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Reviewed by:
  • Let’s Speak Indonesian: Ayo Berbahasa Indonesia by Ellen Rafferty, Erlin Barnard, and Lucy Suharni, and: Indonesian Grammar in Context: Asyik Berbahasa Indonesia by Ellen Rafferty, Molly Burns, and Shintia Argazali-Thomas
  • John U. Wolff (bio)
Ellen Rafferty, Erlin Barnard, and Lucy Suharni. Let’s Speak Indonesian: Ayo Berbahasa Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. Vols. 1 and 2, 391 pp.
Ellen Rafferty, Molly Burns, and Shintia Argazali-Thomas. Indonesian Grammar in Context: Asyik Berbahasa Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. Vols. 1, 2, and 3, 926 pp.

This review concerns two series of books compiled under the direction of Ellen Rafferty by two different teams. The first of these, Let’s Speak Indonesian (LSI), in two volumes, focuses on inculcating pragmatic features of Indonesian—speech acts such as how to ask a question, how to change the subject, vocabulary for different domains and registers, and the like—and aims to move beginning language students to the intermediate levels. The second series, Indonesian Grammar in Context (IGC), in three volumes, focuses on grammar in a progressive presentation, for example, how the sentence is constructed, verb forms, and how to express tense. This series builds from the beginning through the advanced levels. Both sets of materials are aimed at university students, and the two series clearly need to be used in tandem, although no indication is given to the user just how the two series can best be integrated. The vocabularies of the two series only partially overlap—that is, it is not obvious that the vocabulary and expression of LSI reinforce what is presented in IGC at the same level, or vice versa. For the most part, how to use these lessons in the classroom is left up to the individual teacher—that is, what to emphasize and how to pace the materials, for instance. Occasionally specific classroom activities are described in detail.

There are many good aspects of these materials: Rafferty has thought in terms of the various practical and grammatical features that need to be mastered and has arranged the lessons accordingly and explained those features clearly. There is good coverage of grammar, pragmatic aspects, and vocabulary, so that those completing the lessons should be well prepared to deal with the majority of situations the foreign student may encounter when arriving in Indonesia.

The materials are eminently practical: the aim of LSI is to introduce and convey an informal, colloquial style, such as that used by young people who are free and intimate with each other. This is only partially achieved, however. To be sure, for many of the most common forms used in greeting, offering, supporting, and the like, in LSI the most colloquial and intimate variant is presented, e.g., the very clearly informal and intimate form ayo (used for commands, offering, taking leave, and others) in preference to the synonyms mari, which is either informal or more formal, or silahkan, which definitely gives an air of formality. Another example is that titles (Pak, Bu, Mas, and the like) are omitted except for conversations involving people who are clearly older than the students depicted in the materials. Nevertheless, the tone of the language, perhaps [End Page 129] unavoidably, tends to the formal in both IGC and LSI, as authentic informal styles situate the speech in a particular area or region of Indonesia.

Learning with these materials is definitely predicated on the presence of an experienced teacher in the classroom. Many of the activities recommended specify a teacher who can supply the model for student imitation. Although audio recordings of all the Indonesian texts have been produced and are available for free on line, there is no expectation, nor indeed is any possibility provided, for students to complete successfully the lessons’ objectives on their own, relying only on the sound recordings.

The books are attractive, replete with illustrations and photographs that support learning the materials, and with a page composition that focuses the user’s attention on the lessons’ goals. It is a pity, though, that these series do not lend themselves to self-instruction or to being adapted for computer-assisted techniques such as have been developed for learning other...


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