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Copernicus Goes To Indonesia

Copernicus goes to Indonesia

This month your Copernicus columnist is in Indonesia. I’m here as part of my “Global Communication and Science” project, helping to facilitate an exciting collaboration between students at Tadulako University in Palu, and Western Kentucky University in the US. (My trip has been generously sponsored by Garuda Indonesia.)

The thing that has brought us all here is a total solar eclipse on March 9th, which is an exclusively Indonesian event. Although the narrow ‘path of totality’ for this eclipse stretches one-third of the way around the planet, most of the action happens over the Indian and Pacific Oceans; the only times it strikes land is when it crosses the Indonesian archipelago.

Wow, Indonesia… The world’s fourth most populous country, with the world’s largest Muslim population… South-East Asia’s biggest economy… More than 17,000 islands, about half of which are inhabited… More than 300 languages spoken across the region…

The aim of this Copernicus column is to help give students exposure to the different sounds of English around the globe. This month we feature one of Indonesia’s most successful cultural exports: the singer-songwriter Anggun.

Born into a musical family in Jakarta, Anggun became famous in her early teens with the rock-influenced album “Dunia Aku Punya”. Over the next few years she became an Asian megastar, before moving to Paris in 1994 at the age of 20. She was completely unknown in France – but it only took three years until she achieved international success with her world music album “Snow on the Sahara”.

This is a video of Anggun last year, recording the song “Perfect World” at the Metrophonic Studio in England.


(1) Singing dictation! What are the words that Anggun sings in the clip?

Students can check their answers here.

(2) Talk about euphemisms! Anggun tells us that, “No one is actually in the pool. No one has actually dipped a fingertip because it’s fricking cold here.”

As the Oxford Dictionary notes, “fricking” is a euphemism for another word that begins with F.

Students can have lots of fun guessing the meanings of various euphemisms – although, clearly, great care needs to be taken with this exercise. There’s a comprehensive list of euphemisms here.

(3) Make a video! Anggun gives us a very nice two-minute tour of the area outside the recording studio. It’s extremely ‘unpolished’, but it’s fun and engaging.

In pairs, or in larger groups, get students to use their smartphones to make a one- or two-minute video of an area near the classroom. Like Anggun, they could begin by saying “Hi people…”. At the end, the class can vote on the best video.

Remind students that ‘unpolished’ is OK! Set a short time-limit for the exercise – 20 minutes would be ideal. Also, reassure students that they can delete the videos from their phones at the end of the class. (If they want to, of course!)

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