0341 – 551932, 551822 Jl. Mayjend Haryono 193 Malang
EnglishBahasa Indonesia
0341 – 551932, 551822 Jl. Mayjend Haryono 193 Malang
EnglishBahasa Indonesia




Henny Rahmawati

Islamic University of Malang



Acquiring English, basically, can be very tough especially for adult learners for they have already passed their golden age. In this extent, Indonesian EFL learners of university level are deemed in the boundary of learning not acquiring. In learning English, structures the so-called Grammar must be taken into account since it is a pivotal aspect to learn English. Indonesian EFL learners tend to make use of Bahasa Indonesia in learning English Grammar. Making use of Bahasa Indonesia might help them a lot in learning English Grammar. The researcher, then, was eager to figure out in what way the students were assisted by Bahasa Indonesia in learning English Grammar.

Keywords: Bahasa Indonesia, Grammar, Indonesian EFL learners, facilitate


            In this session, the researcher tried to reveal the background of the study as well as the theoretical framework underpinning this certain investigation. Based on the researcher’s experience, she found that the students even in university level tend to use Bahasa Indonesia in their English class. This issue then stimulates the researcher to find out in what way Bahasa Indonesia helps them in learning English. This introduction highlights some aspects like learning English, the use of Bahasa Indonesia in learning English, and Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Learning English

In improving knowledge of English, the way young learners do to accomplish such goal is different from that of the adult learners; the former is considered as acquiring language while the latter is learning language. Acquiring language is like the children do when they are exposed to their mother tongue; it is lack of consciousness. Learning language is more on conscious process like the adult learners do since they have already passed their critical period. The critical period is the best period to develop language competence. When learners have passed their critical period, learning Grammar turns to be more influential.

Ur (1988) elaborates that Grammar can approximately be defined as the process of combining words into longer unit of meaning. In this extent, Grammar provides the learners with the instruction of how sentences can be formed in meaningful and accurate way. Every language, of course, has its own grammar; it might be similar in some aspect and different in some others. Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH) predicts that the former may facilitate learning while the latter may hinder learning (Lighthown & Spada, 2001).

Learning English Grammar, however, can be very troublesome for Indonesian EFL learners because English is regarded as a foreign language. English is not generally used in everyday communication. Besides, English has no clear connection with their immediate societies other than academic and professional purposes (Punchihetti, 2013).

The Use of Bahasa Indonesia in Learning English

Indonesian EFL learners mostly use Bahasa Indonesia as a means of communication. They have already been exposed to Bahasa Indonesia before learning English. In learning English, as the researcher’s experience, almost all students still use Bahasa Indonesia in English class. Even sometimes when the material taught in English, they are still confused and asked the teacher to repeat explanation in Bahasa Indonesia. Cole (1998) and Gun (2003) in (Murray, 2005) states that the beginners has been benefited by the use of L1 in learning English. It was found that the use of L1 can help them in understanding the material taught, in building the concept and idea to be discussed and in learning specific language features.

In relation to this issue, as CAH’s prediction in the preceding statement it can be inferred that the language learned in advance, in this case Bahasa Indonesia, may either facilitate or interfere the process of learning English. In this study, however, the researcher does not focus on the interference instead she focuses on the benefits of Bahasa Indonesia in learning English. Therefore, this study is aimed to answer the research problem that is in waht way Bahasa Indonesia can facilitate Indonesian EFL learner in learning English.

This study is considered worthy for me specifically and for the English teacher as general to know how they are assisted by Bahasa Indonesia in learning English. Hence, as English teacher we can find one more strategy in explaining the sophisticated thing clearly based on their background knowledge. Besides, this study also clarifies the benefits of Bahasa Indonesia for Indonesian EFL learners in learning English.

The previous study also talks about the same issue. The gap between those studies with the previously mentioned is that this study focused on in what way the EFL learners can be assisted by Bahasa Indonesia in their English learning activities.

Bahasa Indonesia and English

Both Bahasa Indonesia and English use the same alphabet with no accent mark. The total of the alphabet is also the same that is 26 letters divided similarly between vowels and consonants. Those two languages also have phonetic transcription though they have differences in some cases.

Bahasa Indonesia and English have the same way in arranging sentences. They have subject, verb (predicate), and object/complement. They also have similar way in classifying words into noun, verb, adverb, adjective, pronoun, etc. Furthermore, they have the same way to form word by attaching prefixes and suffixes to root words.

In terms of the structure, both languages have transitive-intransitive and passive-active voices. They also have nearly the same punctuation mark such as commas, periods, parenthesis, question marks, hyphen, etc. In addition, capitalization is also nearly the same.

Besides the similarities stated in the above explanation, there are some differences between Bahasa Indonesia and English. The differences mainly lay on the tenses; English has tenses but not Bahasa Indonesia. Then, English has gender, plural suffix, and contraction which do not exist in Bahasa Indonesia. Pronunciation between those two languages differs in some cases. English has head and modifiers which the focus comes later like ‘beautiful girl’ while in Bahasa Indonesia the focus comes first like ‘gadis cantik.’ In English, there are articles like a, an, or the which are not there in Bahasa Indonesia.


The research method used in this study is a qualitative research design. Qualitative research method is all about what, how, when, and where the things happen (Berg, 2001). In this study, the data gathered was then analyzed qualitatively to answer the research problem stated previously.

The data was gathered from the questionnaire given to the university students via electronic mail and facebook. Besides, they are also asked to answer some questions in relation to the issue revealed. The participants were 20 students of UNISMA.

The questionnaire was focused on the students’ perception on the use of Bahasa Indonesia in learning English. It includes how Bahasa Indonesia affects them in English learning and how Bahasa Indonesia can assist them to face their problem in learning English. After all the data gathered, it was then analyzed qualitatively.


Based on the data got from questionnaire given to 20 students in the second semester of university level, the researcher got that 90% of the students agree that the understanding of Bahasa Indonesia help them to learn English. While there is only 10% who did not really agree with such statement.

Based on those data, the researcher tried to prove their statement in order to find in what way Bahasa Indonesia can help them in learning English. In this case, the researcher tried to have a field study concerning the above issue. Based on the experience in the teaching and learning process, the students tend to use Bahasa Indonesia in explaining the idea to their friend in the small group discussion. Sometimes, they also asked the teacher to explain in Bahasa Indonesia when they got difficulty in understanding the materials. In Grammar class, they often asked the teacher like what we call that structure in Bahasa Indonesia. From this phenomenon, the researcher are eager to find out in what way they are assisted by Bahasa Indonesia when learning English.

Then, the researcher tried to investigate in what way Bahasa Indonesia can help them in learning English by asking them which materials they feel easier than others. Based on the data gathered from 14 freshmen of English Department UNISMA, the researcher got that 64% of the students considered that tenses were the most difficult material. While 21% of them considered that transitive and intransitive were the most difficult material. Seven percent of the students considered that spelling is the most difficult one; the rest considered that part of speech is the most difficult. For the easiest material, 93% of the students chose the capitalization became the winner. While the rest of them considered that the easiest material was head and modifier.

Based on the above-data, it can be concluded that most of the students considered that tenses were the most difficult material. This material does not exists in Bahasa Indonesia, so they have no background knowledge concerning this material. In this case, the lecturer sometimes feel difficult in explaining the material which has no equivalent with their background knowledge. While for transitive and intrasitive, the students felt those difficult because they need to memorize which verbs are transitive and which verbs are intransitive. When they were informed that transitive verb needs object while intransitive does not need object, they directly understood since Bahasa Indonesia also have such structure. Seven percent of them considered that spelling was the most difficult for the only way to know the spelling of English word is only by memorizing; that makes this material difficult. The rest of the students considered that part of speech is the most difficult; again this is because it needs to be memorized. While 93% of the students considered that capitalization was the easiest for they have already known such material before in Bahasa Indonesia; in terms of capitalization, between those two language are almost the same. While the rest said that the material about head and modifier became the easiest. Though its principal is different from Bahasa Indonesia, at least they have this material in Bahasa Indonesia. The difference is in the way they are arranged; in Bahasa Indonesia they have head and modifier (diterangkan, menerangkan) while in English they have modifier and head (menerangkan, diterangkan).


Based on the previous illumination, it can be drawn some conclusion that the use of Bahasa Indonesia is very prominent for Indonesian EFL learners in learning English especially for beginners. Bahasa Indonesia gives them background knowledge in learning language since there are some similarities between Bahasa Indonesia and English. The more the similarities between Bahasa Indonesia and the target language the easier the EFL learners learn the target language.

For the future researchers, they may do the similar study in a broader context and see the effectiveness of using Bahasa Indonesia in learning English Grammar for EFL learners. Besides they may do a study with the same topic which focuses more on whether the intermediate and advanced level are also benefited by the use of Bahasa Indonesia.



Berg, B. L. (2001). Qualitative Research Method for the Social Science: Fourth Edition . USA : A Pearson Education Company .

Lighthown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2001). How Languages are Learned . New York : Oxford University Press.

Murray, D. E. (2005). First Language Support in Adul ESL in Australia. Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research .

Punchihetti, S. (2013). First, Second, and Foreign Language Learning: How Distinctive are They from One Another? The European Conference on Language Learning 2013. Srilanka: The International Academic Forum .

TruAlfa. (n.d.). indodic.com/SimilaritiesDiffs.htm. Retrieved August Wednesday, 2015, from indodic.com.


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