Sentot Just Wants to Speak English!

Wordle 21st Century Flux



Sentot had been studying English at university for three years, but he hadn’t been able to speak the language fluently yet. Every time he wanted to utter a full grammatical sentence, he went speechless for no reason. Often he was engulfed in deep frustration, but he knew that he had to do something.

When inspiration was all that Sentot needed, a diverting statement from Pak Darmawan gave him the answer. In a lecture he told his students, “What are you doing here? There are no English native speakers in this place. Go to Jalan Jaksa in Central Jakarta. Thousands of foreigners who want to explore Indonesia have a transit there. So if you want to practice your English, go there.”

This sounded like an excellent idea, but the chubby round eyes Sentot was an introvert. He had to practice a monologue in front of a mirror for three days before he could finally build up his confidence.

The fourth day came when he had the courage to drive his motorcycle to the densely populated Jalan Jaksa area. There he displayed his amicable smile, greeting any foreigners he came across.

“What the hell are you doing, mate?” an Australian responded when Sentot asked him whether he could converse with him for a minute or two.

Sentot didn’t expect his friendly manner would be replied with such a bark, but he was determined. He had another go and asked people more politely.

Sometimes the response was harsh like when a drunk American shouted, “Get out of my way, you idiot!” But sometimes it wasn’t very rude like the following Canadian girl, “No, sorry.”

After having thirty four people refusing him, Sentot was pleased that there were two friendly Norway girls, a lovely South African man, and a devilishly attractive British girl who were kind enough to spare their time with him. Having a good time and making a brief friendship with the tourists, Sentot went home a happy man.

The following week he returned to Jalan Jaksa. He repeated it three more times until he became fully confident with his conversational skill. A year later he graduated with Cum Laude and was employed by the university where he graduated from. It took him two years until he finally won a scholarship to Australia and studied a master’s in Applied Linguistics at the University of Sydney.

Sentot’s fiery passion and hard-work came to fruition a year later when he was appointed English Instructor at the ELICOS program in the university.

When he was listening to Steve Jobs’ famous speech that was delivered at Stanford University, Sentot finally understood what it means to connect the dots.

Initially he just wanted to speak English fluently. But now the typical brown-skinned Madurese was happy that he went further, because teaching English to international students from around the world had been so much fun!




64 thoughts on “Sentot Just Wants to Speak English!

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: If You Are Fire, Then Your Beloved Must Be Water. | Spiritual World Traveler

  2. Pingback: The Insightful Indonesian Author and Poet, Subhan Zein « Poetic Inspirations

  3. Pingback: Introducing Subhan Zein – a fiction writer |

  4. He had the right way of going about it. It is incredibly hard to get up the courage to speak to natives in a foreign language, but it really pays off. I wish it were possible to fully learn a foreign language by sitting at home with books, but it’s not. Great story.

    • Hi David,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Yes, that’s right. It is not easy to learn a foreign language. But in the end, if we persevere we will triumph. 🙂

      Many blessings to you,

      Subhan Zein

  5. I really like this post. I have a folder on my computer where I keep my ‘best posts so far’. This one is going into that folder. This story is so inspiring and applicable at the same time. I also like the international twist you added to it: for example, making friends with foreigners in Jalan Jaksa and the lesson of ‘connecting the dots’ from Steve Jobs. Sentot turned what seemed like a small dream into a big accomplishment. I absolutely enjoyed this story.

    • Hello Tebogo,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I am absolutely thrilled with your placing the story in the folder. May happiness reside in the realm of your heart and your days are filled with love. 🙂


      Subhan Zein

  6. Pingback: Learning English: Ibu Astini and the French Couple « a madeandi's life

  7. I certainly can relate to your inspiring story Subhan. This reminds me of my own experience talking to a lovely French couple visiting Bali back in 1992. I was ‘only’ 14 at that time and it was a history for me. Anything for the first time is historical, I believe. I am really thankful to the two great people who were willing to talk to a small kid with broken English. I believe a lot of people will be inspired by what Sentot has done in his journey. Like this writing!

    • Thank you, Mas Andi. I am humbly thankful. I did try to disguise the personality of Sentot, but apparently it wasn’t good enough that most of the readers still found it autobiographical.

      Anyway, thanks for your lovely gesture. Lovely day to you, brother! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  8. Subhan you took the power you had within, and carved yourself a place in the world! For most its having the fire in the gut to keep trying with the intense fire within to succeed and accept nothing else…but you did it with your best trait which you shared along the way and still you do it now! You embrace and teach everyone out of your love and your own life experience! This will always bring back much to you for by planting the seeds in many, the harvest becomes much more richer, It was not enough for only you to succeed but you still strive to help others with every word from your heart. A great effort and continuing episode in life, You have become much more than a teacher, you have become a shaper of women and man! You shower many with the road map of your life so that they may attain a better perspective on how to do the same, without many of the typical roadblocks.. A very inspiring write! Thanks my brother, for the light you have touches everyone and leaves a pleasant smile in their hearts!

    • Wow, Wendell, first of all, I didn’t know what to say and how to respond to this. I honestly don’t know either whether I deserve your praise. But I am humbly thankful with your lovely comment. I really appreciate your encouragement and kind words. I am no one but the road wayfarer and I am just trying to do the best I could. Please wish me luck on continuing the journey I have begun. 🙂

      Thank you again, Wendell. I hope we could continue enjoying each other’s blog and will be happy to encourage each other. I wish you the very best of luck on your journey, my friend. And lovely day to you! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  9. I can relate to being the outsider here, and the almost childlike innocence that accompanies such zest. Sometimes it isn’t as much a language barrier, but a cultural one. I was ten years old when I came to America, and though I already spoke English, the native tongue sounded so remarkably different from mine. My -er’s were too enunciated, and my short a’s were not quite exaggerated enough. It was a very polarizing experience. Your story is a reminder to keep our eyes on the prize, and to know that there’s a blessing waiting at the end of all of that. Great full-circle story!

    • Thank you very much for your visit and lovely comment, SomerEmpress. I really appreciate it. 🙂 Yes, definitely it is an issue for many of us. The story brings me more insights on the approaches I take with my students.

      Lovely day to you may friend! 🙂 May the sun keeps shining in the realm of your heart and the sun will remain blue in the part of your horizon.. 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  10. Nice and inspirational stroy:-). After reading the eighth paragraph, I knew it is you mas Subhan…;-)

    • ah hahaha,, how did you know the story is autobiographical?

      “Subhan” and “Sentot” are two completely different names. And I am both Bimanese and Javanese, while Sentot is Madurese. LOL 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  11. I have struggled to learn spanish for many years, so i understand your frustration. Though I cannot travel somewhere for spanish “immersion” I continue to study. congradulations on accomplishing your goal. Seems there a lot of indonesian speakers on WordPress. They read my blog and I cant read theirs.A few sites have “translater” button. I beleive children should be exposed to at least on foreign language when they are young and their minds opened to learning languages!

    • I notice that I am not the only reader who saw your article as an autobiography. For me, it was the sentiment with which you wrote that “gave you away”. I write a lot of articles and poetry about loosing my son and my health because of his loss. I write it as a form of “release”, a way to make myself keep living when I often wake up and wonder if it is worth it. If you have read my blogs, you will see this passion. I used to write on Associated Content, which became Yahoo!Voices last December. Even though they pay a small amount, I didn’t like their new format and rules and now, I write most of my articles on WordPress. The world wide audience is wonderful. I have learned so much about people’s lives, experiences and beliefs all over the world through this adventure. I was a “public history major in college. I never got to masters or doctorates-I had a large family and spent my time with them or taking care of elderly family members, sometimes doing substitute teaching and volunteer work in schools. I loved working with children who had difficulties in life. I volunteered a great deal before I lost my son and my health. I got “Silver Presidential Awards” two years in a row for the hours i spend volunteering. I wish you great inspiration as you work on your doctorate. I hope you are following my blog, and may even take the time to look at my work on Yahoo!Voices. I would love your opinion on what I write, if you have time. I will continue to enjoy your work. You are an inspiration.

    • Hi Bebeesworld,

      Wow, you must have done amazing work with your volunteering! Amazing! 🙂 I am both impressed and inspired. Maybe you could write some more of your voluntary experiences? That must be great!

      I am both deeply honored and enthralled by you following my blog. I hope my works don’t disappoint you and that you will continue enjoying my blog. And please do not hesitate to provide me with some insightful feedback on how to improve.

      I recall that I had followed your blog before you asked me to do so. And I found your works are interesting and would be happy to continue enjoying your blog.

      Thank you for your lovely comment and have a lovely day! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

      • Subhain,I am reading more and more of your blog-your comments mean a lot to me-no critique necessary-you are enjoying a lot of experiences and I enjoy hearing of them. My volunteer work was just a labor of love-I worked with kids who had trouble at school or very little support at home. I assisted in classes of handicapped kids or kids with emotional and behavioral problems-and in regular classes as well. Recently, i have been keeping two little grandsons while my son took a night class-they call it Beebee school. Beebee is my “grandma” name. I don’ think of myself as that old, but I am-an old hippie, I tell people-a real one from back in the day!

      • Oh, great story you have there! You’re an inspiration.

        Thank you for sharing the wonders of your life. I’ve been thinking of doing some voluntary work, and someday I definitely will! 🙂

        Thank you again and lovely day to you! 🙂

        Subhan Zein

      • I think you are an inspiration, you have goals and dreams and you are fulfilling them. You are already doing a lot for others. I can’t imagine the adventures you have had-and are having. Best of luck in all you do.

  12. Oh Subhan… This is the story of every new immigrant, wanting to leap and stride . Well done my friend, way to go! I appreciate your steadfastness and patience in learning a foreign language!!

    • Hehehe, yes, I definitely patience when learning Arabic and Spanish. My Arabic is now improving a lot, but I am still working hard on my Spanish.

      Thank you for your visit and lovely comment. Lovely day to you! 🙂

      Subahn Zein

  13. Inspiring story! Jobs speech sits saved on my computer, so very insightful he was. Great post!

    • Thank you very much. I know, Steve Jobs is an amazing man. He changed a lot from when he was in his 30s and left Apple. Lovely day to you! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

    • Thank you, my lovely friend, Artzent.. I am humbly thankful. May the sunshine keeps shining brightly in the realm of your heart and the sky will remain blue in the part of your horizon.

      And lovely day to you! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  14. “After having thirty four people refusing him, Sentot was pleased that there were two friendly Norway girls, a lovely South African man, and a devilishly attractive British girl who were kind enough to spare their time with him.” … haha the Law of Averages works everywhere, not just in marketing. 🙂

    Wonderful Story, Subhan! I think any person who went through difficult times to learn English will certainly identify himself or herself with your story, including yours truly. 😀


    • hahaha, Elyas, to be honest…. actually this is my story. A real story.. I made it a fictionalized account by changing the name and the place where I work.. I could still remember that bloody Australian and drunken American who shouted at me, haha,,, but please don’t tell anyone, especially my employer.. LOL.. 😉

      Subhan Zein

      • lol I actually had a feeling that it was autobiographical, given the background info I had on you. It’s from difficult experiences that we eventually learn about patience and determination. And your story is really inspiring. 🙂 As the good book says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” And I think your experience is a great example as far as this quote is concerned. 😀

        PS: What happens on wordpress stays on wordpress. lol So no worries. 😀

  15. Sentot had the same problem I have. I need to learn more english grammar to speech it more fluently, not also connect a successions of words with a meaning.

    Beautifull history 🙂

    • Don’t worry, Aitor. You’ll get it I’m sure. In which city are you in Spain now?

      If you’re in Madrid then it’s good, because I heard there are more English speakers in Madrid than there are in other cities in Spain. Lovely day to you, Aitor! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

      • I’m from Barcelona, wich there’s a lot of tourists too, but almost every tourist speaks german or some other languages I didn’t know, but I think I will apply the “Sentot method to learn English” with any britty british (or Autralian, or North American, or…) girls I’ll find 😛

        Have a nice day!

  16. Love the spirit! I remember doing similar things in Lovina beach, Bali earlier.
    Had many mistakes, too 🙂

  17. I can appreciate the spirit in which people seek to learn another language by conversing with a mother tongue speaker. I encountered this in Korea when I went there to do some summer school teaching assignments. The professor who interpreted for me would arrange for groups to accompany me as we walked around sightseeing after class and they would practice their halting English on me. I admired their thirst for knowledge.

    • I know, Ian. It’s not an easy task, really. As your nice experience shows, there are thousands of them who sacrifice a lot to learn the language successfully. Lovely day to you! 🙂

      Subhan Zein

  18. I love Sentot’s positive attitude and his determination. Congratulations. Great story, Subhan.

Thank you

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s