Monday, December 26, 2005

Has Globalization Marginalized Bahasa Indonesia?

Looking back at the history of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language of Indonesia, it was a lingua franca for the diverse communities in the Indonesian archipelago. The original form of this language was a coastal Malay dialect spoken by a small community of people in the coastal area of Sumatra. Its flexibility as a form of communication among people in the archipelago as compared to the Javanese language, the language of the majority of Indonesians, had prompted the decision by the nationalists to declare it as the National Language of Independent Indonesia. The decision was widely known in Indonesian history as Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Pledge) and it was on the basis of this Pledge that the Indonesian Constitution has sanctioned Bahasa Indonesia as the National Language of Indonesia.

The diverse nature of Indonesian society has made a common language of communication a liability for it to succeed and survive as a united community. A simple and flexible mode of communication capable of bridging the gaps between communities will only guarantee the transformation process of Indonesia from a diverse community into a single, strong nation. Selecting a coastal Malay dialect as the national language instead of the much more complicated Javanese language proved to be a correct choice.

The decision to choose a Roman script for the language instead of its Perso-Arabic form has further helped the process of absorbing various elements of other languages to be a part of an enriched language, the Bahasa Indonesia. Foreign languages like Dutch, Arabic, Sanskrit, French, English as well as other local languages like the Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese and others have given a lot of influence to the development of Bahasa Indonesia into its current position. The efforts by previous regimes to encourage the usage of a proper and correct form of Bahasa Indonesia in any form of communication further elevated the popularity of Bahasa Indonesia. However, the waves of globalization have certainly given a lot of impact on the development of Bahasa Indonesia. The flexible nature of the language has permitted the Indonesianization of borrowed words from foreign languages to be a part of an enriched Bahasa Indonesia. This process, nevertheless, has resulted in the pros and cons among scholars over the status of Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia amid the continuous waves of globalization.
The most recent cautious remarks came from the Director of Center for Language of National Education Department, Dr. Dendy Sugono (Media Indonesia, 26 December 2005) when he said that the current practice by corporate houses to use foreign names and billboards has threatened the future of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language. This practice, he predicted, would marginalize Bahasa Indonesia and thus would become a national threat to the unity of Indonesia. To avoid the eventuality of his hypothesis, he suggested to the local governments to enact laws preventing the use of foreign terms in public. As an example, he said that his department is looking forward of working on this project with the Jakarta Governor in enacting a law to prohibit the usage of foreign names and billboards by corporate houses and public offices in the Capital.

On the contrary, it is the flexibility of Bahasa Indonesia that has made the language popular. The ability of Bahasa Indonesia to adjust itself to the situation has proved to be effective in its development. Had it been other language, for an example the Javanese language, as the national language, it would have been difficult for it to adjust with the globalize world. The complexity found in the structure and form of the Javanese language in its spoken as well as written form would have deprived the rest of the Indonesian populace of the current situation it enjoys. Indonesia would be limited to the Javanese community while the rest of the archipelago questioned the their status of being a part of Indonesia. India is a perfect example to the situation in Indonesia. The diverse nature of Indian society is a perfect reflection for the Indonesian society. The dilemma of a national language can be taken as an example worth of examination.

The problem of a national language in India arose at the same time it achieved its independence. The majority of Hindi speaking community in India insisted on the declaration of Hindi as the Indian national language. However, other language communities like the Tamils, Bengalis, Punjabis, as well as other language communities of Dravidian languages in the Southern part of India rejected the idea on the basis of possible hegemonic domination by Hindi speaking people over the running of the administration in the country. Thus having undergone various stages of deliberations and arguments as well as threats of secession, it was finally agreed that Hindi would enjoy the status of a national language of an independent India while at the same time 16 other major languages to be accepted as the official language of administration. English, the language that long enjoyed a status of a lingua franca during the British rule in India, would continue to play the role and enjoy the same status as other official languages pending the socialization process of Hindi as the national language of India. However, the situation remains till now and even there was an addition of some three more major languages into the list of official languages in India as sanctioned by the Indian Constitution.

Thus, to be worried over the future status of Bahasa Indonesia due to the wide use of foreign language like English in Indonesia is need not to be exaggerated. On the contrary, the flexibility shown by Bahasa Indonesia will only help it to survive the waves of globalization. It will become the beneficiary of the globalization. Continuous efforts by the government to popularize the use of proper and correct form of Bahasa Indonesia while at the same time encouraging the people to learn and use foreign languages instead of discouraging them will help the process of building Indonesia to be a strong and powerful nation in the future.