Yusep–who goes by Dani–is our Indonesian teacher. He also teaches the students at our school.
I wrote those sentences because I think I know how to say them in Indonesian without help: Guru Indonesia saya adalah Yusep, apa Dani. Dia mengajar juga siswa-siswa di sekolah kami (Did you know that Indonesian has two words for “we?” Kami=myself and another person, exclusively. Kita=all of us together.).
Learning to speak Indonesian is making me “habis“–exhausted. Not capai (tired), but habis. “Habis” is the word Indonesian people usually respond with when you ask for something you urgently need at the store. “Habis, miss.” Which means “empty” or “gone” in this case. Why? Because Indonesian inventory is either in constant flux or stagnant when it comes to what Americans consider staples.
I only attend an Indonesian language lesson once a week for an hour. Many students at our international school speak multiple languages. I’m in awe. Hearing them converse without understanding their exact words feels mysterious, but also natural that the pre-teens would literally have their own language. The main swear words go blissfully unnoticed for some time. Imagine, teachers of middle schoolers, listening to a room full of preteens / teens and not having to police their every $%&@!
In addition to speaking Bahasa Indonesian or Mandarin or Hangul (Korean) among themselves, English is the language of instruction at our school. Most are required to also take Mandarin Chinese. “Embracing the Future. Embracing Asia” is motto kami (our tagline). And we do.
I love how Bahasa (the word for “language,” not the stand-in for . . . ) Indonesian, is simple. Short words–like “sudah” are enough. You hear it translated throughout the day–when directing students to finish their work, “Already, Miss.” The phonetics are straight forward. Like Korean. Like Spanish. Unlike English.
Yet. My brain feels blurry–heavy–full. Pak Dani, our teacher, is funny, patient, understanding– everything you wish for in a good guru. Yet, after an hour, I say with relief–however quickly the hour flew, “Terima kasih, guru! Thank you, Teacher! Sumpai jumpa! See you later or see you when I see you.”
Remembering how habis–how cranky it makes me feel to be off-kilter, reliant and helpless for too long–is a good perspective though. My language acquisition is practical–of course–but also optional. I can step away when the exhaustion grates.
Students do not all have that luxury.