Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence was the NAILA 2015 Tertiary runner-up and a 2016 semi-finalist for the Pidato Antarabangsa Bahasa Melayu (PABM). 

I entered NAILA in 2015 while studying in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and wrote my speech on one of my favourite topics – bilateral trade between Australia and Indonesia. At the time, I combined the research for my speech with the work I was doing for a project at university, and wrote the speech as a practice exercise before writing my first major research essay in Indonesian.

I never dreamed that putting together that speech, scribbled down in a notebook at the back of a warung in Jakarta, mostly memorised on a weekend beach trip to Bali and recorded in the back room of a friend’s share house in Jogja, would take me all the way to the finals of an international speaking competition in Kuala Lumpur the next year, sponsored by the Malaysian Prime Minister – but that’s what happened.

I absolutely recommend this competition to other Australians who speak Indonesian as a second language, particularly tertiary students. Initially, the thought of writing and memorising a whole speech – on top of the rest of my university work – was daunting, and I was worried that my Indonesian wasn’t good enough. My recommendation would be to just have a go – you will probably find that you know more than you think. You have plenty of time to fine-tune the speech and practice as well, so it’s not as tough as you might think!

I would, however, recommend leaving plenty of time to practice the speech after you finish writing. Knowing what you want to say and being able to remember how to say it are two separate tasks – particularly in your second language! – and you don’t want to stress yourself out by leaving the memorisation close to the deadline.

After the NAILA competition ended, I was extremely honoured to be chosen to represent Australia in the Pidato Antarabangsa Bahasa Melayu 2016. Participation in this was very nerve-racking and also very exciting. After progressing through the preliminary rounds via phone call with representatives from the Malaysian Education Department (who asked me to read passages in Malay, answer comprehension questions, answer general questions about international relations and deliver a short speech), I then travelled, all expenses paid, to Putrajaya just outside of Kuala Lumpur to compete in the international final. The week in Malaysia involved a number of different speaking rounds as well as trips to different parts of the city. For me, one of the most valuable parts of this was the fact that I was able to meet other students from all around the world who also spoke Malay.

One of the best parts about the NAILA is that the entries are confidential and recorded in the comfort of your own home – so, for a stage shy student or someone who is insecure about their language not being adequate, you don’t have to worry about performing in front of peers who are far more advanced. If your entry makes it past the initial stage then rest assured, your Indonesian skills are plenty good enough to warrant a place in the competition!

NAILA is a great way to boost your own confidence, spend some time talking about things that you love and practice your Bahasa Indonesia skills. I would definitely recommend giving it a go!

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