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Jakarta Post

Indonesia: A battlefield of linguistic survival

  • Mochamad Subhan Zein

Canberra   /   Sat, January 29 2011   /  12:50 pm

Indonesia boasts rich multilingual communities which constitute the largest multilingual population in the world only after Papua New Guinea. There are approximately 735 languages spoken across the archipelago. A research conducted by Summer Institute of Linguistics suggests that among the 735 languages recorded, 637 are endangered with less than 100,000 native speakers. Along with the strong campaign of the government to speak “Good Indonesian” and the fact that English is promoted starting at primary education, the portrait of multilingualism in Indonesia is unfortunately severely deteriorated. Reflecting on these facts, it is depressing to say that multilingualism in Indonesia is in a real state of catastrophe. To me, it seems that Indonesia is not a safe place for multilingualism. It is more like a battlefield of linguistic survival than a melting pot of languages. While local la...