05 January 2011

SBY and the English Language...


It has been a while since I have felt like writing a post about SBY, but not being one to pass up an opportunity to "bang on" about what a fraud the man has turned out to be as president, I figure that this story is as good as any to get started on. The president's spokesperson for international affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, has had to defend the president's use of English in a speech to an Indonesian audience at the Stock Exchange building recently.

There are a few legal issues to be considered here in light of Law No. 24 of 2009 (which you can read about here). However, in a more practical sense the real issue is why does the president need to use English at all in the context of a speech on the economy to an Indonesian audience? Admittedly, there will be the odd loan or borrowed term from English that is similar or even the same in Indonesian. Yet, on the whole, most English words, even some of the loan and borrowed ones, have Indonesian equivalents.

But back to the gist of the story, according to Faizasyah, the president felt the need to use English as a means of clarifying some difficult economic concepts. Now, with all due respect, he is making a speech at the stock exchange and on the whole the majority of those employed there are going to have a whole lot more knowledge of all things economy-related than the president. So, exactly what was he trying to clarify? The idea that the speech was intended for a broader audience is not borne out by those in attendance.

The majority of the speech was in Indonesian and some English words were thrown in. So, to suggest that the words were used to remind people of the foreign roots of the concepts is a furphy at best. At worst it suggests that Indonesia is behind the game when it comes to all things economy-related and therefore the English has to be used. If I was Indonesian, I would probably be offended with the suggestion that I was not as smart as those economists in the West.

Perhaps the real reason that the president uses English in these speeches is that he feels that he is intellectually inferior to his audience and he is trying to mask that intellectual inferiority by pretending to be knowledgeable in the use of the English language.

Or maybe he is angling for a job on the world stage. After all, it was not all that long ago that the Indonesian Democrat Party was suggesting that the president was a serious contender for the job of United Nations Secretary General. So, maybe the use of English is an attempt to convince people that he really is an international statesman.

In any event, there does not appear to be a legitimate or even an arguable, reason for the president to use English in the speech he gave at the Indonesian Stock Exchange.

I wonder if in hindsight Indonesians are beginning to wonder whether SBY was the right choice for a second term as President of the Republic of Indonesia?

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