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Ivan Lanin shares language advice for young generation

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, October 28, 2018  /  05:05 pm
Ivan Lanin shares language advice for young generation

The young generation should be mindful about what they are going to say, especially when using Indonesian. (Shutterstock/File)

Back in May 2016, linguist Ivan Lanin conducted a poll on his Twitter account, asking netizens: Why do you make mistakes when speaking Indonesian? The three response options were: “Did not know the rule”, “was not careful enough” and “did not care”.

The results showed that 50 percent of 651 voters stated they “did not care”, meanwhile 31 percent admitted they “did not know the rule” and the rest were “not careful enough”.

Ivan said Indonesians’ carelessness in speaking their national language was rooted in their mindset. He also connects it with the late anthropologist Koentjaraningrat’s six negative characteristics of Indonesian citizens, which includes underestimating quality.

“I see those six characteristics in how Indonesians speak their language in the present day,” said Ivan during a discussion titled "Indonesian Language and the Current Generation" on Oct. 17 at Salihara Community in South Jakarta. “Many people believe it’s okay to make mistakes when speaking as long as other people understand – that’s underestimating quality.”

The man of Minangkabau descent suggested ways to practice proper and correct Indonesian without making it sound too formal, especially to the young generation:


Based on Leech’s Principles of Pragmatics, Ivan believed that kesantunan (politeness) is an aspect that is often disregarded when using the language. “Perhaps some people view it as basa-basi [small talk], but it’s necessary to make a conversation flowing,” Ivan said.

Six maxims of politeness in language are kerendahanhatian (modesty) or the act of being moderate in showing yourself off, kebijaksanaan (tact), which means minimizing loss for the other speakers, kedermawanan (generosity), which means maximizing the benefit for the other speakers, kesetujuan (agreement), which shows similarity in opinion, and simpati (sympathy), which shows equality in feeling.


Your choice of diction will enrich your communication process. Being selective with diction does not mean someone has to remember all the contents of the Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language. All you need to do is read, especially Indonesian literature and news.

Ivan Lanin during 'Indonesian Language and Current Generation' discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at Salihara Community in South Jakarta.Ivan Lanin during 'Indonesian Language and Current Generation' discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at Salihara Community in South Jakarta. (Komunitas Salihara/File)

Read also: 'Language is my ultimate weapon': Ivan Lanin

Exclamation usage

Indonesian language has many exclamations that can be utilized to make a conversation less formal, for example: dong, -deh and ­–sih that give different meanings to a sentence.  

Structure of the sentence

We learned about the s-p-o-k structure of the sentence at school, which stands for subject (s), verb (predikat, or p), object (o) and explanation (keterangan, or k). But people can change it into other structures, such as s-p or s-p-o, to reduce its formality.


The way people maintain their intonation when speaking to other people will determine the atmosphere of the conversation.


Thanks to technology, people now have various elements to end their sentence – aside from using periods, question marks and exclamation points.


“When we use the language, we should be mindful about what will come out of our mouth because it’s determined in our brain,” Ivan said. “Think carefully first before speaking. Back then I had to force myself to construct [the words] in my mind before speaking.”

The wikipediawan (volunteer editor of Wikipedia) also encouraged millennials to avoid feeling inferior. “We’re equal to other people from other nations. One thing we have to conquer is our mentality,” Ivan said. (kes)

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