How many languages are spoken in Indonesia today?
Nowadays, there are around 726 languages and dialects spoken in all parts of Indonesia. From westernmost (Sabang, Aceh) until Merauke (Papua). Previously, approximately 742 languages during 2007, but it’s been dropped as the languages have been disappeared or in another word, extinct. (the most numerous is in Papua which has got more than 200 languages). Every islands, even every villages (in some islands) has got their own languages and it’s not surprising, particularly in Eastern Indonesia that the neighboring villages cannot understand each other in language.
Indonesian languages are classified into several families called Austronesian (most Indonesia), West Papuan languages and Trans New-Guinean languages. While the rests are Malay-based Creoles, Sino-Tibetan languages, Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian ones (only small minorities), as well as Semitic language (Arabic, which is also minority). Those are languages which live in Indonesia nowadays. Those native languages are not officially used as the sole official language is Bahasa Indonesia, a Malay-derived language which becomes official and unifying language for all Indonesians since 1928.
Indonesian languages, Quo vadis?
A language can be survived if the speakers are fully realized its function and promote it anywhere. Vernacular language is only taught at school based on local’s policy, and only several provinces in Indonesia teach local language until Junior High School level. While many languages are endangered, more and more communities then shift their languages into more powerful language such as Bahasa Indonesia. Less and less parents teach their children local language as it is not considered worthy and technically used in daily society. Bahasa Indonesia is getting more and more dominance until the remote villages.
In this case, Indonesia is more lucky than other countries related to unifying language. Other countries still argue about even their national languages. Bahasa Indonesia is unifying force, understood and spoken in all parts of Indonesia. Though in some occasions it’s been anglicized (and I try to avoid unimportant Anglicism while writing in Bahasa), Bahasa Indonesia is developed more and more.
But, everything is not free. The excess we are feeling today is in vernacular languages. Decreasing in native speakers is very dangerous, as it means his or her real identity as a distinct group will be disappear. The phenomena are commonly found too in all parts of the world, where people from minority or less powered society will give up their language or culture to the more powerful and prestigious one.
Many efforts, particularly from local governments, have been done to preserve local languages. Local TVs are front liners for promoting local languages, such as Pojok Kampung in JTV (Surabaya) which aired every night in local Javanese dialect. But government must be more involved to promote local language. As language is also part of one’s identity.
This is morning’s note from me, I’ll continue it after night.
Have a nice day