A Glimpse Into Frank Talaue’s Teaching Journey

A Glimpse Into Frank Talaue's Teaching Journey

Frank Talaue, BINUS UNIVERSITY’s ELS Manager, has had over 20 years of combined English Language Teaching (ELT) experience in the Philippines and Indonesia. Originally from the Philippines, Frank has made Indonesia his home since 2006.

We had the chance to have an interview with Frank asking about his time in Indonesia, experience in teaching English, as well as how the COVID-19 affected his teaching and research.

  • What attracted you to Indonesia and BINUS UNIVERSITY?

I had been teaching well into my fifth year at a university in the Philippines when an interesting proposition came up from a former colleague who had moved a couple of years earlier to Indonesia. She asked me if I wanted to try teaching English at a school offering an international curriculum. I thought it was going to be fun to try teaching overseas although I must admit that I didn’t know much about Indonesia. I just thought that it was time for a change.

I thought I wouldn’t last this long in the country, but I have made wonderful friends here, both fellow Filipinos and locals. After two years in Batam, I moved to BINUS in Jakarta in 2008. What made me stay in the country is the feeling of connectedness that I have with the people I met along the way, not to mention the wonderful places of interest the country offers. Being the world’s largest archipelago, there’s obviously so much to explore and I’m just getting started!

BINUS UNIVERSITY is the country’s top private university and a recipient of top HR awards. This means that the university takes care of its people – both students and employees, and I can personally attest to that with my 12 years of stay at BINUS International in Senayan.

  • How is life in Indonesia as an expatriate?

I never really felt like an expatriate in Indonesia. Coming from another Southeast Asian country, I believe that the social norms in the country aren’t too different from the Philippines. Differences in language and food aren’t an issue at all. I love learning new languages, which is something that one should do in a foreign country if he or she needs to understand and appreciate the local culture. Also, looking like an Indonesian has given me some sort of affinity with the locals. Only when I open my mouth and start conversing in a different accent that they start asking “Asli mana, mas?” (meaning “Where are you from, sir?”)

  • Why did you decide to have a career in teaching, especially in Academic English?

I was an accidental teacher. I took up a communication degree in college and worked for a broadcast outfit right after graduation. But a college friend I accidentally met in a media coverage asked me if I was interested in a college teaching position, and so I dabbled in media work and teaching at the same time. The love of teaching took over, and so I decided to teach language and communication courses full time. While at it, I enrolled in a master’s program in English language teaching and literature and soon after I saw myself becoming the first head of the mass communication department of the University of Baguio, north of Manila.

The fulfilment of engaging with students in a classroom was something I fell in love with. I told myself I was only going to teach for a maximum of three years, but 20 years on, I am still within the four walls of the classroom which I have considered as my broadcast studio of sorts. Different from a broadcast studio, however, the classroom has provided me with more immediate feedback from my ‘audience.’

  • We noted that you are involved in some research in Language Education and acquisition. What are the most interesting findings, and how are you planning to implement them in BINUS Language Center?

I am interested in English as a Medium of Instruction and English for Specific Purposes, especially English for Academic Purposes, research. My most research publication highlights the fact that in Indonesia, English is indeed seen as a competitive advantage in the workplace. This research finding has validated our stance that English should be at the heart of classroom delivery and that we should always strive to be relevant to the needs and demands of the workplace so that at the end of the day, we create the Binus graduate brand – competent professionals with outstanding communication skills.

  • What are the most memorable moments you have with BINUS Language Center?

Having stayed at the Language Center of BINUS University International for over ten years, I have made awesome memories, mostly with the people I have worked with. But one thing I would never forget was the early years of our now-defunct English Week, where we staged faculty, staff, and student performances. Choreographing dance acts and performing them in front of our students and being cast in a pantomime is something I always remember with a smile on my face.

  • What challenges do you find with the language learning process in BINUS LC, and how do you manage to overcome it? Any tips for students who struggle in Academic English?

Our Academic English and all other language courses in BINUS International emphasizes writing, especially academic writing. Regardless of genre, writing is the most difficult skill to learn since it requires accuracy over fluency. Alongside speaking, we consider writing as one of the skills that students should have to be successful while at Binus and even after graduation. Of course, we also provide plenty of opportunities for our students to develop other language and communication skills. The ability to express oneself in speaking and writing in English – the world’s lingua franca – is an essential skill that every professional must have, and I think that it is in this area where BINUS graduates are set apart from their peers once they join their respective professional fields.

  • How did COVID-19 impact your teaching and academic writing efforts at the university?

Just like anyone else, we had to adjust quickly to the situation and ‘deliver the goods’ uninterruptedly. More than ever, we have stepped up efforts to make sure that academic integrity is upheld in our writing classes. For example, we maximize the use of Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism software package, along with other ways of detecting plagiarism. We, of course, take a pedagogical stance on plagiarism. We teach students the value of original thought and proper engagement with sources, including correct paraphrasing, summarizing, and referencing.

  • What were your personal and professional concerns and how did you overcome these?

During the early months of the pandemic, I dealt with bouts of loneliness and a feeling of alienation. It is now common knowledge that cases of anxiety and depression are on the rise and I must admit that I was not immune to these psychological states although I did not seek professional help. But what matters is how we address and win over in the end with a strong will. I must say that meditation, spirituality, exercise, and constantly reaching out to loved ones have made this ‘pandemic lifestyle’ bearable. Those who are feeling the psychological pressures of the pandemic should not hesitate to seek support in the best way possible.

  • How has BINUS infrastructure supported you in your job during the pandemic?

BINUS did not find it too difficult to transition to full online teaching since it has had the infrastructure well laid out even before the pandemic. Through our Learning Management System and multi-modal platforms for teaching and learning, we have been able to meet students regularly and engage with them in the best way possible in an online environment. Management and operational support systems had to be quickly enforced, and I must say that the dedication of the management towards making sure that teaching and learning sessions are not interrupted within government-sanctioned practices is admirable.

  • What new things have you learned about the tricks of your profession during the pandemic?

Being connected with students has never been as important and, at the same time, challenging as it is today. We need to find ways to connect with students through the many technological platforms that we have available at our disposal to continuously engage them and provide the needed academic support. However, we must also learn the value of disconnecting. Now, everyone has access to our living rooms as we meet students and colleagues alike online or as we open our phone chat applications. More than ever, we must strive to achieve work-life balance, which means knowing when to tune out to preserve our private spheres.

  • What teaching adaptation or community activity of yours would you highlight as contributing to empowerment and pandemic management? 

I think that staying connected with your family, friends, and colleagues are key to addressing many issues arising from the pandemic. Personal management is indeed paramount in times like this, and I believe that part of managing oneself is making the time to reach out to others for support. Whether at work or in our personal lives the value of constant communication has never felt so important. Thanks to technology, we have managed to stay afloat despite the physical distancing measures we have implemented at work and even within family members.

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