Understanding Local Culture as the Key to Success

This paper will describe the problem of BIPA learning that focuses on understanding local culture, especially regional languages, as the key to success in learning. The presentation of the paper is intended to provide insights in order to overcome the problems of BIPA students that arise as a result of differences in linguistic and sociocultural problems from the language of learners. The use of authentic language as well as cultural teaching materials and taught with a communicative approach is expected to arouse learners’ interest and maintain learner involvement in the subject being studied. Armed with these cultural materials, it is hoped that the awareness of BIPA students about regional culture in Indonesia will help learners in actualizing themselves appropriately when communicating in Indonesian.

Introduction The

understanding of regional culture in Indonesia is an important issue as well as plays a very important role in the learning of [2] Indonesian for foreign speakers (BIPA). Understanding of culture is very important because (1) it facilitates understanding of how to communicate and (2) prevents BIPA students from the possibility of a cultural shock in learning and when communicating with native speakers. For example, with cultural understanding, learners can find out whether the elements of the language they will use can offend others, conflict with societal norms, or are not yet in accordance with courtesy (manners, upload-upload) in communicating with native speakers. .

Understanding of culture can also play a role in increasing the knowledge and appreciation of BIPA students towards the life of Indonesian society. This means that the Indonesian language used as a means of communication between populations and between ethnic groups is a reflection of Indonesia’s diverse cultural background. With this understanding, BIPA students will understand that the Indonesian language spoken by speakers from Java will be different from speakers from Sundanese, Madurese, Batak, Balinese, Malay, Makassar, etc. In addition, practically understanding this culture has implications for BIPA learning that it is not enough just to introduce the linguistic aspects of the Indonesian language.

On the other hand, an interest in studying culture, especially regional languages, usually goes hand in hand with an interest in getting to know the culture of the language-speaking community. Likewise, studying the culture of a society will not be optimal without learning the language. An Australian student, Kirrilly McKenzie, who is studying Javanese at the Australian National University said “… learning Javanese gave me a deep insight into Javanese culture and the way Javanese people communicate with each other.” In addition to knowing culture, the purpose of learning regional languages ​​is also influenced by economic, political and academic interests (Suhardjono, 2017).

Regarding language and culture, of course, in line with the opinion that language as part of culture is considered very important, even absolutely necessary, in human life. Languages ​​that are considered to be unique to humans are the most common and most capable of being used as a means of developing reason and maintaining cooperation between humans that can be observed (Koentjaraningrat, 1984: 2).

Understanding Indonesian Culture

In learning Indonesian, especially for foreign speakers, it is necessary to understand that the diversity of cultures in Indonesian society reflects the mindset, lifestyle, and ethnicity value patterns. The diversity of ethnic groups in Indonesia can be seen as differences, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. These differences are studied cross-culturally to see the psychological values ​​of the community.  

In this connection, before teaching language from the linguistic aspect (learning the structure of the Indonesian language), it is necessary to teach (introduce) knowledge of regional cultures in Indonesia which includes value systems, social systems, and cultural products and their implications for language acts. The introduction of “language attitudes” through audio-visual media from teachers, tutors, or instructors really helps this language learning process. In the concept of Javanese culture, understanding this culture is actually like the ngertos caranipun ngertos model or ‘understanding how to understand’ (heuristic education model). That is, BIPA students make cultural understanding as their basis for applying their language knowledge into how to communicate in Indonesian.

          At the practical level, to understand this culture requires an emphasis on understanding related to the ability to capture words and the ability to compose sentences, the ability to understand other people, the ability to understand one’s own emotions, and the ability to describe a language concept in perspective (think in picture). The goal is that learners can perceive the environment and express the concepts of language and culture in communicating. Learning by means of discussions about poetry, novels, conversations in drama (for example, traditional drama (such as ketoprak, ludruk, wayang orang)) or dialogue about cultural symbols in video commercials on TV is an interesting medium (media) for cultural learning. .

In perceiving the environment, for example, it is understood that language does not determine a speaker’s perception, but it is perception that determines language. In the same way, then, there is no reason to say that Eskimos have learned to observe different kinds of snow through language and not through their life experiences. Indonesians themselves, if they have ever observed snow, can describe several states of snow by forming phrases such as soft snow, melting snow, dirty snow, etc. so that the vocabulary for snow will be as much as for Eskimos. However, life experiences also do not always lead to new vocabulary forms.

Within the cultural group, the Indonesian people, like other groups in this world, have a way of looking at their environment. Whorf (1956) provides a detailed study of the Hopi (either Native American or American-Indian) with very interesting results. For example, about the perception of time. English refers to time with the noun, ‘season’; but the Hopi understood time as a course or a process, so it was impossible to define it in a noun. An Anglo-Saxon (Anglo-Saxon, old English or an English derivative) says “in the summer”, the Hopi cannot say this because in his head the thought is that “summer” is a phase that passes or arrives, not been ‘here’ and never ‘now’, it’s always in motion, always accumulating. Another example, still about time, relates to grammar issues. English has three timepieces that represent the perspective that time travels in analogue spaces: past, present, future. This is not a British monopoly; time, in average standard European languages ​​(including Dutch, German, Italian, Swedish, etc.), is visualized as a straight line. This is different from the Hopi perspective. What matters to them is not the location of an activity in the timeline, but the nature of its validity (whether the activity is an observable fact, or a recalled fact, or an expectation). In this regard, Whorf (1956) concluded that due to this difference in language, The Hopi and European peoples have different thoughts, understandings, and attitudes regarding time. Based on this opinion, when a nation changes its language, that nation not only changes its means of communication, but that nation also changes its perspective regarding itself and its perceptions of the world around it. In connection with that, when we learn a language, it means that we also have to understand the perceptions of the language community. Although Whorf’s hypothesis has been heavily criticized, with this picture we can understand that most people accept the notion that language and culture are inseparable. then the nation not only changes its means of communication, but that nation also changes its perspective regarding itself and its perception of the world around it. In connection with that, when we learn a language, it means that we also have to understand the perceptions of the language community. Although Whorf’s hypothesis has been heavily criticized, with this picture we can understand that most people accept the notion that language and culture are inseparable. then the nation not only changes its means of communication, but that nation also changes its perspective regarding itself and its perception of the world around it. In connection with that, when we learn a language, it means that we also have to understand the perceptions of the language community. Although Whorf’s hypothesis has been heavily criticized, with this picture we can understand that most people accept the notion that language and culture are inseparable.

In connection with the description above, we can take an example from the Javanese language to see how the Javanese see their world which is reflected in their language. One of the very basic differences between Javanese and Indonesian is that Javanese recognizes different levels of language, whereas Indonesian does not. There are three levels in Javanese, namely (1) ngoko, which is considered the roughest and most informal language, (2) krama madya, which is considered to be in the middle (somewhat subtle and somewhat formal), and (3) krama Inggil, which is seen as the most refined and also the most formal of Javanese. In Javanese, someone can ask ngoko, “Kowe wis mangan durung?”, It could also be in a manner, “Can you also nedha nedha napa pateng?”

Understanding Indonesian culture will also guide BIPA students to understand the different realities of Indonesian society. Therefore, two speakers of different languages ​​will express language expressions in different ways and understand them differently. We can again take an example from the Javanese language. In Javanese, we know a type of plant called pari ‘rice’. When this ray has been plucked and knocked out of its stalk, it is called grain. If this grain has been ground or ground, so that the skin is removed, it is called rice. If the rice was then cooked properly, it would be called sega ‘rice’, but if it was cooked and turned into a crust, it would be called peep, while if it was cooked in excess water it would be called porridge. Sega, in the form of loose grains, is called upa. The various names in Javanese for the fruit of a kind of grass (including the oryza species) are not known in English. English only knows one word for the various Javanese languages, namely rice. Even in Indonesia, there are various types of plants that produce rice, such as cere rice, early rice, upland rice, pulut rice, radin rice (light rice), etc.

Critical Thinking and Building Cultural Awareness

Critical language here means awareness of the meaning or equivalence of Indonesian words / terms that are difficult to match with the learners’ native language not because Indonesian is “complicated” or “contains a lot of meaning”, but because the word / term chosen for use in a context will be linked. with implications, attitudes, or levels of politeness (ethical) that vary from one language to another. Therefore, although it is easy to match an Indonesian word into a language with a word in another language in terms of its literal meaning, it is very difficult to match it with its secondary meaning and implications.

It should also be noted that the introduction of culture to build cultural awareness is not only limited to Indonesian culture in general, but also the local culture in which students live or work. Foreign students who will work in certain areas need information about the culture and customs of the people in that area. The introduction of local culture has the potential to increase interest in learning local languages. In this context, local languages ​​can be a bridge to get to know the culture and society in the area. In addition, learning also has the potential to teach elements (loan words, form words) in local languages. For advanced BIPA learners, the teacher introduces the use of regional languages ​​to communicate in Indonesian for the purpose of respecting speech partners (code switching). Example of sentences: 

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