(Me and Indonesia) : Unity in Nation, Diversity in Language


I was on the way from Purwokerto to Tasikmalaya three days ago, from Purwokerto to Karangpucung, I could still hear Banyumas Javanese spoken on the bus. It is a unique Javanese dialect spoken in Banyumas regency and its surroundings, Central Java. However, when the bus was leaving Karangpucung to Cimanggu, the language gradually changed into Sundanese, that’s why in the bus three languages were spoken : Banyumas Javanese, Sundanese and Bahasa itself. Surprisingly, there was a lady who spoke Sundanese when she was telephoning, but then she spoke Banyumas Javanese to her little cuddly son with Sundanese accent.

It is just a very tiny simple of how diverse our linguistic situations here.

Even when I went shopping to Kelapa Dua traditional market, Tangerang, I could hear various languages spoken in one marketplace. Sundanese was spoken in one edge, the egg sellers spoke Minangkabauan, some others spoke Javanese until Acehnese, Bataks and many more languages. I  tend to speak Bahasa or Javanese depends on the situation (though I also understood other languages).


In other situations, I can also see many signboards even roadsigns written in vernacular besides Bahasa or even local scripts like in Bogor, Bandung, Purwokerto, Solo, Yogyakarta till Malang. As well as other cities and provinces like Aceh and Riau which use Malayo-Arabic scripts, Lampungic, Makassarese and many more writing systems.


As a big family house, Indonesia is home of many speeches. Maybe they eat too much tongue steaks..no…but naturally my country is rich of languages and not boring at all. I can imagine if I lived in a very homogeneous place where you speak the same language, same customs, same group from being delivered till being sent to the eternity…for me it’s rather boring!


How many languages are spoken in Indonesia nowadays? Some sources said, there are 500 local languages spoken (it doesn’t include various Chinese dialects spoken among some Indonesian Chinese), but according to Language center of National Education Department in 2008, there are more than 746 languages spoken in 17,508 islands, but not all have been exposed as there are many unidentified languages particularly in The Moluccas and Papua islands. Some languages are unfortunately heading to their extinctions. Some have only a few speakers and even only one person especially in Eastern Indonesia.

Linguistically, I am proud of my country as it is one of the most diverse besides India and Papua New Guinea in languages. May it is the most crowded country in speech..hehehe. The largest one is Javanese, the next is Sundanese and later is Malay/Bahasa Indonesia itself. Even in some places, you can find deadly different languages spoken at two neighbouring villages. For me, how amazing Indonesia!

But sadly, those diversities have been threatened gradually by our own national language. There are around 50 languages which will be vanished sooner as many of them switch their language to another one or Bahasa. or because of inter ethnic marriage and the family decide to speak to their children Bahasa as win-win solution. Local curriculum at school should be re-developed in order to preserve the languages. There have already been local curriculum for local language teachings, and needs to be developed in the future.

As Indonesian, we should be proud of our linguistic richness, as language is source of everything and from language we learn many things from culture until science. Without language, there’s nothing in this world. We can do many actions to preserve our mother tongue as what Bengali’s defend in 1952 till it is celebrated as Mother language’s day. By preserving our language, it means we defend our culture.

A strong nation is a nation who can keep their language.

Loosely translated from the original article here



Bambang Priantono


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