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‘Love Bahasa’ Campaign Launched: Yogyakarta, Central Java

In an article in the Jakarta Post, dozens of students from universities in Yogyakarta have launched the “Love Bahasa Indonesia Movement” to protect the Indonesian language from foreign influence.

The launch of the movement was marked Saturday with students distributing of flowers to motorists in main city areas. Others pasted stickers on vehicles and buildings.

“This action is intended to remind the public to use Indonesian properly and not to be tempted to use foreign languages as a means of communication,” the head of the Yogyakarta-based Bahasa Indonesia Association, Syamsul Arifin, said.

The Indonesian language was adopted to keep the nation unified, he said.

“The fact is, Bahasa Indonesia is no longer being used properly because people prefer to choose foreign languages as a means of communication,” he said.

Actually, wouldn’t it be better to launch a movement to preserve traditional dialects of the archipelago. After all is said and done, Bahasa Indonesia is a potpourri of foreign languages.

Here is a related article that appeared in the same newspaper a while ago regarding just this matter:

Local languages under threat: Observer
Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta

The pervasive use of Bahasa Indonesia is gradually threatening the existence of traditional languages in the country, an observer says.

“The domination of Bahasa Indonesia, despite its function to unite the people, has diminished the existence of traditional languages,” cultural observer Ninuk Kleden-Probonegoro said.

“The teaching of Bahasa Indonesia in several provinces has also hurt children who still speak their traditional or first languages,” she added.

Ninuk, speaking at a seminar hosted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said deep values embedded in local tongues, especially among minority groups, could vanish if people no longer spoke traditional languages.

“If there is only 1,000 people who speak a traditional language in one village, then that traditional language is on the verge of extinction,” she said.

The national education curriculum stipulates that elementary to junior high schools should offer traditional language classes, according to the languages spoken in each regency.

“In Alor, East Nusa Tenggara, a class could have five traditional languages. This poses a problem as to which language to choose. Alor regency, with a population of 171,187 in 2004, has 17 languages,” she said.

Indonesia has around 130 traditional languages outside of Papua province, which has different traditional languages and dialects in each subdistrict.

She said the “victor” among these competing languages usually was the one with the largest number of speakers, often the language spoken in markets or at social meetings.

“We have to establish a cultural center where people can speak and study traditional languages and dialects,” she said.

“The economic aspects of a language may determine which language is used, but that fails to preserve the moral lessons that comes from a traditional language,” she said.

In big cities, she said, tradition languages also have to compete with foreign tongues, especially English.

“Globalization cannot be avoided. The solution now is to find a balance between the foreign languages, traditional languages and Bahasa Indonesia,” Ninuk said.

National Education Ministry spokesman Bambang Wasito Adi said that in elementary and junior high schools, each class studied traditional languages for two hours a week, compared to six hours for Bahasa Indonesia.

“The ministry aims to protect traditional languages by placing requirements in local school curriculums. We are keeping them from vanishing by teaching their values in the classroom,” he said.

“We emphasize traditional languages in the basic nine-year education curriculum. Once they are in high school, other subjects, such as science, will replace traditional languages,” Bambang said.

He added that in Papua, traditional languages could not be taught in classrooms because of a lack of qualified teachers and the multitude of traditional languages in each regency.

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo