

Fairy book in IndonesianThe Fairies tell us about Empathy is part of another series which is similar but it seems the original language for the story was Spanish which possibly makes the Indonesian a translation of the English translation. The English feels a little clunky though it is nice to see a children’s book trying to tackle a difficult but important concept like empathy.

Published by Eaststar Adhi Citra (first published in Spain by Gemser Publications).

 

Dora the Explorer along with many, many other TV characters have made their way into Indonesian language and bilingual books for children. Dora in IndonesianDora is an interesting example as, while it restricts the Indonesian translation to mostly Indonesian, it still introduces a few Spanish words. So you end up with things like ‘Hola! Namaku Dora.’ The language used seems pretty spot on. If you had a Dora DVD that could play in Indonesian this could help reinforce some of the terms used, eg. Rancel for Backpack.

Dora is published by PT Citra Sastra Media in Indonesia.

So far these are nothing out of the ordinary as they are all books you could find in plenty of countries that have simply been been translated into Indonesian. Where it gets interesting is when we look at books published first in Indonesia. You’ll see a big range of subject matter and quality in my next post.

All the books reviewed here were found in Ganesha Bookshops or Gramedia.