Bahasa Indonesia should
go global: Govt
A number of ministers have stated their intent to make Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) an internationally-spoken language, despite many locals apparently struggling to speak the language properly amid a barrage of English and a proliferation of slang and colloquialisms.
Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh rallied the 10th Bahasa Indonesia Congress to make Bahasa Indonesia an internationally spoken lingua franca.
“Let’s make it a global language and contribute positively to the world,” Nuh said on Monday.
He was speaking in front of more than 1,100 teachers, students and literary buffs present at the congress. The event, which this year had the theme Strengthening Bahasa Indonesia at the International level, coincided with the commemoration of Youth Pledge Day, the anniversary of when Indonesian nationalists pledged to unite the country through the collective use of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language.
A number of representatives from language centers from around the world also attended the congress, including the language and literature councils of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Timor Leste, Japan and Germany.
Separately, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, expressed hope that Indonesian would become the official language of ASEAN.
“We hope Indonesian can be recognized in the 21st century by the world and it will be able to influence the world’s geopolitical map,” Gita said as quoted by Antara news agency on Monday.
“I hope Indonesia will become a dynamic nation and that the national language can continue to develop, in terms of grammar, vocabulary and style.”
Nuh noted that the language could only grow if its native speakers spoke proper Bahasa Indonesia.
Teachers, he said, played an influential role in improving the quality of Bahasa Indonesia.
“Based on the  national exams, the average score for Bahasa Indonesia is 6.8 [out of 10]”, Nuh said. “For English, it is 7.1 [out of 10].”
In 2010, the average score for Bahasa Indonesia was 7.46, compared to 7.69 for English. In 2011, the average scores for the two subjects were 7.81 and 8.5. Only in 2012 did students score higher in Bahasa Indonesia (7.65) than English (7.40).
With many parents now choosing to enrol their children in private schools, which focus more on English than Bahasa Indonesia, many have voiced concerns that the legacy of the Indonesian language is under threat.
Last month, a YouTube video featuring an Indonesian celebrity speaking a hodgepodge of English and Indonesian went viral and ignited concern that many Indonesians may be unable to speak either language properly.
But not all Indonesians consider mixing English with Indonesian to be a problem.
Atri Siregar, a lifestyle magazine editor, said Bahasa Indonesia was a dynamic, evolving language, with an ever increasing use of loan-words.
“Mixing Bahasa and English in the same sentence is becoming a dialect in its own right. [This style] is being repeated by society and becoming the norm” she said.
She said the government should have a stronger language planning policy with adequate attention paid to Bahasa Indonesia if they wanted it to become an international language.
My opinion: I do agree with Mr Nuh about the planning to make Bahasa Indonesia as an International language. Although I study English, I try my best to speak Bahasa Indonesia properly. It is important because in order to master a foreign language, we need to master our first language first. Also, as an expectant teacher, we have a big role to speak Bahasa Indonesia properly. We will become an example for our students. And although I spend most of my days to practice English, it is still my responsibility to know, understand, and use Bahasa Indonesia well. Finally, let us speak Bahasa Indonesia properly for the better future!