Learning English from tourists

Learning English from tourists


Learning a new language is hard, but Indonesian students are using a clever method for improving their English communication skills.

Fatahillah Square in Jakarta is bustling with people taking in the picturesque architecture and museums, but we tourists, referred to as ‘bule’, are also an attraction.

In groups of three or four, Indonesian students target tourists in the square to practice conversational English with. They approached me confidently, asked if they could interview me, and then looked at me expectantly. When I gave an affirmative answer, they smiled and someone would get their phone out to film the interaction. With eyes not straying from carefully written prompts, they asked me questions like, “what is your name?” and, “what do you think of Jakarta?”


Students from SMK Negeri Jakarta reading over their list of questions.

Students from SMK Negeri Jakarta reading over their list of questions.


Hendy Sigitprabowo is our tour guide in Jakarta and is very familiar with this practice.

“Usually they have homework or duties from their school to do that; they want to talk to foreigners,” says Hendy. “They hope they will learn where they are making mistakes.”

Listening to the pronunciations and sentence structures of classmates and teachers with the same native language is not sufficient. Rather, talking to native English speakers allows students to learn colloquial phrases, idioms and rhythm.

They are learning to communicate rather than merely read and write English to pass exams. Apps like WeSpeke use this method of learning by connecting users with native speakers across the world.

In Australia, as children we are often taught to fear strangers and constantly watch out for ‘stranger danger’. This fear has carried over into adulthood and has limited Australians in having similar interactions.

The students seem to not approach these situations fearfully. Instead, they are comfortable, forward and confident.

These Indonesian students have truly grasped the concept that in learning English, knowledge without practice is useless.


Indonesian students interviewing tourists in Fatahillah Square

Indonesian students interviewing tourists in Fatahillah Square.


Elora Ghea

Elora Ghea is a fourth year Science and Journalism student and a Microbiology major at the University of Queensland. She has a passion for vivid storytelling and, thanks to the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan Scholarship, hopes to paint Indonesian culture in a colourful light.