Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bridge blogging and English for Indonesians

Four blogs that I regularly read shared their views about bridge blogging last week, a topic started by Unspun's "More Indonesians needed for bridge blogging".

Then Miund expanded on her "On Bridge-Blogging". About how (some) Indonesians perceive English blogs as ‘hard to read’ or ‘pretentious’.

And that perception is really a problem.

I once was asked by an Indonesian colleague: "Is it our ability to speak in English that limit our opportunities to pursue career overseas?"

He was referring to the small number of Indonesians currently holding a regional position - relative to that from other neighboring countries.

"No," I said. "It's more on our networking abilities."

I partially lied.

I believe it is, directly or indirectly, the ability to speak in English. Networking will bring in the opportunities, while the English part will help land the job. Both help go up the corporate ladder.

Directly, through communication skills. Ability to clearly communicate ideas, provide directions, and so on. Broken English will do to a certain level. At the end, the higher the position, the more frequent upward presentations one needs to do. And that's where things get a bit tricky.

Indirectly, through self-confidence. I tend to think that people perform better, verbal-communication-wise, when they're talking to non-native English speakers, or people whose English they perceived to be at most on par with theirs. It's a bit difficult when the counterpart speaks more fluently, or is a native English speaker. I don't know - it works somewhat that way with me.

Drawing from the same logic, if I don't speak as well as I do now, there would be relatively more people with better English, and the more often do I have not-as-great self-confidence while speaking. This is perhaps what's happening to some fellow Indonesians.

This perception can put self-roadblocks to learning and practicing English (or other languages for that matter). And it's kind of a downward spiral if other people keep improving their English while we don't even want to start.

Part of the roadblock could be the fear of something new, or of making mistakes.

But hell, who cares? We can always improve if we really want to. We are always in a learning process anyway.

Wouldn't it be nice if majority of Indonesians can understand some basic, essential English words? Perhaps at least numbers and some basic trading words to allow them to do transactions with English-speaking tourists?

Or the ability to put compelling business arguments and analysis? Or at the least, to give a better first impression. Because the chances are that we do have strong technical skills and work ethics.

All it takes to start is the shift of that perception or mindset, lots of practice, and the willingness to take feedback openly and positively. (and a supportive environment too.)

As for bridge-blogging? It's a medium. A place to make mistakes and to improve.