We feel better when we speak common language: Affective well-being in bilingual adolescents from three ethnic groups in Indonesia

Betty Tjipta Sari*, Athanasios Chasiotis, Fons J. R. van de Vijver, Michael Bender

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study investigated how bilingual and bicultural adolescents use their languages and how this relates to affective well-being in Indonesia, a non-Western, multicultural context. The samples consisted of 132 Javanese, 109 Toraja, and 100 Chinese (M-age = 14.02 years). We tested a mediation model in which language usage is linked to affective well-being directly and indirectly through vocabulary knowledge. Although we found group differences in mean scores in vocabulary, usage, and age of language acquisition, the relationships between knowledge and usage of languages with affective well-being are identical across groups. The national language usage was positively related to affective well-being, but ethnic language usage was not related to affective well-being. This study shows that bilingualism patterns may differ depending on the context, but regardless of the differences, bilingualism matters for affective well-being across different ethnic contexts in Indonesia. However, different from the immigration context studied in much Western research, the lingua franca is relevant in the adolescents' affective well-being for all groups in Indonesia including the dominant group. Therefore, when we look at each aspect of bilingualism; language usage at home, language usage in public, and language knowledge, each aspect relates differently to affective well-being depending on the context. We conclude that in Indonesia, a context characterized by an integration of one national and multiple ethnic cultures with similar standings, the shared lingua franca is more important than the ethnic language, and language usage is more important than language vocabulary for affective wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-95
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Well-being
  • Non-immigrant
  • Language usage
  • Vocabulary
  • Adolescents
  • lingua franca
  • Indonesia


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