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Perception of english: a study of staff and students at universities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

posted on 09.02.2017, 05:06 by Dewi, Anita Sartika
There has been a significant increase in the number of English speakers globally with non-native speakers signify the majority of speakers who rely on diverse varieties of the language. In its history, English has been disseminated through a number of processes ranging from colonialism to globalisation. This has ultimately resulted in the formation of various relationships between English and the target communities. English has also spread to countries where Muslims constitute the majority of the population. As religious teachings are embedded in local or national cultures and thus result in non-homogeneous Islamic communities across the globe, it is an oversimplification to conclude that English consistently stands in opposition to Islam in every Islamic society. This reflects the importance of studies directed towards perceptions of English in Indonesia, the fourth most populated country and the largest Muslim community in the world. This research examines perceptions of English, focusing on staff and students at universities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Five research questions were used as the basis for conducting this study, which lead to the themes of English and its acceptance in Indonesia, English at tertiary level, the roles of English, English in relation to identity, and perception of World Englishes. Employing a mixed-methods approach, the study was carried out at nine public and private universities of different ‘aromas’ – secular, Catholic, and Islamic. There are five different groups of participants for individual interviews and questionnaire surveys. The first four groups are for individual semi-structured interviews, which include one student, one English language lecturer, one non-English lecturer, and one to two leaders at each of the nine universities. Meanwhile, the last group consists of 27-41 students at each university as questionnaire participants. The data is analysed in both qualitative and quantitative manners. Indeed, this research is of significant importance as it makes various contributions. The first contribution is to the discipline of English as an International Language (EIL). Secondly, it contributes to the development of Indonesian tertiary level education. Moreover, it is also beneficial to the countries surrounding Indonesia, including Australia. This is related to the fact that Australia and Indonesia are neighbours in both an intimate and non-intimate manner and also because Australia is one of the main destinations for Indonesians pursuing higher studies following their bachelor degrees in Indonesia. The results reveal that English is viewed as a tool and asset for advancing knowledge, facilitating international communication, gaining global competitiveness, and improving employment opportunities. However, perceived tensions between English and Indonesian constantly occur throughout all themes of the study. Even though Indonesian people’s “repository of cultural identity” (Tan & Rubdy, 2008, p. 5) is located within local languages rather than in Indonesian as the national language, the Indonesian language actually unites them as one people and differentiates them from people of other nations. This suggests a demand for a “contemporary global linguistic ecology” (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1999, p. 20). In such ecology, English would keep developing in a way that avoids negative impacts on the national language. Indeed, such demand for a balance between English and Indonesian is politically desirable.


Principal supervisor

Farzad Sharifian

Additional supervisor 1

Kate Burridge

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Cultures and Linguistics/Dept of English as an International Language


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts