Farmers in the hamlets of Liang Ndara and Nunang in West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), are struggling to learn English to be able to greet foreign tourists, as their hamlets have been designated as ecotourism villages in the province.
The English course is provided by non-profit bird conservation organization Burung Indonesia-Mbeliling Program (BI-MP) as part of an ecotourism counseling program.
BI-MP also intends to empower members of the two communities so they have a competitive edge.
The West Manggarai regency administration has named Liang Ndara village a tourism village, but human resources remain inadequate in terms of providing services to visitors, especially foreign tourists who cannot speak Indonesian.
In Liang Ndara, members of the Serindit Mbeliling Trekking Association seemed enthusiastic to join the English course provided by BI-MP facilitators.
“We learn English at night. We start classes at around 8 p.m.,” said Serindit Mbeliling Trekking Association head Stefanus Landing.
“The course is held at night because we work in our fields during the day,” he said.
Stefanus added that the English course for farmers in Liang Ndara was thought up after English-speaking foreign tourists visited the village.
The main problem was that Liang Ndara villagers were unable to speak to the visitors in English.
Stefanus said the majority of Serindit Mbeliling trekking members who had joined the English course were elementary school graduates and a few senior high school graduates.
Once the English program had been established, BI-MP initiated another program to provide the residents with counseling.
Liang Ndara village offers many tourist attractions, such as Flores bird-watching on the Mbeliling plain and trekking to the Mbeliling Peak to watch the sun rise and set.
Other attractions include trekking to the Liang Kantor waterfall to watch performances of traditional Ndundu Ndake, Kerangkuk Alu, Danding and Mbata dances, and the vast rice fields and coffee farms located on the mountain slopes in Cecer hamlet.
Besides that, Liang Ndara is home various handicrafts, such as traditional West Manggarai hats and kitchen utensils, including organic vegetables, as well as local speciality fruit and extensive paddy fields.
“We can earn Rp 600,000 [US$61] for guiding a group of visitors to Mbeliling Peak. I’m eager to be able to speak English, even though I’m just an elementary school graduate,” said one of the English course’s participants, Yustina Erdita.
BI-MP ecotourism facilitator in Liang Ndara, Servasius Budi Irwan Setiawan, said that in the initial stages of learning English, participants had a hard time with the language, but their efforts were paying off as they could already greet and serve visitors at several tourist sites around Liang Ndara.
“I have my own method for teaching English, namely the ‘Le Lema Dite’ method, which means speaking English by using the local tongue. Villagers are unable to follow English lessons that stick to the conservative methods usually taught in schools. During class, members of the local trekking group speak English by reading the texts that they copy,” said Servasius.