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SEAP Teacher Profile: Jolanda Pandin

Jolanda Pandin

What's it like to study a Southeast Asian language at Cornell?

Jolanda Pandin, senior lecturer of Indonesian 

Both undergraduates and graduate students study Indonesian at Cornell for a variety of reasons. Undergraduates often study Indonesian at all levels because of connections with friends, family background, experience traveling in the country, or hearing that Indonesian is an easy Asian language to learn. Graduate students mostly need the language for their degree and future field research and are scattered across all levels.

The introductory course includes a project on Indonesia or Malaysia and often culminates in study abroad in Southeast Asia. Students in this course are expected to be capable of rudimentary daily conversation, behaving appropriately in Indonesian settings with regard to language use and other behavior, and understanding the history and current place of Indonesia in Southeast Asia.

The elementary-level students are expected to be able to express daily needs, discuss everyday topics, and read simple authentic texts. The intermediates are expected to be able to discuss simple real-life issues in complex phrases and sentences, read simple authentic reading materials and guided interviews, and write short and simple compositions. The advanced students are expected to study and discuss published newspaper articles, academic writings, and online news or videos and write and present short academic papers. 

One of the most challenging aspects of learning Indonesian for English-speaking students at the introductory and elementary levels is the pronunciation of particular sounds such as vowels [a, e], unaspirated consonants [p, t, k. g, d], nasal sounds [ng, ny], and intonation. At the intermediate and advanced levels, students confront any carryover issues they have had difficulty mastering at the elementary level as well as foreign language-influenced pronunciation of loan words and passive structures.

Collaborative projects and conferences with other universities have brought significant changes to the structure of the program and the main and supplementary materials used in class. The methodology used has changed from an audio-lingual method to a communicative approach, though the audio-lingual materials published by John Wolff are still used as the main reference for the current materials. Now Indonesian is the medium of instruction for all courses, even the introductory and elementary courses.