Ageism: The Underrated Form of Discrimination

People use language to motivate, inspire, persuade, and even to discriminate. Hurtful comments or opinions uttered can offend the targets we give the comments to, even though we may not be aware of the effects they cause as we say them. People from around the world encourage that we stop discriminating against certain races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. They have started to campaign the abolishment of discrimination from many means, including language. However, discrimination against ages is not discussed as much as other types of discrimination. This certain type of discrimination is called ageism. Ageism, or ageist language if it is done verbally or in writing, is often taken as a prevalent issue. On the contrary, age discrimination can be as serious as other types of discrimination. In fact, ageism occurs even more frequent in our daily lives, from home to workplace.

Ageism can take place almost everywhere: at home, school, even workplace. At home, it happens because of several factors such as to maintain discipline in the family. Parents often say, “I’m your parent” to show that they have more power and their children will listen to them. At times, ageist comments are given to prevent children from questioning parents’ decision. “You’re just a kid” is a common statement that parents tell their kids when asking them to explain their decision. Because ageism is common in family environment, we tend to take it to other environments like school or workplace. Ageism occurring at the workplace indicates stereotyping of ages. This stereotype, according to McCann and Giles (2002, p. 164), leads to ageist attitudes, discourse, and behaviours which are common at the workplace. At the workplace, it can happen to either older or younger employees.

Many people think that ageism only targets older people. As a matter of fact, ageist stereotyping is also directed at younger employees. Not only is ageism done to senior staffs, but it is also directed at junior employees. Ageist discourse can clearly be seen when companies set up age limit in hiring employees. They do not want either too young or too old workers. The age limit specifies that being too young is inexperienced; while being too old is no longer productive. Besides being implemented by companies, ageism happens regularly between employees.

Ageism among colleagues seems to be inevitable. Ageist comments given to older colleagues by juniors implicitly state that the elders are less qualified and productive to work, despite being uttered in humourous ways. For example, Indonesians like to jokingly say, “Mungkin faktor U(sia)” or “It might be the age factor” when one of their senior colleagues forgets to do something. On the other hand, it is also not uncommon that seniors at the workplace implicitly belittle their juniors as ‘incompetent’ or ‘inexperienced’ by saying, “Kamu masih muda, masih harus banyak belajar” or “You’re still so young, there are still many things to learn”. Adolescents are often underrated simply because they have fewer experiences than the seniors, they like to act spontaneously, they do not possess wisdom, and they like to take risks (Irawanto, 2013, p. 201). Both seniors and juniors are not only targeting each other in being ageist; they sometimes discriminate themselves.

It is not unusual to see older or younger employees at the workplace age-discriminate themselves. Ageism towards oneself and towards others is caused by internalised age stereotypes (Ayalon & Tesch-Römer, 2017). There are many contributing factors in self-ageism. First, they self-discriminate themselves because they wish to be compromised by the opposite age. When a junior makes a mistake, he sometimes excuses himself by saying, “I’m still new and have a lot to learn”. In contrast, older employees often excuse themselves from taking the responsibility of something by saying, “I’m too old for this” before handing it over to the juniors. The second factor that might cause self-ageism is confidence. In certain cultures, there are certain stereotypes regarding age. When one decides to do something not supposedly to his age, he is bound by the culture he stays in, which makes him feel guilty if he does it.  Going to a rock concert, for instance, is stereotyped as a ‘youth activity’ in Indonesia. If a middle-aged man wishes to watch a concert, he will reconsider his intention because he might feel insecure that people will judge his wish to be age-inappropriate. Levy at al. (2009) claim that self-ageism might increase morbidity and mortality (in Ayalon & Tesch-Römer, 2017). Age discrimination towards oneself can even be more serious than that towards others.

To sum up, even though age discrimination occurring on a daily basis can be as serious as other forms of discrimination, people still think little of it. Ageism has similar impacts to racism and sexism. Therefore, we need to prevent the impacts from happening by firstly watching our language.


Ayalon, L., & Tesch-Römer, C. (2017). Taking a closer look at ageism: self-and other-directed ageist attitudes and discrimination.

Irawanto, B. (2016). Menggugat Tirani Usia. Jurnal Studi Pemuda2(2), 201-203.

McCann, R., & Giles, H. (2002). Ageism in the workplace: A communication perspective. Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons, 163-199.


Keywords: ageism, ageist language, ageist comments, discrimination


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Ageism – The Underrated Form of Discrimination

When Code-Switching Goes Wrong

The 21st century is the century of digital world. People from all around the world can now easily communicate with each other through computer-mediated communication or CMC. However, a new challenge arises. Those who want to connect with others from the other side of the world through CMC must be able to at least speak the lingua franca, i.e. English. This makes people, whose native language is not English, bilingual. The bilingualism then affects the users’ daily lives; they start to mix or switch languages. Such phenomenon is renown as code-switching or CS. Many people think that switching codes shows intelligence, and that the code switchers are smart and educated. Nevertheless, when people code-switch too often without observing who they are talking to and what the situation is, it actually shows the opposite. They seem to be ignorant and look unintelligent.

Bilinguals who code-switch far too frequently are depicted as ignorant. It shows that the switchers lack knowledge or vocabularies of the other language they are using. It might seem okay at first; but when they code-switch as regularly as they speak, they actually indicate their not-so-good language proficiency of the other code. This is in line with Heredia and Altarriba (2001) who mention that bilinguals tend to compensate their lack of language proficiency by changing words or vocabularies of their second language with their first language vocabularies (p. 165). The lack of language proficiency is exemplified from this illustration: people who speak Indonesian as their main language often use the word ‘upload’ as the term of transferring data to a larger computer system and ‘download’ to refer to copy data from one computer system to another system or disk. Those two terms have actually been translated into Indonesian as ‘unggah’ and ‘unduh’. The two terms have also been lexicographically written in the Great Dictionary of Indonesian Language (KBBI). However, there are not many Indonesians who are familiar with such terms and still opt to use the English terms.

Intellectuality of bilinguals who code-switch can be shown from the way they code-switch. It can be clearly seen from the appropriateness of code-switching. For example, when someone says, “It surprises me kalo ternyata hidup di Malaysia itu murah,” it indicates that that person is aware of grammatical and appropriateness of both English and Indonesian. On the contrary, there are times when code-switch actually shows that the person who does it is unintelligent, and simply wants to show his/her social status as ‘classy’. This is supported by Rihane who says that “speakers tend to use different languages to imply a certain social status or to distinguish themselves from other social classes” (p. 6). People want to boast by switching languages, but there are times when they do not pay attention to the appropriateness of code-switching. For instance, the sentence “Kenapa sih lately people who’s close to me banyak komentarin kalo my skin get dark? Bisa ga sih kalo ngomongnya jangan physic terus?” indicates that the speaker is unaware of the proper use of English language. The speaker does not use suitable Indonesian, either. Even though the speaker may try to show his/her social class, it actually points out his/her flaws in both English and Indonesian. That kind of case is apparently supported by Hammink (2000) who pointed out that people tend to consider code-switching as a less prestigious form, incorrect, poor language, or a consequence of incomplete mastery of the two languages (in Pollard, 2002, p. 3).

All in all, code-switching is a process of altering two languages that can be done either consciously or unconsciously. If the code-switching is used properly at the right time, to the right environment, and with the right purpose, it will not be perilous to the users.

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Heredia, R. R., & Altarriba, J. (2001). Bilingual Language Mixing: Why Do Bilinguals Code-Switch? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(5), 164–172. Retrieved from

Pollard, S. (2002). The Benefit of Code Switching within a Bilingual Education Program. Honors Project, Paper 2. Retrieved from

Rihane, W. M. (n.d.). Why Do People Code-Switch: A Sociolinguistic Approach. Retrieved from

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Language in Societes – Being Polite as a Variable in Speech

Politeness is a good manner, etiquette, behaviour expected to be implemented when having interactions with others. Politeness may be acceptable in one culture or community, and considered rude or unacceptable in others. Watch this video to understand more about politeness, face, and face threatening acts.