Student stories

How can Indonesian take you to Melbourne?

Three minutes
Teach For Australia Monday, July 11th, 2016

Teach For Australia Associate Simon Jones (Cohort 2016) studied Indonesian at school and university thanks to the close bond that he forged with his Indonesian language teacher.

Now, he’s sharing his passion and helping students at Portland Secondary College (Portland SC) enjoy the same connection to the language.

Simon has been working with the Head of Indonesian at Portland SC to help 11 of his students participate in a state-wide Indonesian language competition, giving them the chance to take their oral Indonesian skills beyond the classroom.


Simon and his students at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre, The University of Melbourne

Of the 11 students who attended the South West Regional competition in Warrnambool in May, six were invited to compete in the state finals in Melbourne last month.

Simon, along with a parent, travelled with the group to Melbourne for the finals.

As the trip was a five hour drive, the group decided to make a weekend of it. Simon took his students on a tour of his alma mater, The University of Melbourne. They also went to the Queen Victoria Market and an Indonesian restaurant before the competition.

“One of the biggest challenges in teaching or studying a foreign language in a regional location is overcoming the disconnection between the language and culture that you’re studying and its presence or relevance in students’ day-to-day lives,” Simon said.

“Having a chance to connect the students with a broader community of Indonesian learners as well as to eat at an Indonesian restaurant and walk around the Sidney Myer Asia Centre was a great opportunity to bring the culture a bit closer to home.”

The students were blown away by the university experience.

Holly, one of Simon’s Year 8 students, works in the school library and couldn’t believe how many different libraries there were on campus in Melbourne.

“Some even had eight storeys!” she said.

“I enjoyed everything about Melbourne. The competition was great, the university was massive and the hostel where we stayed had really comfortable beds.”


Simon and his students enjoy an Indonesian meal

Several of the students walked away from the competition looking to apply to The University of Melbourne in the future.

“I loved the university,” said Year 8 student Dana.

“I hope to be the first one in my family to go to university. I want to be a marine biologist,” she said.

Portland Secondary College saw success in the state finals, with Year 7 student Erynn coming third in her category. She has been invited to a presentation ceremony at The University of Melbourne later this month and received a special mention from the principal in her end of semester presentation.

Erynn’s success and the group’s trip to Melbourne have created a bit of a buzz in the school, with Simon already anticipating increased interest in Indonesian next year.

“I’m really keen to use the competition as a spring board to build our numbers in the Indonesian program at Year 9 level and beyond,” he said.

“There’s a school trip to Indonesia in the pipeline for 2017 and I’m looking into a cultural immersion camp with other schools in the region.”

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