Facebook Communication Between South-East Asian People: To Speak With Friends from The Same Country and With Those From Different Countries

Titik  Wahyuningsih, S.S., M.Hum

Lecturer, English Department, Faculty of Letters, University of Muhammadiyah Purwokerto,  Indonesia Guest Lecturer, Indonesian Language and Culture, Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology, Sofia University, St. Kliment Ohridski, Bulgaria


Facebook is one of the most popular social media by which people communicate. It is not only used between people from the same countries to communicate with, but also with people who come from different countries.  In south-east Asia, people also communicate with their friends by using facebook. I also have some south-east Asian facebook friends. To name a few: Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine, Malaysia.

This paper observes the use of languages between native speakers of Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipines, and Malaysia with their friends from the same countries and ones with friends from different south-east Asian countries.  It focuses on the phenomena of code switching and code mixing.  Qualitative research by using sociolinguistics theory is applied here.

The observation shows that south-east Asian people tend to use their own languages (and even their own alphabet for Thai) to interract with friends from the same country but they tend to use English with those from different cuntries.  However, most of them try show their respect to friends from different countries by using their friends’ languages.

Keywords:  facebook, communication, south-east Asian, code switching, code mixing


Facebook is one of the most popular social media by which people communicate.  It is not only used between people from the same countries to communicate with, but also with people who come from different countries.  In south-east Asia, people also communicate with their friends by using facebook.  I also have some south-east Asian facebook friends. To name a few: Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipines, Malaysia.

The figures of people using social media all around the world is quite remarkable.  I note here how Indonesians are very familiar with social media.  According to www. tahupedia.com, ten most popular social media in Indonesia are: (1) Facebook; (2) Twitter; (3) Path; (4) Instagram; (5) WhatsApp; (6) Line; (7) BBM; (8) YouTube; (9) Tumblr; (10) Kaskus. (http://www.tahupedia.com/content/show/789/10-Sosial-Media-Paling-Banyak-Digunakan-Di-Indonesia [23.02. 2016]].  Facebook is used to look for friends and relatives.  In Indonesia, facebook has the biggest number of users: 65 million users, followed by WhatsApp with 34 million users in Indonesia, Path with 30 million users, and Twitter with 19,5 million users.

With the big figures mentioned above, we can make some observations on how Indonesians communicate with people around them.  People from some countries around Indonesia are also friends to Indonesians.  Fortunately, Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipines, Malaysia are in the same region of South-East Asia and have similarities on they way the people speak in multilingual societies.  It is very motivating then to observe how people of those areas use languages to interact with others: with those of the same country and with those of different countries.  This research then studying the happenings of code switching and code mixing between them.

The objectives of the material are

  1. Observing the use of languages between native speakers from Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipines, and Malaysia with their friends from the same countries and ones with friends from different south-east Asian countries.
  2. Focusing on the phenomena of code switching and code mixing.

The methodological approaches

Qualitative research by using sociolinguistics theory is applied here. The objects of the research here were languages used by Indonesians, Thais, Phillipines, and Malays when they posted and responded to their friends from both the same countries or from different countries.

1. Brief Overview of the Languages Used in Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine, Malaysia

Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine, Malaysia are countries where people speak multilanguages.  Each of those four countries, people have their national language and their traditional languages.  Some people from those four countries also speak English well.  Indonesia use Indonesian as the national language but every area has its own language.  Three mostly used languages in Indonesia are: Javanese, Sundanese, and Maduranese.  Thai is the national language in Thailand besides so many other listed languages.  In Phillipine, people use Filipino language or Tagalog as their national language but they also have so many dialects.  While in Malaysia, Malay is the national language but there are still so many languages used in this country where Malays, Chinese, and Indians are the major inhabitants.

The condition in those four countries make the people there place themselves as multilingual societies.  They are ready to any various speak situations so they often do code switching and code mixing while having conversation with others.

2. Code Switching and Code Mixing

The code switching and code mixing may happen on certain condition.  It is not only about to whom a speaker speak with but also where and when a conversation takes place.  Fischer (1972) notes that three contextual factors should be taken into account: 1) the relationship amongst speakers; 2) the setting where the talk takes place and; 3) the topic being discussed.  While Myers-Scotton (1992) notes that not only contextual factors play a role in the code choice, but factors such as social identity and educational background also affect the speaker’s choice of code.

Code switching according to Nababan (Herman 2013:3) is called alih kode the condition may happen:

“umpamanya, sewaktu kita berbahasa A dengan si P kemudian datang si Q yang tidak dapat berbahasa A memasuki situasi berbahasa itu. Oleh karena kita ingin menerima Q dalam situasi bebahasa itu, maka kita beralih memakai bahasa B yang dimengerti Q. Alih kode yang disampaikan di atas disebabkan karena hadirnya pembicara atau penutur.”

“For example, when we talk by using A language with P and then Q who can not speak A comes into our conversation.  As we want to accept Q in our conversation, then we use B language that Q understands.  Code switching here happens because of the present of a speaker.”

While code mixing happens like this:

“Di dalam campur kode (code mixing) ciri-ciri ketergantungan ditandai dengan adanya hubungan timbal balik antara peranan dan fungsi kebahasaan. Seorang penutur yang banyak menguasai bahasa akan mempunyai kesempatan bercampur kode lebih banyak daripada penutur lain yang hanya menguasai satu bahasa saja.”

“In code mixing, the characteristics is signed by the interaction between the language role and function.  Someone who are able to use many languages will have more chances to do more code mixing than other speakers who are able to speak only one language.”

3. Some Discussions of the Use of Languages in Facebook:

The data used in this observation were limited to some conversation of people from Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipine, Malaysia during November to December 2016.  The name of the people as well as photos are replaced by some codes:

P   =posting                            PP =Person posted                            R1 =Respond 1

R2 =respond 2                       R…=Respond …                                  (#name…) = name of someone

##picture… = photo …


  1. Conversation Between Indonesians

The sample of the data here is taken from the conversation of some Sundanese, as it is mentioned above that Sundanese is one of the most largely used languages  in Indonesia:

P             Slowrespon ya bu ibu, anak d rawat.

R1 Sakit apa bun?? (#name1)…

PP Diare bund, g mau makan, jd ya mnding d infus aja

R1 Ooohhh cpt sembuh ya (#name1)…

PP Aamiin, mksh uwak

R1 Sama2…

R2 Euleuh teuing..dmn neng?

PP D klinik teh, hee

R2 Oh uhn..sing enggal dmang ath si dd ua doain,karunya teuing

R3 Enggal damang dede (#name1)

PP Uhun wa, nuhun

R4 nggal damang kesayangan wawa.

PP Uhun wa, nuhum doa na, doakeun supados enggal sehat, ceria deui wa

R4 uhn aamiin.

R5 Dede (#name1)…. ikut2 mba (#name2) ngga mau mkan, hadeeeeh cepet sembuh yaa sayang…. 

PP Iya budhe, mbak (#name2) dl gini jg kah?
Aamiin, doain ya budhe, biar cpt sembuh n doyan makan lg

R5 Iya (#name2) jga buang2 air, ngga mau makan, tpi ngga mual, drpda kurang cairan jdi mending dirawat aja, ngga papa nnti jga sembuh yaa de (#name1), yg penting kasih asi terus neng, ibu nya mkan yg bnyak yg bergizi biar asi nya bagus 

R6 C enenk (#name1) knpa enggal damang nyaa nenk

PP Iya teh, nuhun, doain smg cpt soyan makan n sembuh ya.
O iya, mf ya js slowrespon, orderannya kepending, gpp kan? Gak buru2?

R6 Gpp nenk tnang aja anak lbh pnting nenk

R7 Kunaonn (#name1)? Kemarin (#name3) skarang (#name1) cpt sembuh ya nk

PP Sami jiga (#name3). (#name3) udh pulang?

R7 Alhamdulillah udah..eleuhh musim ayenamah cenah th…enggal damanggg athh

R8 (#name1) kunaon,,,? D rwat d mana? Wawa nora??

PP D rawat d dieu d dyh, di klinik

R8 Ouh,,, ti iraha,,??

R9 De (#name1) smg cepet sembuh yaa sygg…..aamiin…

PP Uhun wa, nuhun, doain trs ya wa biar mau makan

R9 Muhun neng,, di do’akeun pisan…

R10 Semoga cepat sembuh yah bund…anaknya..aamiin

PP Aamiin, mksh ya bund

The posting language was mixed between Indonesian and English by using adaptation on informal way of writing. The one who posted is a Sundanese who graduated from English Department Faculty.  She can speak Sundanese, Indonesian, and English. When the responses 1, 5, 9, 10, are in Indonesian, the answers are also in Indonesian.  While when responses 2, 3,4,7,8 are in Sundanese, the answers are also in Sundanese.  We also can see the mixing language of Indonesian and Sundanese in response 6 and the answer is the mix between English, Indonesian and Sundanese.

B. Conversation Between Thais and Indonesian

The sample of data below  is between Thai lecturers (one who posted) and his Indonesian students who were staying in Thailand:

P       Indonesian students party by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia. Thank you so much H.E. Mr. (#name1), the Indonesian Ambassador to Thailand.

R1 Wonderful night Ajarn PP..Terima kasih

PP Lovely night , thank you for the dance :)

R1 With pleasure





R1 Thanks Ajarn R2

R3 Thank you so much Ajarn (#name2) & Ajarn (#name3)… 

R4 Thank Ajarn for coming and gathering together with indonesian Ambassador and indonesian students.

PP You are welcome and thank you so much for inviting us!

R4 My pleasure Ajarn.

R5 How beautiful night it was. Happy to see those picts.

The posting from the Thai lectures was in English and he wrote also in Thai letters.  Response 1 comes from one Indonesian student, she mixed English and Indonesian there, and called the lecture by using Ajarn, the way Thais call their teacher.  Here we can find her mixed the languages. The Thai lecture answered Response 1 by using English.  When Response 2 was in the form of picture, the answer was also in picture. Responses 3, 4, 5 were in English and the answers were also in English. The Thai used only English to communicate with the Indonesian students here as he did not speak Indonesian, but he used picture to answer picture as well.

C. Conversation Between Thais

P       I’m waiting for… #congratulations
ขายดอกไม้อยู่สี่แยกอุทยานเกษตรตรงทางวิ่งน้อยๆทั้งวัน! ผ่านมาหาหน่อยนาจา

R1 ขายช่วยๆ

PP มาๆ

R2 NarakMak..

PP Khob khun kha 

R3 wow

PP Sabaidee bob?

R4 ขอช่อนึงค่ะ5555

PP ตามมาซื้อเร็ว

R4 ส่งemsมา5555 คิดถุงนะอิ้อิ้

PP เหมือนกันสบายดีบ้

Okay, too.

R4 สบายดีเค้อะพีบีละค้ะ

R5ความเป็นจริง คิดถึงจังเลย

PP เหมือนกัน. เป็นยังไงบ้าง

The posting was written in English to get wide responses from any friend.  She also wrote it in Thai letters.   The girl who posted was an English Department student, and her friends responded are also English Department students.  When she replied to all the responses that were in Thai, she also used Thai language and once used English.  People responses are all the Thais, they all used Thai language and some wrote their responses by using Thai letters.  Response 4 expressed his laugh by using 5555 that means hahahaha.  In Thai language 5 is read ‘ha’, and most of Thais used 5 to express that they laugh out loud.  The more ‘5’ used, the louder the laugh is.

D. Conversation Between Philipines

The following data are the conversation between all Phillipines.  They all understand English.  The post was in Filipino language:

P       Nyahahahaha! susyalin pala ang NEXTLIFE ko, apo ni Bill Gates Hahaha!
#name1, #name2, #name3


R1 Hahaha  aus 

R2 mestiza p talaga , nyahahaha

R1 Oo nga 



R2 ang cute ng mata ng NEXT LIFE ni te joy parang manika, briton pa hehe

R4 parang di nman aq mag kka briton na baby hahahha



R2 yan mag asawa kn jhing, lumabas na ang magiging APO MO SA TUHOD kafatid nyahahahaha

R3 Kung kelan naman aq tumanda lalo bumabata 

R2 napancin ko nga kafatid baka mura n ang gluta 50 yrs later hahaha



R2 wa nko masabe World top model hehehe

R4 pang model ang peg hehehhe



R2 lumabas na ang forever ni kuya hahahahha

R3 Gil’s Gate Villena grandkid ahaha

R2 50 years later makapagpa botox dame ko n agad WRINKOLS hahahaha

R3 So natural skin hehehe

R5 What a future !!!!! Hehehe dapat talaga ganyan wag ma stress

R2 try mo din ninang nakakatuwa result eh hehe

R5 Hala ayoko baka ang lumabas ay lola agad ako hehehe

R2 Hehe Baka kamuka ni nanay cute parin hehe

R6 Ganda nman…pero parang ms maganda yng 50 years later kesa ngayon…haha…joke…

R2 Hahahaha Oo nga 

R6 Pero cute p dn..d kc aq marunong…

R2 Kamuka ni inay mana

R2 R6 click mo Ung link

We see that responses 1, 2, used Filipino, responses 3, 5, 6 mixed the Filipino and English.  However when they wrote down the English words ‘50 years later’, it was something that they could see from the picture.  The first English language expressed was by R3 when she said ‘So natural skin’ and the following response was also in English by R5 ‘What a future”, but she then mixed her language by Filipino again.  It shows that English comes up between the Phillipines only when one starts but then they prefer to use their own language to express the their happiness and closeness between them.

The following is also between Phillipines but the posting is in English:

P   to #name1

Madam happiest bday.enjoy ur day muah!!!

R1 Thanks (#name1) :) mis u girl :)

PP Miss u too madam.uwi kana di nku galit

We can see as it was started in English, the response was also in English.  However, the one posted then responded again by applying code mixing and code switching to their national language.

E. Conversation Between Malaysian

The following data is conversation between all Malaysian people:

P     Absolutely!


R1 Hahaha exactly PP. Mcm kita duk kecek dlm keta aritu kan. Sedap duk dumoh la pade derak

PP Btul2 kakkk….sedak duk dumoh, nge t-shirt seluar trek or kain sarung..duk nyenggeng baca buku ko…tgk movie ko…ngoya ko…hahahahh

PP Busukkkkkkk…motiffff???? hahahahhahaa

R1 Hahahahahahahahaahhahahaahaha. R2 gambar u jadi viral…

R2 Hahahah bkpo aku jd mangsa disini

PP Hahahahhaha….. Ary Afzan merinduimu kot tkt. …menonjol sangatttt muka u..hehehehe

PP Penuh keayuan dn keikhlasan. ….ewaahhhh

R3 Heyyyy muda lagiiiiiii jangan fefeeling old lagi youuuu…

PP I x feeling old….I sedar diri…hahahahaha

R4 Love this!

We can see that the posting is in English and then the first response is mixed between English and Malaysian language.  The person who posted, replied in mostly Malay language but a bit interfere of English word ‘or’ in her reply.  Responses 1 and 2 were in Malay totally and the one posted replied in Malay also.  When Response 3 came by using mixing language of Malay and English ‘fefeeling old lagi youuuu…’ the reply of the person posted was also in mixed language and then another response by R4 was totally in English, ‘Love this.’  So, When English is used between Malay, the respon is in English as well.  When the conversation is in Malay, the responses are in Malay, too but code mixing and code switching to English is unavoidable.

F. Conversation Between Malaysian and Some Other Nationalities:

The following is an English the posting of a Malaysian student who was staying abroad.  The responses came from from friends from different nations:

P    End year party @ Poets Place

R1 When r u coming back

PP In sha Allah in May 2016 kak R1

R2 Oh I missed that  u look so good in pink #name1 

R3 How is New Zealand #name1. Hahaha

R2 No #name1 to me #name2  its great! ❤❤

PP #name3 adelaide’s #name1! come back soon

R2 Hahaha thanks #name1 ❤

R3 Haha. Ok #name1. Oops.
You make me jealous with your NZ trip. You should stop holiday’ing’ and go back to study. 


R4 #name1 #name1… I just want to say like everyone do.


R5 Hii cpt la balikkkkkk

R6 Miss you, Miss Pejahhhhh!!!

Those who responded do not speak Malay, but one of them is an Indonesian whose national language has some similarities with Malay.  However, the conversation between them use mostly English. Some words that are not English are used when the girl posted a reply to R1 who was Malaysian also, she used ‘In sha Allah’, Arabic words that means ‘if Allah the God allows,’ a common expression used by Muslims to express hope.  She also called R1 by ‘kak’, a calling for someone older than the speaker.  A Malay line was written by R5 when he said ‘cpt la balikkkkkk’, buut he startes with ‘hii’ that was not in Malay but English.

  1. South-East Asian : Multilingual Society

The observation shows that south-east Asian people tend to use their own languages (and even their own alphabet for Thai) to interract with friends from the same country but they tend to use English with those from different countries.  However, most of them try show their respect to friends from different countries by using their friends’ languages if they can do so.


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  2. http://faq.ph/top-10-languages-used-in-the-philippines/
  3. http://www.mm2h.com/languages-in-malaysia/
  4. http://www.tahupedia.com/content/show/789/10-Sosial-Media-Paling-Banyak-Digunakan-Di-Indonesia [23.02. 2016]
  5. https://www.ethnologue.com/country/TH
  6. Sebba, Mark, Shahrzad Mahootian and Carla Jonsonn, “Language Mixing and Code-Switching in Writing.” (Routledge, 2012);
  7. Wahyuningsih, Titik, “Code Mixing and Code Switching between Javanese People In Social-MediaCommunication” (presented at MICOLLAC Conference in Penang, Malaysia, 2016)
  8. Wahyuningsih, Titik, Tri Afitiana, “Tidak Bisa Bahasa Mandarin Ataupun Jawa?Awas Keblonyok!” (Proceedings National Seminar 2014 Menyambut  Era Perdagangan Bebas ASEAN-Tiongkok dengan Kompetensi Komunikasi Multibahasa, Purwokerto: Fakultas Sastra UMP, 2014)