Language acquisition is one of the most difficult yet challenging topics to be explored nowadays. The researcher is interested to observe how language acquisition happens in the real classroom of Papua students who are struggling to learn their “mother tongue” which is Indonesian language. The students use their local dialect as a means of communication whereas they use Indonesian in the more formal setting such as classroom activities. The researcher is interested to observe what is going on in the classroom while they are learning other subjects using Indonesian as a medium of instruction. It is proven that most of the students do not use proper language during their classroom activities. This leads to another investigation conducted in this small research.

  • Background of the Study

This is a study of an Indonesian language acquisition process of Papua students who went to Matriculation Class of the 2012 batch.  Papua is an ethnic group that inhabits the area of Papua, long time ago known as Irian Jaya. As we know before, the ethnicity of Papua is comprised of so many tribes which have their own characteristics in cultures, languages, values, and traditions that are different and various one from another. This diversity makes people in Papua coming from different tribes have difficulties in assimilating to their new ventures which are new and strange that produce culture shocks to them. This report intends to present the brief findings of a qualitative research on the ability of Papua students to acquire Indonesian language which is a new language to them. The method used in this research was observation within two weeks by looking at the phenomenon that happened in the classroom discussion in terms of the use of Indonesian language.

  • Purpose of the Study

 The reason of why this research was conducted was due to the fact that the majority of Papua students who go studying Matriculation Program at STKIP never use Indonesian as their mother tongue as they normally speak their own languages which are diverse from one another. This phenomenon leads to an interesting question whether they are able to use Bahasa Indonesia as fluent as their local dialect.

  • Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study is divided into 5 sections. They are classroom settings, the use of Indonesian language during the teaching and learning process, the communicative competence of the Papua students inside the classroom, the students’ understanding of abstract and concrete concept about the materials presented inside the classroom, and last but not least student’s motivation in the classroom.


2.1       Classroom Setting

Arranging the physical environment of the classroom is one way to improve the learning environment and to prevent problem behaviors before they occur. Research on the classroom environment has shown that physical arrangement can affect behavior of both students and teachers (Savage, 1999; Stewart and Evans, 1997; Weinstein, 1992), and that a well-structured classroom tends to improve student academic and behavioral outcomes (MacAulay, 1990; Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey, 1995; Walker and Walker, 1991). In addition, the classroom environment acts as a symbol to students and others regarding what teachers value in behavior and learning (Savage, 1999; Weinstein, 1992). If a classroom is not properly organized to support the type of schedule and activities a teacher has planned, it can impede the functioning of the day as well as limit what and how students learn. However, a well-arranged classroom environment is one way to more effectively manage instruction because it triggers fewer behavior problems and establishes a climate conducive to learning.

The spatial structure of the classroom refers to how students are seated, where the students and teacher are in relation to one another, how classroom members move around the room, and the overall sense of atmosphere and order. The research on classroom environments suggests that classrooms should be organized to accommodate a variety of activities throughout the day and to meet the teacher’s instructional goals (Savage, 1999; Weinstein, 1992). In addition, the classroom should be set up to set the stage for the teacher to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of students (MacAulay, 1990). The standards for determining what spatial lay-out is most appropriate to fulfill these functions include: wyas to maximize the teacher’s ability to see and be seen by all his or her students; facilitate ease of movement throughout the classroom; minimize distractions so that students are best able to actively engage in academics; provide each student and the teacher with his or her own personal space, and ensuring that each student can see presentations and materials posted in the classroom.

Most researchers agree that well-arranged classroom settings reflect the following attribute:

  • Clearly defined spaces within the classroom that are used for different purposes and that ensure students know how to behave in each of these areas.
  • Seating students in rows facilitates on task behavior and academic learning; whereas more open arrangements, such as clusters, facilitate social exchanges among students
  • It is useful to strategically arrange the classroom to limit student contact in high traffic areas, such as the space surrounding the pencil sharpener and wastebasket, and instructional areas; and, to seat easily distracted students farther away from high traffic areas
  • All students should have a clear view of the teacher and vice versa, at all times. In addition, the traffic pattern in the classroom allows the teacher to be in close physical proximity to high maintenance students.
  • There is some evidence that it is useful to limit visual and auditory stimulation that may distract students with attention and behavior problems.
  • There is good reason to strategically place students with special needs or behavior problems in close proximity to the teacher’s desk. Shores and his colleagues recommend that this be done not only to monitor student problem behaviors, but also facilitate teacher delivery of positive statements when compliant or otherwise appropriate behaviors are exhibited
  • Finally it is advantageous to keep the classroom orderly and well-organized


The physical arrangement of the classroom can serve as a powerful setting event for providing students effective instruction and facilitate (or inhibit) positive teaching/learning interactions. As with other aspects of instruction, the physical arrangement of the classroom should be reflective of the diverse cultural and linguistic characteristics of the students and be consistent with specific learner needs.

During my classroom observation, which is comprised of A, B, and C students of Matriculation Class, I found the classroom was well-organized. What I found as a big problem was the fact that students did not want to keep maintaining the classroom tidy and clean. There are some “pictures” of students’ of foot prints in the wall inside the classroom. This happens when no teacher is inside the room. It is the responsibility of the teacher to tell the students not to do such thing inside the classroom. Teachers should let the students know many times over that a clean classroom will affect so much to the process of teaching and learning. If the classroom is not tidy and clean, the process of learning is not as smooth as expected before. If the process is not that smooth, the academic results will also be affected.

Students A of Matriculation class can be categorized as students who are polite and know exactly how to maintain the classroom tidy and clean and deserves an award to be a champion of valuable students. Meanwhile, students B and C of Matriculation class are classified to be average students of good behavior and manner, particularly in being healthy and clean.

2.2       The Use of Indonesian Language as Medium of Instruction


Language is the development of the basic communication between human beings, and in a society. And just it is the basic form, it is also the most developed. We cannot communicate in any real sense without language, other than through gestures; we do communicate through some non-verbal forms like visual arts – painting and sculpture – through dance, but the culmination of true, articulate, communication is through language. It could take a number of forms, of course. It could be unvarnished, workaday prose, it could be poetry, it could be drama; but all of these are forms of language, written, spoken, listened, and read.

Like practices of other languages, the use of Indonesian language has to go through with the process of acquisition. What I found during my observation was the fact that the students’ inability to grasp the materials presented by the teacher was not because the material itself that includes abstract and concrete concepts but rather was because the use of Indonesian language employed in most of the textbooks. The concept they are familiar in their own languages is different from what they are learning at present at STKIP Surya. One of them is for instance the concept of Integral in math subject. They do not quite understand this concept because numbers and formula that is comprised of reduction, multiplication, division, and addition has been rarely exposed to the students, particularly those students ever lived in the remote areas of Papua.

The same thing applied to the chemistry subject. Most of the students had difficulties understanding the list of periodical element, consisting of symbols. The students found it hard to understand this because they had hardly ever been exposed to this beforehand. This happens to Students B and C of Matriculation class rather than students A of Matriculation Class. As a result, they could not go the stages of chemical process of materials in the subject of chemistry smoothly. This is indicated by the obstacles the students gain when the teacher reviews the materials before coming to the new discussion of material. One thing that the teacher of Chemistry should tell to the students was the fact that a word or a term means a concept. This could help the students follow the next instruction. Exposure of the concept of materials can be done by visualization and audio. Teachers can play some materials inside the video cassette or DVD. Teachers can download from the internet. The more frequently the students are exposed to this way, the more familiar they are in their learning process.

2.3       The Communicative Competence of Papua Students

             The idea of communicative competence is originally derived from Chomsky’s distinction between competence and performance. By competence, Chomsky means the shared knowledge of the ideal speaker-listener set in a completely homogeneous speech community. Such underlying knowledge enables a user of a language to produce and understand an infinite set of sentences out of a finite set of rules. The transformational grammar provides for an explicit account of this tacit knowledge of language structure, which is usually not conscious but is necessarily implicit. Hymes says that the transformational theory “carries to its perfection the desire to deal in practice only with what is internal to language, yet to find in that internality that in theory is of the widest or deepest human significance” (Hymes, 1972).

Performance, on the other hand, is concerned with the process of applying the underlying knowledge to the actual use, commonly stated as encoding and decoding (Hymes). But because performance can never directly reflect competence except under the ideal circumstances (the ideal speaker-listener know and use language perfectly without making mistakes) performance cannot be relevant to a linguistic theory for descriptive linguists. It involves too many performance variables to use as linguistic data, such as memory limitation, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors. Therefore, according to Hymes, the most salient connotation of performance is “that of imperfect manifestation of underlying system.”(Hymes, 1972).

Hymes finds Chomsky’s distinction of competence and performance too narrow to describe language behavior as a whole. Hymes believes that Chomsky’s view of competence is too idealized to describe the actual language behavior, and therefore his of performance is an incomplete reflection of competence. For Hymes, Chomsky’s linguistic theory represents a “Garden of Eden” viewpoint that dismisses central questions of use in the area of performance. Hymes points out that the theory does not account for socio-cultural factors or differential competence in a heterogeneous speech community. He also points out, using Labov’s work, that linguistic competence co-varies with the speaker. Labov decribed dual competence in reception and single competence in production in lower-class African-American children who distinguish Standard English and the variant Black English in recognition, but use only Black English for production. Hymes maintains that social life affects not only outward performance, but also inner competence itself. He argues that social factors interfere with or restrict grammar use because the rules of use are dominant over the rules of grammar. Hymes further expands this to claim that rules of speech are controlling factors for the linguistic form as a whole.

Hymes concludes that a linguistic theory must be able to deal with a heterogeneous speech community, differential competence and the role of socio-cultural features. He believes that we should be concerned with performance, which he defines as the actual use of language in a concrete situation, not an idealized speaker-listener situation in a completely homogeneous speech community. Hymes deems it necessary to distinguish two kinds of competence: linguistic competence deals with producing and understanding grammatically correct sentences, and communicative competence that deals with producing and understanding sentences that are appropriate and acceptable to a particular situation. Thus Hymes coins a term “communicative competence” and defines it as “a knowledge of the rules for understanding and producing both referential and social meaning of language.”

The communicative competence of Papua students in performing their linguistic skill needs a great deal of improvements, particularly in dealing with Indonesian language as their mother tongue which is totally strange and new to them. This particularly befalls to the majority of students C or matriculation class and several students B of matriculation class. In my opinion, overall they are able to perform some basic linguistic skills such as greeting the peers and teachers, reading some books with the daily Indonesian language, and listening to the teacher’s explanation in normally used language of Indonesian. The problem lies in several aspects, which I think important to improve in their understanding of textbook in which Indonesian language is employed as the medium of instruction. First, Papua students’ performance in asking and responding questions of materials raised by the teachers, particularly when dealing with the concept in textbooks are still far below the standard. Secondly, the comprehension of textbook concept by the Papua students needs some drills by the teachers many times over. Last but not least is the fact that Papua students’ motivation in speaking Indonesian to familiarize themselves with the Indonesian language still needs improvements.

These all problems may hinder the Papua students to follow the instructions of materials presented in English. There are several reasons for this. First, most of the textbooks used in STKIP Surya are in Indonesian. Secondly, only few teachers can speak Papua language, especially teachers coming from Papua and its surroundings. Last but not least, STKIP Surya does not provide any translators who can transfer the materials from Indonesian language to Papua language.


This research was conducted using qualitative research methodology. Qualitative research is by definition exploratory, and it is used when we do not know what to expect, to define the problem or develop an approach to the problem. It is also used to go deeper into issues of interest and explore nuances related to the problem at hand. Common data collection methods used in qualitative research are focus groups, triads, dyads, in-depth interviews, uninterrupted observation, bulletin boards, and ethnographic participation/observation. (Mora, 2010: 4).

The qualitative research was used by doing observation. In this chapter, the following steps are explained and described: the subjects of the research, research materials, research procedure, research design, instrumentations, setting place and time of the study, data collection method, variables correlation, and data analysis.

3.1. The Subjects

The subjects of the research were students of Matriculation Year at STKIP Surya, Tangerang. There were 3 classes of 32 students in one class and they use Bahasa Indonesia in the classroom. The subjects are taught using Bahasa Indonesia as a medium of instruction.


3.2. Research Materials

The topic of the research was “A Study of Papua Students’ Indonesian Language Acquisition in the Classroom”. The research was conducted at STKIP Surya, Tangerang.

3.3. Research Procedure

The procedure was taken in the classrooms of 32 students on different occasions. The researcher visited the classes and conducted observation. The observation was conducted to identify the classroom behavior.


4.1       Students’ Comprehension of Concept

            Novak (1984), based upon Ausubel’s (1968; 2000) and Toulmin’s (1972) work, defines concept as a perceived regularity or pattern in events or objects, or records of events or objects, designated by a label.

Objects as Concepts

Words are one way to describe and name concepts, they are used as labels for concepts. “Dog, “boat” and “tree” are examples of words that are labels for objects. When a concept is named, the word is a label that maps onto our conceptual structure. With object-type concepts, such as “dog”, the word maps into a category that describes this particular animal, with all its possible variations in terms of dog size, color, etc. The regularities in the object determine its category. Flavel, Milller and Miller (2002) roughly define a concept as a mental grouping of different entities into a single category on the basis of some underlying similarity-some way in which all the entities are alike, some common core that makes them all, in some sense, the same thing. The label for most concepts is a single word, although sometimes we use symbols such as + or %, and sometimes more than one word is used.

Events as Concepts  

The universe consists of objects and events. Both objects and events are needed to represent knowledge about the universe and its contents. We usually think of events as happenings such as a “party” or a “meeting”. Happenings, however, include changes in status like occurrences and improvements. For example, “increase in quality of education” is event-type concept, and so are the “adoption of constructivism” and “growth of plants”. An examination of a large number of concept maps have shown that the majority deals mainly with objects, not with events (Safayani, et al, 2005). Moreover, experiments and our experience show that using event-type concepts lead to concept maps that are more explanatory in nature, while object-type concepts lead to more descriptive, often classificatory, concept maps. Figure 1 shows a concept map where the concepts “Increase in Quality of Education” and “Move Towards Meaningful Learning” are events.

Figure 1: Concept Map on Increase in Quality of Education


It is impossible to characterize any concept without its relation to other concepts. If one considers object-type concepts, the categories they evoke have common properties (e.g. dogs are pets, mammals, within certain size, etc) define the category, and therefore the concept is defined by its relations to these other concepts. So a concept does not exist by itself; it is part of a conceptual system in which elements are related to each other.

More abstract concepts however cannot be described as having a cognitive representation as a category. For example, what classes of entities are grouped together to define “rate of change” as a category? Thus concepts may not be categories. In fact, most people may have difficulty giving an example for abstract concepts such as “intelligence”, “motivation”, “personality”, and “social dilemma”, just to name a few. People also have hard time describing patterns or regularities in abstract terms such as “evolution”, or “constructivism”

During my class observation, I have seen in math class that the teacher has presented the materials which are based upon the conceptual approach. Students A of Matriculation Class understand well about the approach in comparison with those students coming from B and C Classes of Matriculation. The problem that emerges is the fact that the students’ mindsets are not familiar with the materials yet. The reasons are of so many factors. First, those who ever go to school in Papua have the possibilities of having no knowledge at all about what a concept is all about and how students should think of something which are in a concept-based principle.

Secondly, there is a possibility for the teachers in Papua who are not skillful of explaining the materials that consists of correlations between one concept with another. As a result, what the teachers do is only about asking the students to memorize formula and nothing else. Last but not, the compatibility of the content material in the textbook with the basic course outline proposed by National Ministry of Education.


4.2       Students’ Motivation in the Classroom

            Motivation is one of the most powerful factor in learning. These words succinctly describe the multifaceted issue that researchers, classroom instructors and language learners themselves have faced since Gardner and Lambert brought to light the complexities of motivation via their studies in the late 1950s. The number of factors involved in motivating persons to acquire a foreign language has increased tremendously during the past four decades and attempting to address all of these components in one paper is impractical.

Prior to exploring motivation and its function in language acquisition, one must first understand the term in its general sense. Mac Intyre et al. defined motivation as an “attribute of the individual describing the psychological qualities underlying behavior with respect to a particular task” (2001, p. 463). This goal-directed behavior shows itself through distinct actions of the motivated individual. Dornyei described this explicitly when he wrote the following:


The motivated individual expends effort, is persistent and attentive to the task at hand, has goals, desires and aspirations, enjoys the activity, experiences reinforcement from success and disappointment from failure, makes attributions concerning success and failure, is aroused, and makes use of strategies to aid in achieving goals (2003, p.173).


This statement portrays motivation as primarily being internally driven; however, there are also external forces that play a role. Gardner (1996) believed that motivation should be viewed as a hybrid concept, “an internal attribute that is the result of an external force” (as cited in Mac Intyre et al.2001, p.463). Although early motivation research addressed human behaviors other than language learning, over the past 45 years, the significance of its role in language acquisition has been realized.

Dornyei (2001) wrote, “A great deal of empirical research during this period [the 1980’s] was directed at measuring the association between various aspects of motivation and L2 language achievement. The emerging body of research studies established motivation as a principal determinant of second language acquisition…” (p.43). The research Dornyeii is referring two was the work of Gardner, who defined motivation with respect to language acquisition as “the combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning the language plus favorable attitudes toward learning the language ”(1985, p.10). Gardner added, “Individuals who are truly motivated not only strive to learn the material but also seek out situations where they can obtain further practice” (1985, p.50). The challenge is to examine what drives this motivation. The first area to investigate is the brain and its processes.

As far as I am concerned, Papua students’ motivation is of high level. They are highly enthusiastic in learning in the classroom despite the fact that some students are not motivated at all. The problem lies in the strategies on how to change the high degree of motivation into the cognitive process of learning where the students still have difficulties in achieving this. The reason why motivation plays an important role in the language learning classroom is because the failure and success in their learning depends extremely upon their motivation. If the students are not motivated at all, then, there is a possibility for the person not to succeed in the learning process, particularly in the language learning, in the future.

A good model of the classroom which consists of highly motivated student is the A Matriculation Class. They are fully enthusiastic to follow the instruction and materials. This is indicated by some Key Performance Indicators (KPI) such the ability to retell the materials as a review of the prior materials as suggested by the teacher amongst the classroom community members. Compared to students A of Matriculation Class, Students coming from B and C of Matriculation Class still lack of attention and sometimes dream of something which is irrelevant to the materials presented by the teacher.


            In sum, this study has presented some items of an investigative research in the classroom about the Papua students’ language acquisition of Indonesian which is the basic concept before they come to the process of acquiring the second language; i.e, English. Therefore, the following recommendations are delivered to solve the problems:


  1. Students should be reminded to keep their classroom tidy and clean, including the walls. If one member of classroom community has done wrong inside the classroom such drawing something in the walls or make some “footprints”, his or her friends can report this to the security officer or the teacher who is going to teach.
  2. Sanctions are given to the students who are still doing the same thing in the classroom. Psychological approaches such as writing a paragraph in a closed detention room will be appropriate for the unmannered students like this.
  3. Teachers invite the students as frequently as possible to speak Indonesian to familiarize themselves with the concept of Indonesian language. This is important because they can see the differences and similarities between Indonesian language system they will have acquired and English which is another language they are studying.
  4. Teachers should be trained to use concept-based approach of teaching to deliver the learning materials for the students. This can be started by using word or picture that has at least one concept. This is important because sooner or later students will know exactly about the concept they are studying regardless of the subjects they are learning.
  5. Concepts about the materials for the students will train the perspectives of the students in solving their problems. Therefore, it is expected that students know for sure about every concepts of the subjects and how they relate one subject with another.
  6. Teachers will have to pay a greater attention to those students who are not motivated in the classroom and maintain or even upgrade the motivation those students who are already enthusiastic in the teaching and learning process.
  7. As the Papua students’ competence in language are still below the standard, the author of this report attempts to propose a new design of curriculum that includes learning module and syllabus. The newly designed curriculum is named “Systematic English Learning” and “Systematic Business English Learning”. Systematic English Learning and Systematic Business English Learning are the two curricula that are based upon the conceptual approach proposed by Widdowson. He said that both theories proposed by Chomsky and Hymes have strengths and weaknesses in terms of where to start the lesson. The reason is the fact that level of thinking of the students is not similar. Therefore, the entry behavior skills of the students will be the benchmarking to decide the level of classes of language learning.
  8. The author will set the Marking Guide that will be the benchmarking of the students’ academic achievement during their lectures n English. This includes the marking guide of Speaking Competence which is parallel to Listening ability and Writing competence which is parallel to Reading Competence.




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Subject: Math, Trigonometry

Time: 8.00-8.30


  1. Situasi dalam kelas sebelum masuk materi:
  • Greetings: good response from the students
  • Review from the teacher’s explanation of prior materials: all are paying attention
  • Teacher’s remainder: good response

Proses Belajar Mengajar

  1. 2. Situasi dalam kelas dalam penyampaian materi:
  • Teacher’s instruction: review prior materials-positive response
  • Classroom discussion of materials: enthusiastic response
  • Students focus on materials
  • Teacher invites the students to pay attention to the explanation: good response
  • Talking about math formula: good response
  • Understanding concepts: positive response
  • Students can follow the teacher’s explanation
  • Discussion of questions: good response
  • Students are able to multiple numbers
  • Students are able to solve the problem with case studies
  • Good classroom settings (Excellent)
  1. Indonesian’s Language Ability of the students: overall standard

Selected students

  1. 4. Understanding concept of materials: overall good.
  2. 5. Communicative ability:
  • Asking questions (speaking): good
  • Responding questions: overall good, enthusiastic
  • Listening: overall good
  • Writing: overall good


  1. 6. Exercises: overall good, one level above

Evaluation: overall good, one level above

  1. 7. Students’ level of enthusiasm and motivation: very enthusiastic, highly motivated.
  2. 8. Students’ interest in classroom discussion: all are good.
  3. Students’ level of thinking: very conceptual, excellent

Comments: These students are extraordinary.


  1. Actively involved in classroom discussions
  2. Understand instructions and text very well
  3. Consists of active students
  4. High degree of motivation and enthusiasm
  5. Students positive reactions to the peer’s presentation
  6. Student can grasp the materials can share with the peers
  7. Student can transfer the knowledge as a feedback

Note: still to memorize the formula


Subject: Chemistry

Time: 8.00


  1. Situasi dalam kelas sebelum masuk materi:
  • Greetings: good response from the students
  • Review from the teacher’s explanation of prior materials: some are not paying attention
  • Teacher’s remainder: good response

Proses Belajar Mengajar

  1. 2. Situasi dalam kelas dalam penyampaian materi:
  • Teacher’s instruction: read the materials in 5 minutes=good response
  • Warning: quiz=good response
  • Students read the materials (understand the instruction from the teacher )
  • Teacher invites the students to come into materials by asking question: good response
  • Students pay attention to the teacher’s explanation
  • Talking about graph: good response
  • Understanding picture: good response
  • Students can follow the teacher’s explanation
  • Discussion of questions: good response
  • Students are able to sequence the numbers
  • Students are able to solve the problem with case studies
  1. Indonesian’s Language Ability of the students: overall standard

Some cases in linguistic ability lie in particular students (need personal approach for improvement)

  1. Understanding concept of materials: overall good, except abstract concept.
  2. Communicative ability:
  • Asking questions (speaking): no questions
  • Responding questions: overall good
  • Listening: overall good




  1. Exercises: overall good

Evaluation: overall good

  1. Students’ level of enthusiasm and motivation: average, some are enthusiastic and highly motivated.
  2. Students’ interest in classroom discussion: overall good, some are sleepy.


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