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Problems for English Learners in Indonesia

Problems for English Learners in Indonesia | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Indonesia is a developing country where the majority of its population uses their respective regional language. Indonesians only speak one language to unite the nation, that is Bahasa. In this country, learning English isn’t an obligation, nor a requirement. In some less developed remote areas, English isn’t needed at all. However, the demands from the education system and the government are making it more common for learners to understand and communicate in English. Also, the fact that English is a global language and a status symbol for many Indonesians, makes learning English increasingly more attractive.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Cinca P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.


In private schools, where the learners have a higher income and for those who want exclusive lessons, English is taught from kindergarten. But in public schools learning English begins in Junior High School. From here, the ability to speak English is mandatory. The reason is that in Junior High School, English is included as one of the subjects tested during the National Examination. This makes young learners do some English courses outside the school hours.

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English at University

At the university level, the need to use English is even higher and more important for courses. Course reference books and research journals by other advanced universities are mostly printed in English. For mature adults, there are several reasons such as continuing education at a higher level and the opportunity to get a better job. For them, mastering English is a must and owning a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 550 becomes an obligation.

A Lack of Time and Confidence

Unfortunately, problems that arise in learning English are also various; these include internal and external problems. One internal factor, for instance, is a lack of time in learning English. This obstacle is often the biggest reason for some people. It mostly affects those who are still in school and those who have a full-time job. Their time is spent from morning until evening at school. Even so, English lessons that are applied for at school often use traditional learning methods. However, these traditional methods do not provide an opportunity for learners to hone their understanding. Moreover, those old methods sometimes do not provide personal feedback.

The next internal factor is low self-confidence. This factor is caused by the monotonous practice of traditional learning. Traditional learning is seen by learners as a one-way communication pattern. This means that traditional learning lacks a lot of improvisation and response from the learners. It makes the learners in schools have low self-confidence, especially in terms of speaking. This has become a big issue for the people of Indonesia when practicing English. Some learners understand English well but lack confidence. This lack of confidence closes the opportunity for learners to develop their English skills further.

students from Indonesia

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Social Attitude

Aside from internal factors, there are also external factors that create issues for English learners in Indonesia. The most common external factor, particularly for beginners, is a social shame and mockery from peers. This teasing and scorn can lead to insecurity from the English learner. It makes the student more reluctant to continue practicing English daily when they have a social group that belittles them. This is also relevant for learners who are forced to move up levels when their ability is not high enough. Learners with a low English level can be bullied or viewed as weak by others in the class.

English Vocabulary

The change and size of English vocabulary is another big challenge in learning English. English is one of the languages that have the most vocabulary. Meanwhile, vocabulary increases every day due to the influence of other languages such as the emergence of new terms and slang. This can be a problem for learners writing papers or completing standardized tests. The use of slang should be kept to a minimum to reduce confusion and simplify the language for learners.


Another external factor is grammar. Grammar is often the first most common challenge many learners face. English grammar is different from Bahasa. The structure of Indonesian grammar never changes verbs. In Bahasa, when learners write a sentence with a different tense (past, present, future), the learner changes the adverb, instead of the verb. This difference, adds to the list of the external problem in learning English for Indonesian learners.

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The last external factor is pronunciation. English has been used in many countries as their primary language of instruction, there are differences in terms of pronunciation and also the accent that is used. For example, the difference between British English and American English. Broadly speaking, it is not very important which type of English to use, because the most important thing is to convey the message between the speaker and the interlocutor. However, the preference for a variety of languages sometimes becomes a trend among teenagers who are learning English. For example, some teenagers like American English because it seems practical and light.

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