“Well, how is life?” I remember this question was asked by a new person whom I met in the United States. I would reply that question by saying, “I am pretty good, how about you?” The same question with the same expected answer. However, after a year living in the United States, I am getting used to it. This post is a short narrative of my short visit to Madison, Wisconsin.
This time, I went to Madison, Wisconsin on July 19 – 22, 2012 for attending COTSEAL and SEASSI. COTSEAL stands for The Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages. SEASSI stands for Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute. Both of these academic institutions are available in the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin, the United States. I went to University of Wisconsin – Madison because my abstract was accepted by the committee panel of the conference.
When I was in Madison for these four days, I stayed with Prof. Dustin. He is teaching Arabic in the university. What made me surprised after meeting him in person is that he could speak Bahasa Indonesia in such a clear way. I was thrilled. He picked my from the airport and then we went to one of his students’ dorm where he taught Arabic. Surprisingly, I met some American students and one Indonesian student who were practicing Arabic at that time. I felt like I was completely a stranger. Everyone was speaking Arabic. Even though I could read and write Arabic, mainly the one that deals with reading and rewriting Al-Qur’an, but I am not that fluent in speaking Arabic. In that moment, every student asked me, “Khaifa haluk?” And I replied this question by nodding and smiling. After a few short conversation, I could catch the always-being-spoken words, “Na’am”. Then, I said, “Na’am” every time someone asked me. Well, this moment did not last longer since I had to go to Mr. Dustin’s home. What a lovely and kindhearted man he is!
In the following day, of course, as I had planned before arriving in Madison, I presented my teaching experiences dealing with teaching English writing to ESL students in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The presentation went very well. Most of the audience were interested in the topic that I addressed. Compared to other speakers, I might differ in terms of the types of the students we discussed. In my case, I talked about Indonesian students who learn how to use English in writing. For other speakers in the conference, they were talking about American students who learn how to use Indonesian, Thailand, Philipines, and Tagalog language in speaking and writing. An interesting experience that I met was when I had a nice conversation with American students and some international students who could speak Indonesian language. Again, I was so impressed by knowing how well they spoke in Indonesian.
In the same day, I was invited to attend a poetry reading night in the university. Then, I went there. I saw some international students practicing their own language and some American students practicing speaking in languages of Southeast Asian countries. Looking at these experiences broaden my horizon that everyone can learn languages. By learning more languages than our own, let’s say, in my case, I used to speaking and writing in Indonesian, and then I used to speaking and writing in English, adding another language adds something great to it. There was an American student who read a novel written in Indonesian language and he directly translated it into English right after he read it. This was a brilliant movement in terms of linguistic activities across borders. Doesn’t that good that all the students in the world can speak more than two languages? If a country learns other languages only for equipping a nice communication in the world, then, I believe that there would not be any misunderstanding thing can happen. English is still a dominant language being learned overseas. However, learning minor languages allow the process of enriching a well-established person to person connection so that at the end, mutual understanding between countries across different continent can be positively achieved.
One of videos of mine when I read Minangkabau poetry. (I was kind of nervous at that time, but I enjoyed it after I read it. One of the Professors said, “Kamu bagus sekali” to me after I read this. I felt so relief when he said it). SEASSI and COTSEAL Committe, thanks for inviting me. It was such a pleasant moment! 🙂