ANU language class assessment becomes YouTube hit

15 January 2015

A play performed in Javanese by ANU language students for their assessment has surprised the class by attracting more than a quarter of a million views on YouTube.

“I was hoping there would be a lot of interest in the video but I didn’t expect it to go viral,” said course lecturer Adjunct Professor George Quinn from the School of Culture, History and Language, who wrote the play.

The seven Javanese language students who feature in The Disappearance of Sri have been learning the language for two semesters. They were filmed as part of their course assessment in second semester 2014.

“Teaching language through drama enables our students to see how the language is used before their eyes. Even though the Javanese of my students is a long way from perfect, people were impressed,” said Professor Quinn, who wrote the play and performed in the video alongside the students.

The video has reached viewers in Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, United States, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and The Netherlands.

Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours. Although not the national language, Javanese is spoken by 80 million people.

The Disappearance of Sri showcases elements of traditional Javanese culture and the impact of the intrusion of foreign culture.

Professor Quinn said Javanese was starting to feel the effects of global English and more than 1000 YouTube comments posted under the video showed Indonesians wanted to protect their language and culture.

“The play called on Indonesians not to let their culture go just like that and replace it with western culture,” Professor Quinn said.

“Many comments were made by young people who use youth slang, are educated, English orientated and part of the urban middle class.”

Benjamin Djung, a student who featured in the video, was born and raised in Australia. He said being of Chinese Indonesian heritage he felt learning Javanese was an important aspect of discovering his personal identity.

“My mother was born and raised in Java and much of my childhood has been shaped by the Javanese language,” Mr Djung said.

“I have no doubt that I have now become closer to my mother and my other relatives as a result of being able to speak Javanese.”

The video was filmed by Joshua Owen and edited by Rafael Florez from the ANU Digital Learning Program. It can be viewed on YouTube.