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Ini hanyalah bualan. Hahah!!!


“I mimic, therefore I am”

The rapid expansion of English-language films across most of the world since the mid-20th century has profoundly affected the adults’ foreign or second language acquisition in some non-English speaking countries, particularly in Indonesia. Imitations of words and other non-verbal acts of communication in movies by adults prove that the language used influenced them in acquiring and producing English. Movies not only provide the audiences with input languages but also encourage their motivations for either intentionally or unintentionally copying the characters’ speech and behavior.

Multiple sources of evidence for the phenomenon come out of the researcher’s experiences. The following conversation between J (the researcher) and A (her friend) is one of the proofs.
(J entered the room and A suddenly said something to her.)
A: “I believe in America. America has made my fortune.” (A spoke English with an Italian accent.)
J: “Hah? Apa maksudmu?” [Hah? What do you mean?]
A: “Bukan apa-apa. Itu dialog di Godfather.” [Nothing. That was a dialogue in Godfather.]

The Godfather (1972) is an American film about a 1940s New York Mafia dynasty. It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola based on a novel by Mario Puzo (www.filmsite.org/godf.html). The film begins as the famous lines “I believe in America. America has made my fortune…” are spoken with an Italian accent by Amerigo Bonasera, an Italian American character.

According to Ellis (1997:3), a second language (L2) refers to any language including a foreign language that is acquired “subsequent to the mother tongue”. It can also refer to the third or fourth language (and so on) acquired naturally or learned in school/formal situation. In L2 acquisition, there are many factors that play a critical role chief among which is motivation. Ellis (1977:75) stated that motivation is both attitude and enthusiasm that encourage people to learn or acquire the target language. Different types of motive are generally categorized into either extrinsic (which refers to enthusiasm driven by external influences such as money and grades) or intrinsic (which refers to desire inside a person driven by internal rewards such as satisfaction or pleasure). Furthermore, Abraham Maslow, in a 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation”, posited that there are needs to fulfill that motivate human behaviors such as physiological needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. It means each of our behaviors including mimicking language of movie is motivated with the aims of achieving certain needs.


In the late 1950’s, an interdisciplinary field of psychological and linguistic aspects that enable humans to acquire, comprehend, and produce language emerged, named Psycholinguistics. Basically, there is no exact time where people became interested in the field, and because of this it is difficult to recognize an accurate date. Even so, Levelt (2013:19-20) believes that, starting from around 1800s, it has been more than two centuries since issues of Psycholinguistics have been studied by linguists. Initially, this discipline focused only on the acquisition of a first language (L1). Soon after that, many researchers started conducting study on the acquisition of a foreign or second language (L2) and then set Second Language Acquisition (SLA) as an approach to cover it. In this section, related to the area of SLA study, the writer would give a lot of attention towards several cases of how the presence of film in the society has a huge amount of influence over the process of second language acquisition.

Advances in technology that give everyone easy access to different kinds of entertainments from around the world make a lot of Indonesians spend more time watching films. Likewise, linguistic elements and body language shown in those movies give pervasive impacts on the patterns of their behaviors such as copying the sounds, words, or movements of the actors. There are a lot of proofs showing Indonesians including children, young, and adults did imitations of both verbal and nonverbal communication in foreign movies which involve two crucial aspects of L2 acquisition: firstly; activities (including reading, listening, writing and speaking), secondly; speakers’ communicative competence or prior knowledge of vocabulary, morphology, phonology, syntax, and discourse structure. In short, people began the process of acquisition by comprehending and recording input or what they received such as subtitle, gestures, sounds, utterances, etc, through receptive activities i.e. reading and listening. Then, with different motives, they produced the same utterances and gestures through productive activities i.e. writing or speaking. Here are three examples of imitations they expressed in spoken and written form:

The first evidence is imitation of speech done by children. The researcher once observed some kids (3-6 years old) repeating a word that sounds like “Gasu! Gasu! Gasu!” (Russian) when they were going to eat. Those kids got the utterance after watching Masha and the Bear, a Russian animated television series. Actually they did not know its morpheme and pronunciation. They only saw the way Masha behaved and then did an imitation of it. The second influence is seen in imitation of gesture that is associated with speech by the speaker. In this regard the researcher recalls an experience with a male friend of hers. She observed him mimicking a line “cross your heart” of an American animated movie entitled Up while crossing his fingers when he asked someone to make a promise. The last example is imitation expressed in written form, known as meme. A meme (pronounced (/’mi:m/ meem) is defined as a catchphrase or catchy expression in popular culture, such as a memorable quote from a movie combined with an image, that spreads repeatedly through internet. People usually create it for a joke or satire.

Picture 1: An example of meme; a famous line from The Godfather movie

Ellis (1997:4-6), a professor in the Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, explained the goals or what exactly should the researcher concentrate on when conducting a study on issues of SLA. The first goal might be the formal features according to traditional levels of language and activities (receptive; reading & listening, productive; writing & speaking) such as: a) the pronunciation; how learners’ accents change, b) how learners increase their vocabulary mastery, and c) how learners’ skill to produce grammatical structure of the L2 develops overtime. The next goal is identifying the external and internal factors that account for why people differ in the way to which they acquire an L2 and why some people learn a second or foreign language successfully while others find it difficult. One of the external factors is the social milieu in which process of acquisition takes place. Another external factor is the input or sample of language that the acquirers receive (either written or spoken language). Under internal factors we shall consider cognitive mechanism i.e. the way in which L2 acquirers possess their knowledge to extract input, and individual differences which involve language aptitude (natural ability or skill needed), motivation (both attitude and enthusiasm that encourage people to behave), and learning strategies (techniques selected and employed by learners, especially to make learning easier, faster, enjoyable, more self-directed, and more transferable in new situations (Oxford: 1990:8)).

To be continued…