Indonesian Immersion Camps


Indonesian Immersion Camps…have you incorporated one into your Indonesian Languages Program? What are they exactly and what are the benefits? Why should you be integrating Indonesian Immersion Camps into your school’s Language Program?

I’ve got the low down on Indonesian Immersion Camps.

Back in another lifetime, when I worked as Indonesian Language Advisor for the Department of Education and Training, Victoria, I was given the task of planning and implementing a pilot project, the first EVER Indonesian Immersion Camp for Victoria and producing an Indonesian Immersion Camps Kit to support regions in planning, conducting and evaluating their own Indonesian Immersion Camps. This came at a time when schools were being advised not to travel to Indonesia due to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller Travel Advisory hence a lot of schools had stopped their annual or bi-annual student study tours to Indonesia. This in turn was resulting in student numbers declining in the study of Indonesian.

It was a huge task, but this was a project that I was also hugely excited about! Indonesian Immersion Camps could provide students {and teachers} with the experience of immersion language learning locally, they didn’t have to travel overseas. I’ve always believed that Indonesian students should be given the opportunity for language learning experiences outside of school such as excursions, as well as camps. Why should there be sports camps and ski camps etc and not a Languages camp? Why should Languages students miss out on all the fun?

I started with research on Language Immersion Camps and found that a group of teachers from the Italian teacher community had been doing this for years, and with primary students! We {Indonesian teachers} were definitely behind the ball game on this one! This made me even more motivated to get this project off the ground and to make it a great experience. I met with some Italian teachers/educators and learnt as much as I could in regards to what makes a successful Language Immersion Camp.

I realised that although my focus was for Years 9 & 10 students with the aim of students continuing their Indonesian Languages study through to VCE {to increase student numbers}, an immersion camp was also a great idea for Primary students. The examples I’m sharing with you in this post were used for Secondary students, however all activities and ideas could easily be adapted for younger students.

Obviously developing and implementing a Languages immersion camp is a huge amount of work but I do believe it’s worth it when you see students gaining language knowledge and skills, deeper cultural understandings, motivation towards language learning, and of course having a lot of fun too! It’s also another event to add to your school’s calendar to highlight the importance of language learning.

There are many aspects to consider; budget, location of camp {in your local area or somewhere else entirely}, duration, time of year {considering weather}, number of students involved {students from your school only or mixed with other schools in your local area or network}, students age level, teachers/educators involved {how many teachers needed for the ratio of students attending, language proficiency of teachers and do you need/want to invite a specialist or expert to come and teach a particular workshop}, timetable and activities/rotating workshops, student booklet/journal, student evaluation form. *There’s also other aspects to consider such as; transport, student medical info, emergency plans, parent/guardian permission forms etc. {Actually there’s too many things to include in this one post! But don’t let that scare you off!}

It’s important in your initial planning to realise the benefits and also the outcomes you are aiming for. So let’s take a look at some of the benefits and outcomes to Language Immersion Camps.


Benefits of a Language Immersion Camp:

Language Immersion Camps provide an extension to classroom learning and a concentrated language learning experience for  students to motivate them to continue with their study of the chosen language to VCE level.

The aims of the Indonesian Immersion Camp are to:

► Increase language proficiency and cultural awareness

► Engage students in a variety of activities that elicits speaking and listening skills, in a non-school setting

► Provide an opportunity for students to meet and interact with students from other schools within the Network/Region that study Indonesian

► Integrating Indonesian with other VELS Domains

► In the long term, to encourage students to choose to continue their studies of Indonesian beyond the compulsory years.

What outcomes should be expected?

Language proficiency

Immersion in the language as a result of participation in the Language Immersion Camp should contribute to improved confidence and readiness to speak, the acquisition of set phrases, and fluency and accuracy.

Cultural knowledge and understanding

The Language Immersion Camp should provide students with opportunities to expand their knowledge and understanding of the target language society. Increased understanding should be reflected not just in the acquisition of factual information, but also in sharpened perception of similarities and differences between the target language society and Australian society.

Intercultural competence

The Language Immersion Camp should also provide students with opportunities for increasing student intercultural competence which begins with perception and gradual acknowledgement of difference. Camp activities should include reflections on similarities and differences between societies.

Basically, at the end of the day, you want your students to be SPEAKING! Students learn another language to SPEAK it, therefore they need opportunities to actually speak in the language they are learning and use it in a genuine way with a real purpose.


Planning activities and timetables

A lot of time will be spent on planning activities for your immersion camp to ensure they are beneficial specifically for your students i.e. age appropriate and language and topic relevance {taking into consideration previous learnt knowledge}. There are various ways to go about this, you may just brainstorm a variety of different activities that are not always easily attainable at school due to lack of support {needing another teacher to assist or a specialist/expert in a particular field} or lack of appropriate space {needing a large area or a cooking room}. You could also plan your activities around a particular theme that you want your students to learn about. I once assisted a regional group of teachers who were planning an Indonesian Immersion Camp, and we focussed on a theme of the ‘islands of Indonesia’ and developed activities specific to each main island of Indonesia. Whichever way you decide to plan and develop your activities, ensure that they are varied i.e. oral and listening tasks, hands-on activities, a blend of cultural and language tasks, ICT focus {for some great iPhone Apps to use in creative Language activities click here and here}, inside and outside activities etc. You should also consider independent, paired, small group and whole group tasks and activities. There will be times when you want students working quietly on their own or in pairs and there will be other activities that suit the whole group of students, this also adds variety to the camp timetable.

We developed a timetable of whole group activities and also small group rotating workshops.

Activities included; badge making, oral language activities, investigation trail {of the local area}, Indonesian quiz, dvd & accompanying oral language activities, creating umbul-umbul {Balinese banners/flags}, shopping at the market and ‘Muka Merah’ – Red Faces competition.

Rotating workshops included; Drama/Role-play {incorporating appropriate body language}, Cooking, Singing and Pencak Silat {Indonesian Martial Arts}.

Click here for a sample Indonesian Immersion Camp Timetable {Jadwal Kegiatan}

It’s a great idea to have a handful of oral language activities up your sleeve, whether these are for a specific activity or just on hand if you need a short activity to fill in some time. I created a Teacher Booklet of Oral Language Activities, which we used some of these oral language activities for a specific space in our timetable but it was also available for teachers to have on stand-by if needed.

Click here for a Sample Teacher Booklet Oral Language Activities



Evaluation is a very important part of language learning, particularly when organising and implementing a special program, you will want to know what to repeat for the next camp and what to change.

I developed a Student Evaluation form for students to complete at the end of the Indonesian Immersion Camp to ensure I had written evaluations from the students so that forward planning of camps could be based on the student’s feedback including; what activities/workshops did the students most enjoy.

Click here for a Sample Student Evaluation Form

I hope that some of the ideas here have encouraged you and motivated you to consider organising an Indonesian Immersion Camp for your students, be it alone or combined with other schools, which I believe has so many benefits for both teachers and students. A support network of teachers is highly important and responsibilities should be shared between teachers, so as not to burden or exhaust one teacher. However, saying that, it’s possibly a good idea to have one teacher to be the main camp coordinator to ensure that all aspects of the camp are organised in a timely manner.

So, if you want to see your students being motivated speaking bahasa Indonesia and gaining new skills and knowledge about the language and culture, then Indonesian Immersion Camps are definitely the way to go. I guarantee that your students will come away from the immersion camp with a new enthusiasm for learning Languages.

Have you ever organised an Indonesian Immersion Camp? What were the main benefits?

If not, would you consider introducing Indonesian Immersion Camps into your school’s Languages curriculum?

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