English with a Strong Javanese Accent

By: Nor Kholis Majid

English Department Student of 2019, Class C

Language is a term that is normally heard by people and through it they express ideas, thoughts, feeling, and so on. Britannica defines Language as a system of conventional spoken, manual (signed), or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves. In human daily life, language has a crucial role for society or people. It helps them to convey their ideas which are sometimes in the form of spoken, written, or sign symbols so that people can easily communicate with each other. Language spoken around the world with different kinds of words, symbols, and accents, and absolutely it reflects the function of the language as the means of communication. Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes a problem when a person speaks a language with a different kind of accent from the source language. This case happened to a person who is number one in Indonesia, Mr. Joko Widodo (Jokowi) the president of Indonesia. This happened when he delivered a speech in English in KTT G20 in Osaka, Japan with a strong Javanese accent. People underestimated him only because of his English accent. This case absolutely raises a question “Does English with a strong Javanese accent really matter?”.

English becomes the language spoken in many countries around the world. Based on the data from statista.com published on March 23, 2021, by M. Szmigiera, English is the most spoken language worldwide with 1,348 million speakers. There is no doubt that a lot of people start to learn this language which come from not only the countries that state English as the mother language but also the countries that state English as the second language. It is well known that British and American are the most popular accent in English. Many people try to imitate these accents to sound like a native speaker. This simple thing often becomes a problem for English learners. This case happens a lot in Indonesia. When English learners speak English with a strange accent or strong Javanese accent (medhok) they will get bullied by people around them. Even the president of Indonesia was underestimated because he spoke English with a Javanese accent during his speech in KTT G20 in Osaka, Japan. This is absolutely inappropriate thing. Somebody can not be valued only from their English accent. It is quite clear that English is spoken worldwide so it is normal when people speak English with their mother accent. Every person has certain social background and culture that will influence their accent. It is not a big deal to sound like Javanese when speaking English because non-native speakers normally will bring their mother language when speaking another or their second language, so there is no need to make a fuss on it. To respond to this, Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs of Indonesia, said on his Facebook page “I speak English with my accent which is Batak. So do we have to be shy with our mother language which is Indonesia? I do not agree with that because I am proud of being Indonesian and I am proud of my Batak accent”.

English accent often becomes terrible problem for English learners. They get bullied from people around them because their accent is strange or because of having strong Javanese accent (medhok). Actually, there is no bad accent in English because an accent must be influenced by their social and cultural background. It depends on where they come from. Each region has their own accent when speaking English so there is no need to be shy to speak English with Javanese accent. It is really bad if a person is valued only from the English accent. The thing that looks simple but it is actually crucial is the function of English, which is to communicate with others. As the part of the language, English absolutely carries the same function as language which is as the means of communication. Talking about the function of the language, Leech state that there are five main functions of it. They are informational, expressive, directive, phatic, and aesthetic function in which one sentence sometimes can carry more than one function. When the function of language is achieved, there is no need to judge people who speak English with regional accent. In president Jokowi’s case above, Luhut commented that if Jokowi’s English is bad, it is impossible that Donald Trump daughter, Ivanka Trump, or other leaders laugh during their conversation. It means that each country has their own characteristic accent so there is no need to underestimate others only from their English accent. People who come from France normally will bring French accent when speaking English, as well as people from Japan.

Thus, accent is important but not crucial. Accent of English will be influenced by the social and cultural condition. It is no doubt that sometimes Javanese speaks English with quite unique accent. It is normal for Javanese to speak English but sound like Javanese. It is going to be the same thing to people from other region, such as India, Malaysia, Thailand and so on when they are speaking English. Their English will sound like their regional accent. It is not a big deal to sound like any kind of accents. The main point is that what is delivered by the speaker can be understood by the receiver and vice versa. It is just like the purpose of a language that is to help people to communicate with others.

Sources:

Five Functions of Language.

https://paper-due-now.com/essay-language-five-functions-language/, accessed on February 19, 2022, at 10.23 a.m.

Luhut Bela Aksen Bahasa Inggris Jokowi yang Medok Jawa.

https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20190702194240-32-408435/luhut-bela-aksen-bahasa-inggris-jokowi-yang-medok-jawa, accessed on February 21, 2022, at 09 : 08 a.m.

Rabi’ah, Sitti. Language As A Tool For Communication and Cultural Reality Discloser. Makasar: Universitas Muslim Indonesia.

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